Last night a leaked memo was revealed, indicating FBI director James Comey’s stated reasons for reopening the Clinton email probe upon discovering what now appear to be tens of thousands of Huma Abedin emails located on Anthony Weiner’s notebook. Comey revealed two core reasons for the action: a sense of obligation to lawmakers and a concern that word of the new email discovery would leak to the media and raise questions of a coverup. What he did not reveal, and as has emerged overnight from a report by the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, is that Comey also acted in contravention to DOJ practices, and more importantly, acted contrary to the “preference” of DOJ head Loretta Lynch, whose infamous meeting with Bill Clinton on the Phoenix tarmac at the end of June will likely be reassessed in light of these latest revelations.
According to the New Yorker, “Comey’s decision to make public new evidence that may raise additional legal questions about Clinton was contrary to the views of the Attorney General, according to a well-informed Administration official. Lynch expressed her preference that Comey follow the department’s longstanding practice of not commenting on ongoing investigations, and not taking any action that could influence the outcome of an election, but he said that he felt compelled to do otherwise.”
Traditionally, the Justice Department has advised prosecutors and law enforcement to avoid any appearance of meddling in the outcome of elections, even if it means holding off on pressing cases. One former senior official recalled that Janet Reno, the Attorney General under Bill Clinton, “completely shut down” the prosecution of a politically sensitive criminal target prior to an election. “She was adamant—anything that could influence the election had to go dark,” the former official said.
And the punchline:
“according to the Administration official, Lynch asked Comey to follow Justice Department policies, but he said that he was obliged to break with them because he had promised to inform members of Congress if there were further developments in the case. He also felt that the impending election created a compelling need to inform the public, despite the tradition of acting with added discretion around elections. The Administration official said that Lynch and Justice Department officials are studying the situation, which he called unprecedented.”
The Hill confirms as much, reporting today that Comey went against the wishes of Attorney General Loretta Lynch when he sent a letter to Congress Friday notifying them that the agency was reviewing new emails “pertinent” to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
A government official who requested anonymity to discuss the matter told The Hill that the Justice Department’s stance was to abstain from taking any actions that could impact the presidential race.
“The AG’s position is consistent with the department’s position not to take investigative steps that would influence an election so close to an election and to not comment on ongoing investigations. Director Comey decided to operate independently of that guidance by sending that letter to the Hill.”
So does the NYT:
The day before the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, sent a letter to Congress announcing that new evidence had been discovered that may be related to the completed Hillary Clinton email investigation, the Justice Department strongly discouraged the step and told him that he would be breaking with longstanding policy, three law enforcement officials said.
Senior Justice Department officials did not move to stop him from sending the letter, officials said, but they did everything short of it, pointing to policies against talking about current criminal investigations or being seen as meddling in elections.
That Mr. Comey moved ahead despite those protestations underscores the highly unusual nature of Friday’s revelations, which added a dramatic twist to the final days of a presidential campaign and reignited a firestorm that Mrs. Clinton believed she had put behind her when the F.B.I. decided in July not to charge anyone in the investigation.
While Loretta Lynch’s reputation may now be tarnished, alongside that of James Comey, who is almost certainly a dead public servant walking, and will be promptly fired by either republicans or democrats after the election, one wonders how events would have played out under Lynch’s predecessor Eric Holder:
Matthew Miller, a Democrat who served as the public-affairs director at the Justice Department under Holder, recalled that in one case, the department waited until after an election to send out subpoenas. “They didn’t want to influence the election—even though the subpoenas weren’t public,” he said. “People may think that the public needs to have this information before voting, but the thing is the public doesn’t really get the information. What it gets is an impression that may be false, because they have no way to evaluate it. The public always assumes when it hears that the F.B.I. is investigating that there must be something amiss. But there may be nothing here at all. That’s why you don’t do this.”
Miller added that “Comey is an outstanding law-enforcement officer but he mistakenly thinks that the rules don’t apply to him. But there are a host of reasons for these rules.” Or perhaps the DOJ’s rules pandering to politicians were flawed from the beginning?
One thing appears obvious: by killing the probe into Clinton this summer, Comey burned one half of the bridge; reopening the probe on Friday was the other half.
“I don’t really blame Comey,” another former Justice Department official said. “But it’s troubling.” This official thought that Comey “didn’t want to look tainted. This new information comes to him, and he’s afraid if he doesn’t make it public until after the election he’ll be impeached. People will say he lied to Congress. But in the end he did the self-protective thing. Was it the right thing? Put it this way: it isn’t what previous Administrations have done.”
Of course it isn’t, and that’s what the Clinton campaign had been betting on.
Meanwhile, having been the Democrats’ best friend, Comey is now – according to prominent Democrat Howard Dean – on the same side as Putin.
Ironically Comey put himself on the same side as Putin.
— Howard Dean (@GovHowardDean) October 29, 2016
At least when things don’t go your way, you can still just blame the Russians…
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