So much for James Comey’s supposed recklessness. While his critics have accused the FBI director of acting recklessly and attempting to influence the election, the Washington Post reports this morning that Comey and senior FBI leaders waited to inform Congress for verification that the new e-mails found in the Anthony Weiner investigation had significance to Hillary Clinton’s case. And the reason Comey went to Congress is because of the need to get a warrant.
This will step all over a few narratives, no?
The people familiar with the investigation said that senior officials had been informed weeks earlier that a computer belonging to former congressman Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) contained emails potentially pertinent to the Clinton investigation. Clinton’s top aide, Huma Abedin, shared the computer with her husband, from whom she is now separated.
Comey did not notify Congress as soon as he learned about the emails because officials wanted additional information before proceeding, the officials said. …
It is unclear what FBI agents have learned since discovering the emails in early October. But officials say they gained enough information from the email metadata to take the next step, seeking a warrant to review the actual emails. That legal step prompted Comey’s letter to Congress, which has made him a central figure during the stretch run of the presidential campaign.
So now let’s put the horse before the cart and annotate this timeline. In early October, investigators tell senior FBI leadership that they have found what appears to be a massive repository of evidence in a previous investigation, some of which might very well be new and pertinent, but they have no authority to access it directly. Rather than run to Congress at this point, FBI execs told then to check the metadata — the “pen register” sort of information that law enforcement can legally analyze without a warrant — to determine whether it was significant enough to proceed.
Two weeks later, the investigators reported back that their analysis showed the data to be pertinent and substantive enough to get a warrant directly relating to the Hillary Clinton investigation. Comey decided to proceed with the warrant, which could have easily become public knowledge. With that in mind as well as his earlier testimony to Congress, Comey decided to keep the judiciary committees in the loop rather than risk blindsiding them and raising questions about his earlier testimony to them.
Seems like a reasonable, even cautious process, does it not? Clearly, Comey didn’t just jump at the chance to run to Congress and throw the election. As I pointed out yesterday, Comey had ample opportunity to throw the election to the GOP in July when he could have recommended prosecution or even a grand-jury probe into the evidence uncovered by the FBI. Was his master plan to wait until late October on the off chance that Anthony Weiner would sext a 15-year-old girl and indirectly give the FBI access to Clinton’s e-mails hidden on his laptop? (As it turns out, it would have been a safe bet, but still …)
Instead, this looks like the portrait of a law-enforcement executive who’s been reluctant all along to be in the middle of an election, and arguable too reluctant. And it’s clear that his critics are the very people who want him there — as a distraction from the corrupt candidate who created the problem in the first place.