The Comey explainer would be an inaugural fiasco

posted at 10:01 pm on December 21, 2016 by Ed Morrissey

Which Inauguration Day event tickets will be tougher to get? An official President Donald J. Trump Ball, or an excruciating exercise in which James Comey tries to “prove” he wasn’t acting in a partisan manner? The latter might hold more promise for history, actually:

Six weeks since Hillary Clinton’s surprise loss in the presidential election, FBI Director James Comey is under pressure to justify the bombshell announcement that rocked the final days of the campaign. …

Now, speculation has begun to swirl that Comey will publicly address the charges of partisanship.

Several former FBI officials told The Hill they had heard Comey is now weighing a possible press appearance after Trump is inaugurated on Jan. 20 to tell his side of the story.

John gave us a run-down on it earlier today, and … I’m still not sure what the point of this would be. Certainly Comey can step through his actions and demonstrate how he wanted to be completely transparent no matter what action he was taking, and that’s at least defensible. His July statement recommending no action on Hillary Clinton took place in the context of a very public investigation, and the FBI faced accusations of partisanship no matter what decision was reached. The only option Comey really had was to offer a thorough public explanation of the conclusion the FBI reached. Once that happened, though, Comey was trapped when the investigation went active again. Had he not notified Congress, Comey would have been accused of a cover-up once the new probe leaked.

And … everyone already knows that, and it doesn’t matter. Comey’s getting blamed by Democrats for his actions not because they’re so obviously egregious but to shift the blame for the election loss away from themselves. Republicans aren’t all that anxious to pull Comey’s chestnuts out of the fire because they think Comey should have recommended a grand jury in the first place — a move which would have had a significant chance of producing a President Joe Biden in November. Comey can stand in front of a podium all day long and justify his actions, but it won’t change the incentives on either side in casting him as either a dupe or a villain.

At this point, Comey might be best served by retreating back to his normal low profile, and wait for a couple of major cases come along to rehabilitate his reputation and that of the FBI. Stepping up to the podium around the inauguration to offer justifications for his actions — no matter how valid they may be — will only deepen the suspicion of Comey as a political player. Waiting on that accounting for Obama & Co to vacate the White House would make that suspicion even worse. It promises to be a full-blown fiasco, delivered on Trump’s doorstep just as he’s settling into office.


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