It is now clear that FBI Director James Comey's last-minute intervention in the presidential election has given Donald Trump a boost of several points in the polls. Comey's short announcement to Republican congressional committee heads that he was investigating new emails related to the Hillary Clinton email server investigation hit that TV news sweet spot of vague but ominous-sounding, and centrist journalists were on it like a pack of dogs on a three-legged cat.
The fact that there was no concrete anything in the announcement (for all we know, the emails might not have anything to do with Hillary Clinton at all), did not even slightly hinder several consecutive days of the most crack-brained people in journalism speculating wildly about the disastrous effects it was sure to have on Clinton's campaign. That prophecy became self-fulfilling. Poll averages show Trump gaining at least a couple points, and a recent poll now shows Trump beating Clinton by 8 points on honesty.
Meanwhile, the FBI team is reportedly skeptical that they'll be able to produce anything concrete about the emails before the election — which, let's remember, is next Tuesday.
But this much is clear: James Comey should resign immediately.
Law enforcement agencies have a tremendous potential for influencing an election, for obvious reasons. If one candidate is perceived as a criminal, that is a near-guarantee that he or she will lose. This power is often abused in more authoritarian societies. Therefore, any democracy worth its salt will place careful restraints on law enforcement and elections, so as to avoid undue influence one way or another.
That is not to say that candidates are above the law, but that any investigation must be conducted with the utmost caution. In particular, preliminary findings should not be leaked, as many people tend to assume that investigation implies guilt.
Lo and behold, there is a general guideline that the FBI is supposed to do its utmost to avoid electoral politics in the 60 days before an election. This was something Comey himself apparently understood as recently as this summer — more than 60 days before election day — when he refrained from conducting public subpoenas in investigations into both Trump and Clinton's campaign, for fear of unduly slanting things one way or the other. That caution clearly didn't stop his latest announcement.
People have been going in circles trying to figure out just why Comey did such a thing less than two weeks before the election. One obvious culprit is Republican bullying. Comey is a Republican (incidentally, add one more disaster to the pile resulting from President Obama's fetishistic love of bipartisanship), and Republican elites have been savagely attacking Comey for months because he didn't clap Clinton in irons.
Republicans have been absolutely convinced since the early '90s that both Clintons are notorious criminals. The first Clinton presidency was one long unhinged witch hunt looking for any excuse to remove Bill from office, and the second Clinton presidency will be no different for Hillary. The Benghazi committee has already gone on longer than the 9/11 Commission, because they're quite obviously looking for any possible pretext to remove Hillary Clinton from American politics forever (though their actual findings keep largely exonerating her).
Now that Clinton looks likely to become president (despite the tightening polls), Republicans are already turning the investigative fever up to 11. Should Republicans maintain control of the House, I expect the impeachment articles to be drawn up approximately 27 picoseconds after Clinton takes the oath of office.
It must be said that the Clintons — with their paranoid secrecy, their constant bending or breaking of ethics rules, and their hatred of the press — do themselves no favors when it comes to this behavior. It's not a coincidence that President Obama has largely been able to escape such persecution, because the fact of the matter is that he is a more scrupulous and personally honest politician than either Clinton.
Still, a great many fervently believed conservative theories about Clinton — that she is a murderer, or deliberately allowed Ambassador Stevens to be killed, or is a literal demon from hell — are completely, utterly bananas. It was thus astoundingly irresponsible of Comey to insert himself — and by extension, the credibility of the entire federal law enforcement apparatus — into such a heated situation, with such little time before the election for it to be cleared up.
There is only one way for him to attempt to repair the damage: Resign. Now. It won't fix everything, but it will demonstrate that what he did was completely beyond the pale.