Through his actions over the past five days, Comey clearly appears to be trying to make the election an “installation,” rather than a true expression of voter sentiment.
It’s the closest the nation has ever come to choosing a leader like Third World generalissimos, who are installed by the military or national police through stilted elections.
Comey’s actions set a dangerous precedent by upending a prohibition against federal employee involvement in elections that goes back to enactment of the Hatch Act in 1939.
It’s officially known as “An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities” for good reason. It was designed to prevent high-ranking government officials from using their positions to sway voters through undue influence, coercion or the promise of political favors.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation bears a special obligation to adhere to the tenets of the Hatch Act because of the vast power it wields and the influence it has over public opinion.
The FBI has been placed on a pedestal and lionized almost since its creation for the very reason that it’s been promoted as an impartial law enforcement agency, devoid of political bias.
The FBI’s impartiality is so important to our democracy, the U.S. Justice Department, which oversees the agency, has developed special instructions and protocols on how federal investigations of political figures are to be handled during elections.
One rule that stands above all others is the agency’s long-standing policy not to comment on on-going investigations.
The purpose of that is to prevent exactly the kind of situation Comey has caused with his letter to Congress, 11 days before the presidential election, regarding Hillary Clinton’s email investigation.
Comey broke all of those traditions, protocols and rules–and may even have violated the Hatch Act– when he informed Congress that emails found on a computer unrelated to the Clinton email investigation, may or may not somehow be related, without citing evidence, or probable cause.
Clinton aide Huma Abedin shared the computer with her estranged husband, former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who is under FBI investigation for sexting with a 15-year-old teen.
It has since been revealed that no one in the FBI had even reviewed the emails before he sent the letter. What’s more, the FBI acknowledged that no evidence exists yet that any of the emails were sent to or by Clinton, or even resided on her private server.
In other words, there was absolutely no substance to his letter. Yet, it carried with it the weight of the FBI, and that alone has been enough to influence voters.
Comey acknowledged in a separate letter to his employees the he could have created “a misleading impression” and was at “significant risk of being misunderstood.” That’s classic understatement.
The political implications were clear when Donald Trump and his surrogates trumpeted that the “case must be serious” merely because the FBI had sent the letter so close to the election–regardless of what it said.
Not surprisingly, Comey drew a strong rebuke from the Clinton campaign, Democratic and Republican lawmakers and former top Justice Department officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations.
But far from being chastened, Comey’s FBI doubled down. It released without warning FBI records regarding Bill Clinton’s controversial pardon of financial fugitive Marc Rich on his last day in office almost 16 years ago, according to media reports.
Rich looted his investment fund of $200 million and was indicted on multiple counts of tax evasion, wire fraud and racketeering. He fled to Switzerland which does not extradite U.S citizens charged with financial crimes.
His ex-wife, Denise Rich, has been a long-time Democratic party supporter and fundraiser for the Clinton Presidential Library and Hillary Clinton’s U.S. Senate campaign.
Because of her connections, the FBI launched an investigation. It ended in 2005 without charges. Marc Rich died three years ago. Case closed.
What makes the document dump so curious is the fact that it came through an FBI Twitter account that had been dormant for more than a year up until this past Sunday, according to National Public Radio.
The FBI said the release was routine and subject to multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. But the timing, on the cusp of a presidential election, once again calls into question the FBI’s actions.
Comey also unleashed a torrent of online speculation about another unfounded Clinton conspiracy–again, from Bill Clinton’s administration–the 1993 death of deputy White House legal counsel Vince Foster.
Five separate government agencies concluded that Foster, who suffered from severe depression, committed suicide. But Clinton conspiracy mongers insist the Clintons had Foster murdered as part of a cover up.
Earlier this year, Foster’s family strongly rebuked Trump for bringing up his death in an interview.
“Trump cynically, crassly and recklessly insinuated that my brother, Vincent W. Foster Jr., may have been murdered because ‘he had intimate knowledge of what was going on’ and that Hillary Clinton may have somehow played a role in Vince’s death,” sister Sheila Foster Anthony, wrote in a column for The Washington Post this past May.
“How wrong. How irresponsible. How cruel,” she added.
This election will remained stained by Comey’s actions long after the voting is over and a new president is elected. But looking beyond the election, his fitness to continue in office as FBI director needs to be examined.
Given the frenzied nature of Trump’s extremist supporters and the number of baseless conspiracy theories surrounding the Clintons, Comey should have known his letter would have had an incendiary effect on the election.
It clearly played into the hands of her opponent in an extremely partisan way and added fuel to the Trump-inspired fire that the presidential election is somehow “rigged.”
New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who could well be the next Senate Majority Leader, said Wednesday he’s lost confidence in Comey over his handling of the Clinton email letter to Congress.
A thorough examination of his conduct should be the first order of business when Congress is next in session.
Update: Now even more leaks from the FBI claim that an investigation into allegations of “Clinton pay-for-play” schemes involving Clinton Foundation donors and her tenure at the State Department, has produced an “avalanche” of evidence. Fox News, known for its unabashed right-wing slant and conspiracy mongering, is reporting the story citing an anonymous FBI “source.” If Comey isn’t behind the leak, he has clearly lost control of his agency. As always, the allegations are unsubstantiated.
Let us know your thoughts and be sure to follow IM on Twitter for the latest election coverage.