Why I’m disappointed in FBI Director Comey
Sunday Freeman columnist Alan Chartock discusses the FBI and this year's presidential race.
Dear FBI Director James Comey,
Up until now, I have had some respect for you and for the difficult job you do. Your earlier pronouncement that candidate Hillary Clinton had not committed any prosecutorial actions in her handling of emails was properly cautious. With sufficient time before the election, you made it clear that Clinton had been careless. To me, it was plain that you did not wish to interfere with a presidential campaign.
That was good stuff. It demonstrated that you understand your place in our democratic government system which adheres to a strict hands-off process whereby the military and the police stay away from heavy handed influencing of elections. We all know that democracy is a fragile institution and has to be treated with care.
When J. Edgar Hoover was in charge, the FBI was often one step away from the kind of police interference that had politicians quaking in their boots. We heard stories about mysterious files which compromised the personal lives of our politicians. It was no wonder that Hoover was untouchable until he died, despite reports that Robert F. Kennedy hated the guy. He just couldn’t be fired. That’s why Congress changed the law, instituting definitive terms for FBI directors.
Now you come in, days before the election, announcing to Congress that you have found new emails that “appear to be pertinent” to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server. Never in American history has this kind of political interference occurred right before an election. There are already signs that you have changed voters’ minds. Your superiors at the Justice Department told you not to write to Congress but you did so anyway. There are all kinds of guesses as to why you committed this perfidy including money, wanting to reinforce your Republican credentials or just plain weakness — not having the courage to stand behind your earlier, wiser decision. I have no idea why you did what you did but you may have changed the course of American history, although I hope not. I suspect that people are smart enough to see exactly what you are doing and they will stand up to you and your national police force.
Those of us who did admire you for your previous handling of the email affair just don’t understand why you felt compelled to tell Congress now that you had found more correspondence which will take weeks, if not months, to review. Was it the fate of the down ticket races that so alarmed your fellow Republicans?
Were they so scared of losing both houses of Congress that they leaned on you to throw this political Molotov cocktail? If you had any specific information, why didn’t you tell us what you had? Wasn’t this a time for you to be prudent instead of imprudent?
Finally, there is the question as to why you did not subsume yourself to your place in the Justice Department. You were told not to send your letter but you did it anyway. If the Democrats gain control of the Senate, at very least they should certainly convene hearings to explore all of these questions. Obviously, you have a great deal to answer for.
For many years, a lot of Americans have been asking for their FBI files from the Hoover era. We thought those days were behind us. Apparently not, so it is with some temerity that I ask for any material that you may have on my life.
What bothers me the most is that the Trump campaign has been dabbling in the kind of demagogic rhetoric that leads to out and out fascism. You have certainly injected yourself for all time into our American history books. Surely you must know that — you are a lot smarter than I am. No matter what happens now, you have indelibly sullied your own reputation.