I hope Rich Lowry doesn’t mind me reproducing one of his posts in full, but it’s short and on point.
It has often been said, correctly, of things Donald Trump says or does, “this is not normal.” Well, what also wasn’t normal was for a major political party to nominate for president someone who was the subject of a serious (if deeply flawed, as it turned out) FBI investigation. This meant the director of the FBI was going to have a large hand, one way or the other, in the election. Comey’s attempted way out was to bend over backward to give Hillary a pass. This, of course, didn’t mean he wasn’t influencing the election; only that he was influencing it in way favorable to Hillary (although he tried to balance it out with his public statement excoriating her practices). You can see the same dilemma here. If Comey didn’t say anything about the new emails and it was revealed after the election that he knew about them and stayed silent, he would be accused of aiding Hillary. If, on the other hand, his announcement today ends up flipping the race to Trump and there is nothing significant in the new emails, he will be forever remember for torpedoing Hillary. Anything he says, or even doesn’t say, from now until Election Day is going to make someone very unhappy. I think Comey should err on the side of maximum disclosure consistent with the integrity of the investigation, but the entire episode goes to show what a bad idea it is for a political party to knowingly nominate someone who is likely guilty of criminal offenses.
Just so. The FBI opened its investigation into Clinton’s emails in August 2015, six months before the first votes were cast in Iowa. They could have recommended criminal charges against Hillary at any time between then and Comey’s press conference in July 2016. Every Democrat who cast a primary vote for her this year knew that. They didn’t care. They supported her, they voted for her, and eventually they nominated her. They viewed Emailgate as another Republican hobbyhorse a la Benghazi that sane people needn’t bother themselves about, to the point that Bernie Sanders chose to avoid the issue lest he be seen as parroting “right-wing attacks.” They politicized this by insisting on a damaged nominee. They chose to accept the risk of having their party’s electoral chances ripped apart in an instant if the FBI turned up some smoking gun of malfeasance in the emails that required them to recommend charges. All of that being so, I read things like this and wonder in which alternate reality they were written:
Nick Akerman, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, was more critical: “Director Comey acted totally inappropriately. He had no business writing to Congress about supposed new emails that neither he nor anyone in the FBI has ever reviewed.”
“It is not the function of the FBI director to be making public pronouncements about an investigation, never mind about an investigation based on evidence that he acknowledges may not be significant,” Akerman added. “The job of the FBI is simply to investigate and to provide the results of its investigation to the prosecutorial arm of the U.S. Department of Justice. His job is not to give a running commentary about any investigation or his opinion about any investigation. This is particularly egregious since Secretary Clinton has no way to respond to what amounts to nebulous and speculative innuendo.”
It’s not normal practice for the FBI to brief the public on ongoing investigations but then it’s not normal practice for half the public to nominate the target of an ongoing investigation for president, is it? Nominating Hillary this year when she was already under a cloud of suspicion was Democrats effectively daring the FBI to destroy its credibility as a nonpartisan agency with half the country by recommending charges. And they succeeded. When the time came in July for Comey to make a decision, he called a press conference, declared that Hillary and her team had been “extremely careless” in handling classified information — a synonym for gross negligence, just as the statute requires — but then farted out an excuse that it wouldn’t be fair ‘n stuff to prosecute someone who hadn’t shown obvious criminal intent. Democrats won their bet that Comey wouldn’t have the stones to upend the election by charging Hillary. Clearly, though, he felt badly enough about his dereliction of duty in letting her off for political reasons that he decided some form of punishment was in order, which is why he held that damning press conference to begin with. In lieu of having a federal grand jury decide whether there’s probable cause to believe Clinton committed a crime, it appears he chose to leave it to the national “jury” in November. He went out there, made the case against her like a good prosecutor does, and then put the ball in our court. It is, as many people have said, highly unusual for the FBI (let alone the director) to call a news conference to explain that charges against a suspect won’t be filed, but it’s also a foreseeable consequence of taking the even more highly unusual step of handing your party’s nomination to the subject of a criminal probe.
So here’s the dilemma Comey is stuck with now, 11 days out from a presidential election, thanks to Democrats and their garbage nominee:
Officials familiar with Comey’s thinking said the director on Thursday faced a quandary over how to proceed once the emails, which number more than 1,000 and may duplicate some of those already reviewed, were brought to his attention.
Comey had just been briefed by a team of investigators who were seeking access to the emails. The director knew he had to move quickly because the information could leak out.…
An official familiar with Comey’s thinking said that “he felt he had no choice.”
“What would it look like if the FBI inadvertently came across additional emails that appear to be relevant to the Clinton investigation and not at least inform the Oversight Committee that this occurred?” the official said. “What would be the criticism then? That the FBI hid it? That the FBI purposely kept this information to themselves?”
If Comey chose to disclose up front that new material had been found on Huma Abedin’s and Anthony Weiner’s devices, he’d walk right into a buzzsaw of Democratic headlines that THE FBI IS MEDDLING AT THE LAST MINUTE TO COST HILLARY THE ELECTION. (Which of course is what happened.) If he chose not to disclose it because he’s not sure yet that anything incriminating is on there and then the news leaked, he’d walk into a buzzsaw of Republican headlines that THE FBI COVERED UP INFORMATION THAT COULD HAVE COST HILLARY THE ELECTION. Imagine the chaos if the news about Abedin and Weiner came out three days before the election, as late deciders were finally ready to make a choice. Imagine if it leaked three days after the election at a moment when Trump was already screaming about the election being “rigged.” This clusterf**k that now rules our political reality is thanks entirely to Democratic voters and the fact that, when push comes to shove, they don’t care what Hillary Clinton does or which laws she breaks so long as she remains their best shot at holding on to power. They bought the ticket. Enjoy the ride.
For all the blame-shifting Democratic screeching at Comey yesterday, the irony is that his letter seems to have been crafted to do the least possible amount of political damage to Clinton. It’s the mirror image of the July press conference. In that case, Comey did have plenty of evidence that she’d broken the law but he gave Hillary a pass so as not to influence the election too dramatically. Per yesterday’s letter, Comey has no evidence (yet?) that Clinton’s broken any laws and can’t even say for sure that the new material is significant but he’s letting everyone know that it’s being looked at so that he can’t be accused later of having kept these new developments secret. In each case he’s tried to minimize the FBI’s effect on the election by handing talking points to both sides, hopefully mitigating the political fallout from legal decisions he’s been forced to make by Democrats nominating someone who really can aptly be described as “Crooked Hillary.” I’ve spent five months whining at my own side that bad things tend to happen when you nominate a candidate who’s glaringly damaged. Now Democrats get their own lesson, the hard way.
I’ll leave your exit question to fellow #NeverTrumper Ben Sasse:
In pursuit of civic health:
There are R's who've asked hard questions about our nominee.
Who are the D's asking real Qs about their nominee?
— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) October 29, 2016