For those of you too busy with Halloween parties this weekend to follow the news, here’s the update. There is a scandal within a scandal within a scandal. These political scandals are like Russian nesting dolls, a new one opens up within the current one.
Here’s what started it all. FBI Director James Comey sent this letter to Congress on Friday.
Multiple legal/ethical problems from this letter from Comey:
- The date on the letter, Oct, 28, 2016 – Comey’s vague letter sent 11 days before the election is in violation of the Hatch Act, as it is perceived as an attempt to influence the election.
- Also, important to note that although the letter expresses Comey’s personal opinion, it is sent on official letterhead to imply that the DOJ and FBI support his comments, which they do not, and strongly advised against.
- FBI doesn’t even have a warrant to read the e-mails referenced in letter.
- Comey had no idea what the content of the emails would be at the time he sent the letter.
- Also, the letter suggests that the FBI might re-open the Clinton investigation, which they are not.
- Apparently the letter from FBI Director Comey was leaked and tweeted by Senior Congressional Aide Jason Chaffetz before Congress even saw it.
- Comey sent a separate letter internally notifying FBI employees that he knew the letter he was sending to congress would be misleading (see below).
- The letter also tries to tie Clinton to the sexting scandal of former congressman, Anthony Weiner, which Clinton has nothing to do with him, other than he is the estranged husband of one of her employees. (Yes, it seems like all US political scandals are 6 degrees of separation from Anthony Weiner.)
- Last but certainly not least, the e-mails that Comer refers to may simply be copies of emails that the FBI already has.
The Hatch Act prohibits the use of political office to influence the outcome of an election. The Office of Special Counsel says this about the Hatch Act:
The law’s purposes are to ensure that federal programs are administered in a nonpartisan fashion, to protect federal employees from political coercion in the workplace, and to ensure that federal employees are advanced based on merit and not based on political affiliation.
Obviously the FBI doesn’t normally comment on ongoing investigations, especially so publicly, and definitely not 11 days before a presidential election.
Even Trump supporter and former prosecutor Jeannie Pirro who now has “Justice with Judge Jeannie” on FoxNews, questioned the motives of James Comey with the release of his letter.
Comey’s actions violate, not only long-standing Justice Department policy, the directive of the person that he works under, the attorney general…but even more important, the most fundamental rules of fairness and impartiality.
Rep Adam Schiff calls Comey’s letter an “ambiguity bomb” and a “terrible lapse in judgement.”
And Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas was quick to jump on the “Aw Hell No!” bandwagon with this tweet, “Why is FBI doing this just 11 days before the election?” Although to be fair, Cornyn may have been saying this to further erroneously fuel the fire that the alleged emails are unflattering for Hillary.
Judd Legum, editor of Think Progress, edited the letter after it went viral to try and show what Comey was really trying to say:
Clinton quickly responded to the leaked letter by asking for full transparency and prompt clarification on what Comey was referring to in the letter.
Former George W Bush ethics advisor, Richard Painter, along with OSC, filed a complaint against the Department of Justice for Comey’s abuse of his position with his letter to congress. Painter also wrote an New York Times op-ed article on this.
Here is the letter that James Comey sent internally to FBI employees. Yes, naturally, this too is leaked because our government is like a colander, constantly leaking information. Or as legal experts will call it, this is Comey’s letter of intent. It is basically a suicide note for his career.
This morning I sent a letter to Congress in connection with the Secretary Clinton email investigation. Yesterday, the investigative team briefed me on their recommendation with respect to seeking access to emails that have recently been found in an unrelated case. Because those emails appear to be pertinent to our investigation, I agreed that we should take appropriate steps to obtain and review them.
Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed. I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record. At the same time, however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression. In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season, there is significant risk of being misunderstood, but I wanted you to hear directly from me about it.
In general, this entire story and offspring stories reek of collusion. And as important as the Presidential election is, there are also down ballet elections to consider. Comey could have used this letter, and his position of power, as an attempt to sway voters in other elections. Most Republicans (except Trump) have conceeded that Hillary will win the Presidential election, however this letter could have been a last ditch effort to secure Republicans in house and senate, both in state and national elections. It is a last ditch effort to smear the Democratic party in general.
To put the story in an sports analogy… In the final seconds of the game, with Republicans down and seconds left on the clock, Comey throws the ball! …It’s intercepted by Chaffetz! He takes it and runs, the Democrats never even saw this coming, this is wildly unprecedented!… and…and…it’s a TOUCHDOWN!!! But wait, there’s a flag on the play. Officials are conferring. Well, this one is going to be a real nail bitter.
Comey insiders, according to twitter, are saying he’s a good guy, but he just wrote letter because he felt pressure from Republicans. This defense is even more disturbing as the head of FBI shouldn’t answer to Republicans OR Democrats. The head of FBI should remain neutral. The head of the FBI shouldn’t fall prey to bullying. That is the whole point of having a democracy.
My personal opinion on this news cycle (with no supporting evidence) is that Comey was motivated to fall on his sword because he was either a.) blackmailed or more likely b.) paid handsomely in an off-shore account by wealthy Republican. There will be an investigation into his actions and if he is found guilty or not, it doesn’t matter, he will most likely not do jail time because that is how the US system works. (G. Gordon Liddy’s punishment was a career in radio.) The irony is that all the anti-gov Trump supporters who think the government is corrupt are correct. However, they fail to recognize that both the Democrats and Republicans equally share the blame for where we are now as a nation.
Update to original post: And now the #ComeyGate story has come full circle. No cliffhanger ending to your weekend. According to NBC’s Pete Williams, an FBI source confirms that the emails have nothing to do with Hillary. So the whole thing was a giant misinformation grenade that blew up America’s weekend tweets. LA Times says this about the news story:
Harry Reid of Nevada also sends this letter to express his condolences to Comey for the loss of his career and dignity this week. UPDATED: Harry Reid is vocally calling out Comey for possibly violating the Hatch Act. (I say possibly, even though he obviously violated the Hatch Act, it is for a court to determine.) And ironically now the FBI is declining to comment on this matter. (Now? NOW? Now the loudmouths decline to comment?)
So that’s the 411 on the Comey news, you can go back to planning your awesome halloween costume.