Many commentators have said that vague public disclosures of potential new developments in an investigation is a rare occurrence. While that statement is accurate, it is misleading for the simple fact that – “An F.B.I. director has never made such a disclosure to Congress so close to a presidential election.” Comey’s actions were merely uncommon. They were as scarce as hen’s teeth. “At times during trials or after cases are closed, the F.B.I. finds new evidence and either discloses it to defense lawyers or reopens a case.” Never has the F.B.I. Director “made such a disclosure to Congress so close to a presidential election.”
Not only were long-standing Justice Department customs, traditions, and written protocols bent to the point of breaking by Director Comey’s action, but he is in reasonable jeopardy of violating the 77-year-old Hatch Act. The general intent of the Hatch Act is to “greatly restrict the ability of most federal employees to engage in political campaign activities, especially while on the job — or to otherwise “use [their] official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the result of an election.” [emphasis added] For decades, numerous federal agencies issued their own guidance to employees about how to avoid Hatch Act violations, especially in the run-up to presidential elections. Most directly pertinent to Director Comey’s recent action is the March 2016 Justice Department memo [echoing previous memos in prior election years] “that employees – should be particularly mindful of these rules in an election year,” and defining prohibited political activity to include all “activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.”
The absurdity of Comey’s action standout starkly when one considers his stipulated fear of leaks. The Director of the FBI has now gone on record in public with the contention that the nation’s highest law enforcement agency is not a haven for confidential investigative information! It is far more likely, that Director Comey so desperately needed to rationalize his dubious decision that he willingly trashed the agency he heads to excuse his irresponsible and partisan conduct.
Richard W. Painter the chief White House ethics lawyer in the Bush Administration from 2005 to 2007, stated in a New York Times op-ed:
“Absent extraordinary circumstances that might justify it, a public communication about a pending F.B.I. investigation involving a candidate that is made on the eve of an election is thus very likely to be a violation of the Hatch Act and a misuse of an official position.”
There are serious issues under professional conduct criteria that require prosecutors to studiously avoid undue publicity and uncircumspect statements that could cause public condemnation even of people accused of crimes. Such issues and strictures apply even more forcefully to a person, such as Hillary Clinton. who has never been charged with any crime whatsoever!
Comey’s abuse of position and power is neither a partisan nor a trivial matter. If this disgraceful and dubious conduct must not be allowed to stand and set a precedent. The Justice Department in general and the F.B.I. must not be allowed in any way and to any extent to unnecessarily publicize pending investigations of any candidate of any party while elections are underway. This goes double if the election is less than two weeks from over!
Director Comey acted for whatever reasons he did and only he knows what his motivations were. Nonetheless, it looks from the outside that he ignored precedent and sound advice to make vague insinuations detrimental to the Democratic Presidential Candidate and helpful to her Republican rival. It is concerning the Drumpf “is remarkably Nixonian, perhaps even more so than Nixon himself.” per John Dean. Thus, Drumpf’s insistence that “Email-gate” is worse than Watergate serves as a diversion from the danger that a President Drumpf would surpass even Nixon’s astounding abuses of presidential power, which included:
“other illegal break-ins and burglaries; illegal electronic surveillance; misuses of agencies of government like the I.R.S., C.I.A. and F.B.I.; the practice of making political opponents into enemies and using the instruments of government to attack them; and then employing perjury and obstruction of justice to cover it all up.”
Thus, the Watergate references are simply part of another con by Deceitful Don, and the dubious action by James Comey has lent aid and comfort to the effort by the most authoritarian person ever to seek the American presidency. Thus, a dishonorable action is even more disgraceful because of the harm its effects may do to the Republic every elected and appointed official has sworn a solemn oath to preserve, protect, and defend while acting in true faith and allegiance to it!
Lest one assert that Director Comey has not been unfair to Hillary Clinton or her campaign, the following should be carefully considered:
“… when the FBI uncovered emails that they had not read, had not yet obtained a warrant to read, and had not in any way confirmed would reveal anything at all about Hillary Clinton, Comey rushed to convey this information to Clinton’s political enemies in a letter that was light on facts and easy to misrepresent to the press. [emphasis added]
Yet, when the FBI learned that a hostile foreign power was literally trying to shape the result of the election, he opposed disclosing this information to the American people.” [emphasis added]
There was a preview of this when Director Comey went to extraordinary lengths to grandstand when he spoke at length in July and editorialized beyond the conclusions of the investigators and then, justified this excess as a pretext for rushing to publicize the nonsense he put out less than two weeks prior to a monumentally important presidential election! For James Comey, the FBI appears to apply one set of rules to Hillary Clinton, and an entirely different set to Donald Drumpf.
If in 2016, the Presidential election is won by a candidate so manifestly unfit for office that his campaign and supporters are now under suit via the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act as well as the Voting Rights Act, that victory will be due in part to Director Comey’s despicable action. The lawsuit says in part: “Untold numbers of…voters will suffer irreparable harm if the right to vote is imperiled by the same forms of virulent harassment that federal law has prohibited since shortly after the Civil War.” The F.B.I. exists to protect the rights of citizens not to aid and abet the violation of these rights. The cowardice of Director Comey may yet prove catastrophic to many minority Americans and all others who believe in a Republic, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all!
James Carney, who is admittedly a Democratic partisan, puts the question fittingly in a discussion on MSNBC: “He [Comey] was acting in concert and coordination with the House Republicans. End of story. He gave a letter to them. They gave it to FOX News. Also, we have this extraordinary case of the KGB being involved in this race and selectively leaking things from the Clinton campaign that they hacked.
So, American democracy is under attack here. And the question is how are we and, in particular, how are Democrats going to respond to this. We have to understand this is really, really quite extraordinary. And it would seem to me that the FBI shouldn’t be getting rolled by the House Republicans and that’s what happened here. There is nothing going on and in the meantime, we do know that our democracy is under assault by the KGB. To me, that’s something we ought to be talking about. That’s a relevant issue in this campaign. And people have to decide do we want our country for ourselves with the people in charge or are we going to elect the KGB and the House Republicans to decide this election.”
“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.” Abraham Lincoln Burning one’s own butt is foolish but within one’s rights. What does it say about us if we fall for this corruptive insinuation Comey launched and allow a bigoted, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic authoritarian to light a fire in all three branches of the Federal government to burn the butts of our posterity for decades to come?
Let us neither be distracted nor diverted by partisan propaganda. Government is a noun used to reify a process and serve as a scapegoat and strawman. Governance, in contrast, is an essential, complex, and difficult, and often thankless, process. Despite this truth, good governance will reliably lead to peace and prosperity for the citizenry of all much as good digestion and evacuation lead to health and heartiness for an individual. Obstructed governance on the other hand leads to frustration and toxicity much as constipation leads to stress and illness in a person. Let us elect a champion of good governance, not an exemplar rule or ruin petulance and intemperance.