Comey’s bungling should end in his resignation

fbi

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, left, and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. (AP)

In his handling of the Clinton email case, FBI Director James Comey has demonstrated both poor judgment and a startling inability to handle the political heat that comes with his job. Under pressure, he has made a series of significant blunders that have placed the FBI in a position in which it must never ever be, which is right in the middle of a presidential campaign coming into its final days.

The fact that Comey made these errors in a badly botched effort to protect his own political reputation and that of his agency just compounds the gravity of his mistake. His concern for those matters is understandable; his decision to give them a higher priority than the fair running of a presidential election is not.

He ought to resign, effective before the next president takes office.

Comey’s most recent and most serious mistake was to announce Friday afternoon, just 11 days before the election, that possibly pertinent emails of unknown significance to the Clinton case had been found stored in an electronic device discovered in an unrelated case. Leaked information shortly thereafter established that the emails had been found during an investigation of the Typhoid Mary of American politics, one Anthony Weiner of New York.

Reportedly, none of the emails had been sent by Hillary Clinton; reportedly, there is no suspicion that the emails had been withheld or hidden from the investigation. But in publicly announcing their existence, Comey violated longstanding Justice Department policy, traditions and procedures and in the process set off an entirely predictable political firestorm.

Within minutes of Comey’s statement, U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, gleefully announced that the FBI had reopened its Clinton investigation. (It has not.) On the campaign trail, Donald Trump proclaimed the case to be “bigger than Watergate,” a description that the Washington Post — which ought to know about Watergate — describes as absurd and worthy of four Pinocchios. Newt Gingrich, deploying his finely honed instinct for understatement, claimed it to be “at least 50 times bigger than Watergate,” which if you do the math puts him at 200 Pinocchios.

In his terse public statement Friday, Comey admitted that he and his agents have no idea about the possible significance of the emails, which may very well prove to be just duplicates of emails already discovered and processed, as has been the case with earlier, much-ballyhooed discovery of “new emails.” In an internal memo to his employees, he also acknowledged a high probability that hise announcement would be misinterpreted.

So if the department itself has no idea of the potential significance of these emails, if any, how on earth are voters supposed to make sense of it all? If Comey knew that his announcement was likely to be misinterpreted, why make that announcement in the first place?

As you may recall, we in Georgia have witnessed how this process is supposed to work firsthand, and why adhering to that process is important.

Back in 2011, the FBI opened an investigation into allegations against Gov. Nathan Deal, possibly looking into misspent campaign funds, misuse of federal taxpayer money as a member of Congress to help his state campaign, his actions in strong-arming state officials to protect a state-granted monopoly for his auto-salvage business, and the removal of state ethics commission employees who had dared to investigate him.

Despite its political implications, we don’t know the exact parameters of that case because it was never explained to us.  Throughout the investigation, which stretched into Deal’s re-election year of 2014, FBI officials followed policy by refusing to comment or to acknowledge the probe even existed. They released no daily updates on the various twists and turns of their investigation, and their activity became known only through actions that they were forced to take publicly, such as when it issued subpoenas and summoned state ethics-commission employees to testify to a secret grand jury.

Even when the investigation ended without charges, it did so quietly. The FBI made no announcement about closing a probe that it had never admitted beginning in the first place, and it never commented on the propriety of Deal’s behavior in any way. Either it had enough evidence to prosecute Deal or it did not, and it concluded that it did not.

That’s how such things are done, by longstanding practice and FBI policy, and the reasoning behind it is fundamentally sound. An investigation is not an indictment, just as an indictment is not a conviction, and the mere existence of an investigation tells you nothing. There is no legitimate reason why the Clinton investigation should have been handled any differently than the Deal investigation or the tens of thousands of other investigations over the years that the FBI has quietly opened and quietly closed. Yet it clearly was.

We don’t know the political impact of this late-breaking development, and may not until Election Day. My own sense is that its impact will be small, but that’s just a guess. However, it is certainly plausible to imagine a scenario in which it gives Trump a narrow victory, after which we all discover that these new emails were totally innocuous after all, with no real consequence other than to change the course of an election and with it the course of U.S. history.

That is precisely the nightmare scenario that FBI policy and precedent are designed to avoid. And that is precisely the scenario that Comey has made plausible.

Reader Comments 0

1980 comments
typingperson
typingperson

Wow. So Jay Bookman defends Hillary's corruption and flouting of the law by pointing out that Nathan Deal got away with corruption and flouting the law--so Hillary should get the same pass by the FBI. And he's the AJC's "liberal" columnist.

Wow. Beggars belief.

Zero addressing of the fact that Hillary flouted the law and used a private email server while SoS to avoid lawful FOIA requests. To hide her influence-peddling. Which is what the FBI criminal investigations re Hillary's illegal use of private server and separate criminal investigation into influence-peddling by Clinton Foundation are about.

Just shocking. That the AJC's supposed liberal columnist would actually try to defend this behavior. Horrible. Dissapointing. Democracy is over in this country.

