This business of the FBI director’s letter last week has a lot of puzzling aspects that we could discuss.
I almost did a post yesterday based on a couple of headlines out there, one of which was this: “Did FBI Director James Comey’s Email Announcement Break The Law?” To that, I could only say, Who cares? What if it did? Sure he could be prosecuted, fined, jailed, whatever — it wouldn’t affect what he has done to this election, whatever that is. The damage can’t be undone. If his actions result in the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, keelhauling him might make a lot of us feel avenged, but it wouldn’t save the country.
Another headline — which I can’t seem to find now — said he may have a report on what is found in the new emails before the election. To which I could only say, whoop-te-frickin’-do. When would that be? Election eve? So if the news is detrimental to Hillary Clinton, or merely leaves a cloud over her, that could be the finishing stroke. And if it clears her of any further culpability, Republicans will charge to the polls in a fine lather, willing even to vote for Trump to express their ire.
There’s a lot more this morning. I was intrigued by an interview I heard on public radio this morning with Donald Ayer, deputy U.S. attorney general under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush between 1989 and 1990. He made a fascinating point. He said that when Comey had his announcement/speech back in the summer, everybody kind of went, OK, so Hillary did some irresponsible stuff, but it didn’t rise to the level of being prosecutable. Republicans were outraged and Democrats relieved, but everyone went on with their lives.
And, Mr. Ayer said, no one stopped to think just how wildly inappropriate it was for someone with prosecutorial power to make a lengthy speech about the merits of a case he was deciding not to prosecute.
Anyway, the point was that that error set up this one. Having told Congress and tout le monde that he was done investigating and there was nothing to prosecute, he felt honor-bound to say last week, Uh, fellas, I found something else we need to take a look at….
(Being bound by honor is a very fine thing and all too rare these days. But I confess I’m on the verge of losing patience with Mr. Comey’s delicate sensibilities…)
So now we have this situation in which everybody’s mad at him — Democrats for possibly throwing the election to Trump, and Republicans for not telling us all right now just how much these emails damn Hillary.
Here’s another interesting wrinkle: “Comey was concerned publicly blaming Russia for hacks of Democrats could appear too political in run-up to elections.”
Yeah, right? He had his excuses for why he was concerned about the FBI’s purity in that case and not this one (and you should read the story), but still…
Finally… As y’all know, Bret Stephens, deputy editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal, has written some extraordinary columns lately damning Trump and all-but-endorsing Hillary. Today, he had one simply headlined, “Resign, Mr. Comey.” An excerpt:
These aren’t partisan acts. They are self-regarding ones. Mr. Comey is a familiar Washington type—the putative saint—whose career is a study in reputation management. He went after investment banker Frank Quattrone. He threatened to resign from the Bush administration over its warrantless wiretap program. He vouchsafed the case against Steven J. Hatfill, the virologist accused of the 2001 anthrax mail attacks, in internal White House deliberations. He appointed his close friend Patrick Fitzgerald to investigate the leak of CIA analyst Valerie Plame’s name.
One common thread in these cases is that Mr. Comey was always on the right side of Beltway conventional wisdom. The second is that he was consistently on the wrong side of justice….
FBI directors are supposed to be above politics, not in them. President Obama has the authority to fire Mr. Comey but will be hard-pressed to do so politically. That goes double if Mrs. Clinton is elected. Who knows what a President Trump would do.
All the more reason for Mr. Comey to do the right thing. He has lost the trust of his political masters, his congressional overseers and the American people. Wanting to spend more time with family is the usual excuse.
Mr. Stephens is understandably ticked.
One wonders where Mr. Comey’s conscience will take us next. Although what it’s done so far is quite enough…