FBI DIrector James Comey issued his letter informing Congress that the FBI was looking into new emails despite explicit instructions from the Justice Department to keep things low-key during the final weeks of the election. The decision violated policy and is proving to be incredibly damaging to the FBI and Justice as a whole. Now, as if Comey’s bludgeoning the election wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that when it comes to looking into the Clinton Foundation, the FBI hasn’t been able to produce evidence of wrongdoing. But that isn’t an issue. Because the FBI can just latch onto right-wing conspiracy theories.
The investigation, based in New York, had not developed much evidence and was based mostly on information that had surfaced in news stories and the book “Clinton Cash,” according to several law enforcement officials briefed on the case.
The author of the book Clinton Cash has a long history of false narratives belted together out of purposely distorted statistics, of basing his reports on proven hoaxes, and of making baseless accusations that he can’t back up. Almost as soon as the work hit the stands, it was shown to be full of errors and distortions. The author even indulged in the alt-right’s favorite theory that the Clintons secretly kill their enemies.
And yet, the book was greeted like a revelation by the New York Times, which indulged in wild speculation on top of the book’s proven false foundation, and which didn’t bother to mention when sections of the book they talked up turned out to be so wrong that the publisher actually made changes to the book to “correct” exactly those parts. In defending the book, the publisher of the Times made one of the great admissions of the season.
"We take information from all kinds of crackpots. That's called reporting."
He might have said “all kinds of crackpots”—so long as they’re attacking the Clintons. That appears to be the standard for the New York Times.
And sadly, the same appears to be true for the FBI.
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Comey’s letter directly contradicted Justice Department orders that were designed to keep the department from becoming entangled in politics.
Against this backdrop, the decision of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to send a letter to Congress last week about a renewed inquiry concerning Mrs. Clinton’s emails is not just a departure from longstanding policy; it has plunged the F.B.I. and the Justice Department directly into the election, precisely what Justice officials were trying to avoid.
That policy applied not just to all things Clinton, but to investigations on the Republican side, like the ongoing look into Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and his role as a bagman for Vladimir Putin—investigations that Comey has proven curiously determined to safeguard.
As poor as the FBI’s decision making may be in accepting the distortions of Clinton Cash, the reason for Comey’s actions are still worse.
Mr. Comey’s allies say he could not have simply followed this script last week when he learned that agents had discovered new emails on a laptop belonging to Ms. Abedin’s estranged husband, Anthony D. Weiner. News of the search would surely leak, he concluded, and it would appear that he had withheld the information from Congress. He also thought that he alone was a trusted voice on the Clinton case because of Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch’s highly criticized meeting with Mr. Clinton in the original investigation’s final days, officials said.
Comey was willing to blow up the election, the Justice Department, and the FBI over concerns that “it would appear that he had withheld information.” In other words, he considered himself the only person who really counted in this matter, and consequences be damned.
James Comey doesn’t seem to understand that the needs of the nation outweigh his need to polish his reputation, and that Justice Department policy is there because long experience has demonstrated the need to keep the department from inserting itself into elections. For Comey, rules—and facts—really are for other people.