Have to go back to the NY Times piece from last Saturday about Comey and the thinking that went into never revealing the investigations into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign but throwing the last 10 days of the election into the toilet with the Comey letter revealing the supposed Clinton e-mails on the Wiener laptop (a phrase that makes me feel dirty already).
If you haven’t go ahead – Comey Tried to Shield the F.B.I. From Politics. Then He Shaped an Election. But the bottom line is pretty familiar:
Because the Republican Party has taken to politicizing absolutely everything and has cowed pretty much everybody in the Beltway to respond to their coordinated tantrums, the Director of the FBI threw out the FBI manual and acted to keep Republicans off his back rather than the proper, nonpartisan and ethical thing.
First, it can never be overstated that all of the post-election recriminations and Democrat circular firing squad infighting notwithstanding, it’s hard to look at the results of 11/8/16 and not come to the conclusion that the Comey letter and that last gasp of e-mail nonsense just exhausted the last nerve of some voters – and all it took was around 100,000 in MI, WI and PA to flip the script.
Mr. Comey’s plan was to tell Congress that the F.B.I. had received new evidence and was reopening its investigation into Hillary Clinton, the presidential front-runner. The move would violate the policies of an agency that does not reveal its investigations or do anything that may influence an election. But Mr. Comey had declared the case closed, and he believed he was obligated to tell Congress that had changed.
“Should you consider what you’re about to do may help elect Donald Trump president?” an adviser asked him, Mr. Comey recalled recently at a closed meeting with F.B.I. agents.
He could not let politics affect his decision, he replied. “If we ever start considering who might be affected, and in what way, by what we do, we’re done,” he told the agents.
But isn’t that exactly what he did? He only went public because of politics as is revealed later in the piece.
And that thinking, that he had an obligation because he had declared the investigation closed, caused many to excuse Comey for this otherwise obvious thumb on the scales action. Not me. I’m a what have you done for me lately guy, so the very stand-up thing that Comey did during the Bush administration, that his entire reputation is based on, was cancelled out by the cowardly public announcement that we found more e-mails and we know nothing about them, but we have to look and just pay no mind that there’s an election in 11 days.
Cowardly, because even without knowing at the time that Comey could also have revealed to the public the Trump investigation, just to be fair (I mean as long as we’re throwing the manual out the window, at least be fair about it), my thinking was that the public announcement was made because of fear that the leaking like a sieve FBI, full of Trumpster agents would have leaked the information to camera happy Republicans, who seeing an opportunity, would have gone on air and riled up the Republican base against Comey (and of course Crooked Hillary).
The bottom line is yes, those Republicans did take Comey’s news and run with it to destroy Hillary, but Comey was redeemed in their eyes. He got out of their dog house, which he was in by not pushing their phony criminalization of e-mails in the first place.
He sent the letter to Congress, which was then promptly leaked to the media and all hell broke loose.
Conservative news outlets had already branded Mr. Comey a Clinton toady. That same week, the cover of National Review featured a story on “James Comey’s Dereliction,” and a cartoon of a hapless Mr. Comey shrugging as Mrs. Clinton smashed her laptop with a sledgehammer…
Congressional Republicans were preparing for years of hearings during a Clinton presidency. If Mr. Comey became the subject of those hearings, F.B.I. officials feared, it would hobble the agency and harm its reputation. “I don’t think the organization would have survived that,” Mr. Steinbach said.
Comey was always between a rock and a hard right place, everybody understands that. He chose the path of least resistance because everybody is afraid of what Republicans will do, both the elected and the rabid constituency. What if a right wing flame thrower said that Comey was involved in a child sex ring in a pizza shop? He had to avoid that.
Since then he’s been too quiet on the Russian investigation, feeling no compulsion to go public on that until March! Even the silly Trump assertion that Obama wiretapped him, could have been more forcefully shot down by Comey. But once again Comey’s first consideration seems to be “what would the Republican base think about that?”
He asked the Justice Department to correct the record. When officials there refused, Mr. Comey followed orders and said nothing publicly.
His actions betray his pretty painful awareness of the politics he tries to stay above. And his actions show that he doesn’t actually avoid political decisions, he avoids decisions that will piss off his party.