Did FBI Director Comey exceed his authority?

Putting aside these unusual aspects of the Comey statement, he was certainly correct in his ultimate recommendation. The evidence in this case, as he described it, would not have justified a criminal prosecution.

There is simply no precedent for indicting a former secretary of State for carelessness, even extreme carelessness. This is especially true when the former secretary is about to become her party’s nominee for president. Directors of the FBI should not be influencing the outcome of presidential elections unless there is a clear and unequivocal violation of the law.

In general, the principal of “lenity” — which requires doubts to be resolved in close cases against prosecution — applies even more strictly when the decision to indict would effectively deny the public the right to exercise its judgment about who should be the president.

So the bottom line is that Clinton will not be indicted, but the director of the FBI has issued a statement that may have a considerable impact on the upcoming election. This raises fundamental structural questions about the role of the FBI in investigating political figures.

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