Bookman is a tired left-over has-been of tired bunt out "liberalism." I've known this for a long time. Sad that the AJC still employs him as its lead "left" voice. No better than the ridiculous Wingfield. Both equally hacks. Truly disgusting.

SvenOttke
SvenOttke

Anyone want a good laugh?  Read these quotes.  Guess who?


"Throughout his career, Comey has been known in Washington as someone who is immune to pressure and who calls things as he sees them." 


"The truth is that there is no evidence even hinting that Comey was subject to political meddling, let alone that he bowed to that pressure."


MotocrossSurvivor
MotocrossSurvivor

You think the HRC anti-American propaganda machine known as MSM is overplaying its hand?  Is the public buying it?

td1234
td1234

"The stock market's election year performance between July 31 and Oct. 31 has often accurately predicted the next president — and this year it's pointing to a victory by Donald Trump, if history is a guide.

Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA, says the market's decline this fall has been a bad omen for the incumbent party and Hillary Clinton, who still holds a six point national lead in a new poll. The S&P 500 is down 2.2 percent since its close of 2,173 on July 29, a Friday and the last trading day of July.

"Going back to World War II, the S&P 500 performance between July 31 and Oct. 31 has accurately predicted a challenger victory 86 percent of the time when the stock market performance has been negative," he said. The one time in eight that the incumbent party won with a negative stock market was in 1956, when Adlai Stevenson challenged President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Stovall said in that year, Britain and France joined with Israel in a military action against Egypt over the Suez Canal. It was also the year of the Hungarian Revolution."


http://www.cnbc.com/2016/10/31/this-stock-market-metric-says-the-likely-winner-istrump.html

ByteMe
ByteMe

@td1234 You really don't understand how sample size might affect prognosticating abilities.

Peachs
Peachs

Fox is like a fast food outlet!

ByteMe
ByteMe

@Peachs No "Happy Meal".  More like "Totally pissed off Meal".

honested
honested

@Peachs 

It's obviously unhealthy for consumption but it prevents having to think about anything else.

JamVet
JamVet

Pence: I 'absolutely' believe Trump's denials


LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!!!!!!!!!!!!

JamVet
JamVet

Nations agree landmark deal to cut HFCs, potent greenhouse gases

Two hundred nations.

ZERO REPUBLICANS.

Priceless...

td1234
td1234

From analysis of Nate this very morning: 


"

+4.7 points

Hillary Clinton’s national vote margin according to FiveThirtyEight’s polls-only forecast. Clinton is performing worse than Barack Obama did in 2012 in 10 of 12 states, while her popular vote margin is on the whole generally better. This means that the chance of an electoral vote loss and a popular vote win are better for Clinton. [FiveThirtyEight]

RandroidWillBoy
RandroidWillBoy

What we really have here is Imelda Marcos versus Silvio Berlusconi...

Donnie_Pinko
Donnie_Pinko

Awfully quiet from Jay Bookman lately. 

Considering we have heads of government agencies basically lobbing grenades at each other.

honested
honested

@Donnie_Pinko 

Maybe chump will release his Tax Returns and comey will let us know with the putin Electoral Misconduct.

DebbieDoRight
DebbieDoRight

Give it a rest Pinko. Go & troll somewhere else.

Donnie_Pinko
Donnie_Pinko

@StraightNoChaser @Donnie_Pinko 

The people that I work with are smart, plenty of graduate and masters around me all day everyday

-

So you're with the Hedley Lamar school that believes that political intelligence = IQ = formal degrees? 

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

@td1234 @StraightNoChaser You are cherry picking because there are 100's of other polls out there that say that Trump is losing bigly in VA.  That Tweet is from Sam Wang this morning.  

td1234
td1234

@StraightNoChaser Were those state polls done (not released) before or after the letter sent to Congress? 


Where is the trend lines going? Are they moving towards Clinton or are they moving towards Trump? 

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

@honested @td1234 @StraightNoChaser I posted an election update tweet from Nate Silver this morning which says bad news for Hillary in national polls and bad news for Trump in state polls, td still insist on his "yea but" post.  When was the last poll that shows Trump ahead in VA?  Over 30 days ago?  

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@StraightNoChaser @td1234 

Thomas Jefferson placed a priority on education in his home state of Virginia and the seeds he planted there of his vision of that state is still bearing fruit.

Donnie_Pinko
Donnie_Pinko

Lol. Even Mary Elizabeth Sings dispensing with all gentile pretenses now. Must be push coming to shoe time.

JamVet
JamVet

Watching that fat, repulsive coward of a GOPig take a face plant on the national stage next Tuesday is going be great entertainment!

God Bless America!

And godd@mn Don Drumpf!

Donnie_Pinko
Donnie_Pinko

@JamVet 

Watching that fat, repulsive coward of a GOPig take a face  ...

-

Rehhhrrrrrrrr..  Tell us what you really think there JamVet.

JamVet
JamVet

Well, at least valorous Drumpf never got captured, did he?


Ex-GOP primary candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich snubs Donald Trump, writes in John McCain

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

Did you see Sunday's Doonesbury? BD fantasizing about Trump in combat?