Tag: James Comey

Comey Day

James Comey testified to the Senate committee yesterday. I watched part of it and listened to part of it. A few thoughts:

  • Overall, I found Comey to be credible. I’m no fan of either Comey or the FBI, but he crossed me as straight-forward and truthful. Certainly more believable than the deranged yam he used to work for.
  • This wasn’t the slam dunk Trump opponents were hoping for (or claiming). Comey’s testimony — which I’ll get into in a moment — was damning but not conclusive. As I’ve said, his allegations are elements of obstruction of justice but not obstruction itself. We’re still a long way from that. But the things he described were, at best, wildly inappropriate.
  • Trump and the Trumpistas are claiming vindication. This is mostly because Comey confirmed that Trump himself was not under investigation for collusion with Russia (yet). But that’s not really relevant here. Nixon didn’t actually burgle the Whitewater hotel. When it comes to obstruction, the obstruction itself is the crime, regardless of whether an actual crime was being covered up or who committed said crime. And the failure of that obstruction does not obviate the obstruction. See Libby, Scooter.
  • It is telling that the one thing Trump wanted thoroughly investigated was the pee tape. Everything else, including Russian interference with the election, was of disinterest to him.
  • The most damning testimony was that, at one point, Trump sent everyone out of the Oval Office, sat down alone with Comey and said he hoped that Comey would see his way to clearing Mike Flynn and later said he wanted the Russia investigation to go away. Republicans are weaseling, claiming this was just Trump expressing interest in the investigation. But if my boss tells me he “hopes” I’ll do something and then fires me when I fail to do it, I will take that as more than just “hope”. That solo meeting is probably the most telling. As Comey testified, Trump never asked about any other investigation. If you were bothered by Bill Clinton meeting on the tarmac with Loretta Lynch on the tarmac, you should be bothered by Trump meeting alone with Comey. And vice versa.
  • One line of defense that emerged was that Trump is new to this and didn’t know these conversations with Comey were inappropriate. I’m finding this explanation wanting. I know they were inappropriate and I’m just an internet rando. Trump has been a candidate for two years. That he cleared out the room before talking to Comey indicates that he knew it was wrong. Ignorance of the law is never an excuse for us. It shouldn’t be for, you know, the President.
  • Comey’s testimony did not do Loretta Lynch any favors. While she was not engaged in obstruction, she was certainly trying to give political cover to Clinton. That is, to say the least, not the Attorney General’s job.

So, overall, a bad day for Trump, but just one more piece of the emerging drama.

Comey Fired

Trump has apparently fired James Comey, the head of the FBI. Comey has been a lightning rod lately with allegations that he “threw” the election to Clinton, a (possibly false) claim that Huma Abedin forward classified e-mails to her husband and an ongoing investigation into Russia. But it is apparently his failure to file charges in the e-mail scandal that precipitated this.

Updates to follow.

Wither the FBI

What?

Suddenly renewed activity on an FBI Twitter account publicizing Freedom of Information Act releases has prompted an internal bureau review of the propriety of such activity so close to the Nov. 8 election, according to a source involved in the matter.

In emails obtained by Government Executive sent to an ex-investigative reporter who filed complaints, the deputy at the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility on Tuesday revealed that the complaint about possible political favoritism in tweeting has been referred to the FBI’s Inspection Division.

Here’s the story. Last week, the FBI’s FOIA account, which had been silent for over a year, started tweeting out documents relating to investigations of Donald Trump’s father, the Clinton Foundation and Clinton’s pardons. I admit that I was a bit bumfuzzled by why they would suddenly do this. And a lot of people felt, especially in the wake of the Comey letter, that the FBI was trying to influence the election by dishing dirt on Clinton.

In fact, the FBI has become a focal point of controversy over the last week, with wild and frequently anonymous claims that the FBI is massively pro-Trump, is trying to tip the election and despises Clinton along with counter-claims that the FBI is favoring Clinton by not recommending charges, holding back on critical documents that implicate her and dragging its heels on the e-mail investigation. My impression — and this is just me spitballing — is that there are politicized factions within the FBI right now, vying to craft a narrative. And journalists, eager for access, are lapping up whatever they’re saying.

This would be not be the first time the FBI has played politics. Under Hoover, the COINTELPRO program infiltrated and disrupted political groups they didn’t like. This culminating in spying on MLK, discovering he was cheating on his wife and sending him a letter urging him to kill himself. They’ve also played politics on a smaller scale, famously tarring Richard Jewell as a terrorist so that people wouldn’t be afraid of further attacks at the ’96 games (an accusation that almost certainly contributed to his death at a young age).

But this is the first time I’ve seen both side making credible accusations that the Bureau is trying to influence an election. This is … not good. This indicates Comey is either doing this on purpose or has lost control of his own bureau. I would say there should be an investigation, but, given the time constraint, that would mean either Clinton or Trump doing it, neither of whom can be trusted. Probably the best thing would be for Obama to appoint a bipartisan investigation team (comprised of former FBI officials or, better yet, former officials from another federal law enforcement agency) to figure out what’s going on here. Because the FBI should not be playing politics. They should be doing their damned job.

Of Course Not

The FBI has recommended that the DOJ not seek charges for Clinton’s e-mail scandal. Here is Comey’s statement. I expected this, as did most people. Law are for plebs, not monarchs. Although I expected maybe a few low-level grunts to be the fall guys.

Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case. Prosecutors necessarily weigh a number of factors before bringing charges. There are obvious considerations, like the strength of the evidence, especially regarding intent. Responsible decisions also consider the context of a person’s actions, and how similar situations have been handled in the past.

In looking back at our investigations into mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts. All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of: clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice. We do not see those things here.

Now maybe this would be acceptable if it came from someone who was not James Comey, who has pressed felony charges in far less clear circumstances. Comey admits that Clinton deliberately set up her own e-mail servers to shield her e-mails from FOIA. He admits she mishandled classified evidence, enormous amounts of it, including at least seven piece of Top Secret information and that there is no way she couldn’t have known this information was classified. He admits she tried to conceal what she did. But he focuses heavily on intent, which is something the FBI never focuses on with the rest of us.

Inadvertently breaking the law can get you indicted. Covering up what you did, even if you didn’t break the law, can get you indicted. But Clinton, who deliberately broke the rules and tried to cover it up, won’t even get a wrist slap. And people wonder why Trump is so popular.