When Chief Justice John Roberts used a tortured, logic-defying argument to uphold Obamacare, he was subjected to similar accusations of bad faith. My view was that, as guardian of the Supreme Court’s public standing, he thought the issue too momentous — and the implications for the country too large — to hinge on a decision of the court. Especially after Bush v. Gore, Roberts wanted to keep the court from overturning the political branches on so monumental a piece of social legislation.
I would suggest that Comey’s thinking, whether conscious or not, was similar: He did not want the FBI director to end up as the arbiter of the 2016 presidential election. If Clinton were not a presumptive presidential nominee but simply a retired secretary of state, he might well have made a different recommendation.
Prosecuting under current circumstances would have upended and redirected an already year-long presidential-selection process. In my view, Comey didn’t want to be remembered as the man who irreversibly altered the course of American political history.
And with no guarantee that the prosecution would succeed, moreover. Imagine that scenario: You knock out of the race the most likely next president — and she ultimately gets acquitted! Imagine how Comey goes down in history under those circumstances.