Count Loretta Lynch among the Democrats steamed at James Comey yesterday. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reported early this morning that the Attorney General had told Comey not to notify Congress of his decision to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server, telling the FBI director that he should stick to the usual practice of not commenting on ongoing investigations. Mayer’s source? “A well-informed administration official.”
Clearly, there are a few Democrats in the White House cheesed off at Comey now, too:
On Friday, James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, acting independently of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, sent a letter to Congress saying that the F.B.I. had discovered e-mails that were potentially relevant to the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private server. Coming less than two weeks before the Presidential election, Comey’s decision to make public new evidence that may raise additional legal questions about Clinton was contrary to the views of the Attorney General, according to a well-informed Administration official. Lynch expressed her preference that Comey follow the department’s longstanding practice of not commenting on ongoing investigations, and not taking any action that could influence the outcome of an election, but he said that he felt compelled to do otherwise.
Comey’s decision is a striking break with the policies of the Department of Justice, according to current and former federal legal officials. Comey, who is a Republican appointee of President Obama, has a reputation for integrity and independence, but his latest action is stirring an extraordinary level of concern among legal authorities, who see it as potentially affecting the outcome of the Presidential and congressional elections.
“You don’t do this,” one former senior Justice Department official exclaimed. “It’s aberrational. It violates decades of practice.” The reason, according to the former official, who asked not to be identified because of ongoing cases involving the department, “is because it impugns the integrity and reputation of the candidate, even though there’s no finding by a court, or in this instance even an indictment.”
That early-July love for Comey appears to have worn off, eh? Some of this is true, but perhaps not as aberrational as the former high-ranking DoJ official would like to acknowledge. Bill Clinton won his first presidential election with a little boost from a last-week indictment of Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger by Iran-Contra special counsel Lawrence Walsh, Paul Mirengoff recollects:
Weinberger had been indicted earlier in the year. But the new indictment cited a Weinberger diary entry that contradicted something President Bush had said.
The Clintons seized on the new indictment, howling about a “culture of corruption” that supposedly pervaded the administration. Bush’s poll numbers declined and Bill Clinton won the election.
Shortly after the election, a federal judge threw out the new indictment because it violated the five-year statute of limitations and improperly broadened the original charges. President Bush then pardoned Weinberger.
There’s no small amount of irony in that, nor in the sudden demands for full transparency from Hillary Clinton and the rest of her team. Had Hillary been transparent about her e-mail server from the beginning — or used the State Department system, which was designed to provide transparency to Congress and the courts while securing the information — she wouldn’t find herself in this mess. As I noted a few times on Twitter yesterday, transparency on her example would have Comey wait six years to release the information after telling numerous courts and Congress that it didn’t exist, and then deleting half of it and printing the other half on 55,000 sheets of paper.
Demands for transparency from the Clintons that paint themselves as victims is akin to a parricide defendant demand mercy from the court based on his status as an orphan.
Besides, Comey sent the letter in part because of transparency. He had testified to Congress on more than one occasion that the investigation into Hillary’s e-mail system had concluded. We know this anyway, because Comey published his conclusions in early July, but that testimony has the force of being under oath. When that status changed — and whether or not Comey used the word “reopen,” he reopened a case that had been concluded — Comey would have some duty to notify the congressional committees that the status had changed. Had he not, and the FBI found something significant after the election, Comey would have been accused of acting politically to keep the status change quiet. He’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t, but that’s in large part Comey’s own doing — the price for having chickened out on pressing for a grand jury to review the clear evidence of violations of 18 USC 793 and 18 USC 1924.
Finally, we do have at least one honest reaction from the Democrats to note. Here’s Joe Biden, finding out for the first time that Anthony Weiner is the lynchpin of this new development. We may not agree with Biden on much, but we can certainly empathize with him in this moment (via Twitchy):
— 🔥🔥FIREBRAND🔥🔥 (@MS70Life) October 29, 2016
BIDEN to @CNN on new emails: "BIDEN: “Oh God. Anthony Weiner. I should not comment on Anthony Weiner. I’m not a big fan."
— Kevin Liptak (@Kevinliptakcnn) October 29, 2016