FBI’s Comey investigated over election conduct
The Justice Department’s inspector general this week launched an investigation into how FBI Director James Comey handled the probe of Hillary Clinton’s email practices, in particular whether his public comments improperly influenced the election. One incident under scrutiny is the July news conference in which Comey cleared Clinton of wrongdoing, but took the unusual step of criticizing her “extremely careless” use of a private email server. Inspector General Michael Horowitz will also review the letter Comey sent to Congress 11 days before the election, in which he said emails “that appear pertinent” to the Clinton investigation had surfaced during an unrelated inquiry, later revealed to be the “sexting” probe of former congressman Anthony Weiner. Less than 48 hours before voters went to the polls, Comey sent a second letter declaring the emails irrelevant to the Clinton case. Democrats have alleged Comey’s actions sparked an 11th-hour wave of negative news that blunted Clinton’s momentum against Donald Trump. Comey said he was “grateful” for the review, praising Horowitz as “professional and independent.”
The Justice Department is also examining allegations that FBI agents inappropriately leaked information about the Clinton inquiry, possibly to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Days before Comey’s first letter to lawmakers, Giuliani, a Trump supporter, said “a pretty big surprise” was coming that could change the course of the campaign. He later said he’d spoken to former, not current, FBI agents.
What the columnists said
Comey’s behavior was outrageous, said Kathleen Parker in The Washington Post. “It’s impossible to prove that Comey had any impact” on the election, but polling does suggest a substantial shift away from Clinton after his first letter to Congress; anecdotally, I have at least a dozen friends who said, “That was it for me.” Between Comey’s meddling and Russia’s hacking, Americans have every right to ask whether the election was tilted in Trump’s favor.
“If the Comey letter sank Hillary, it’s her own fault,” said David Harsanyi in TheFederalist.com. She’s the one who “set up a secret server to circumvent transparency,” and then used it to send unsecured classified documents. The IG should be investigating the Justice Department itself, said Andrew McCarthy in National Review.com. This was “a sham investigation” from the start, from the immunity granted to Clinton staffers to that shady tarmac meeting between Bill Clinton and Attorney General Loretta Lynch. In any impartial probe, “Clinton would have been indicted.”
Democrats calling for Comey’s head are “making a political death wish,” said Albert Hunt in Bloomberg.com. His election-eve letter “was a huge mistake,” but more pressing now is whether Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russians over the hacking of Democratic email accounts. “Comey is not a partisan, and it’s likely that he feels compelled to get to the bottom of the Trump-Russia questions.” His firing or resignation would usher in “a Trumpfriendly FBI chief.” Democrats, be careful what you wish for.