Comey do­ing his best to de­stroy FBI rep­u­ta­tion

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - Bill Press is syn­di­cated by Tri­bune Me­dia Ser­vices. Bill Press

Colum­nist Bill Press dis­cusses di­rec­tor James Comey and the rep­u­ta­tion and im­par­tial­ity of the FBI.

It took 44 years after the death of J. Edgar Hoover in 1972 for the FBI to re­store its rep­u­ta­tion for hon­esty and im­par­tial­ity. It took Di­rec­tor James Comey two days to de­stroy it.

Be­cause of his ac­tions this week, Comey will be re­mem­bered as the worst FBI di­rec­tor since Hoover, with one ma­jor dif­fer­ence. Back then, Hoover threat­ened politi­cians with the ex­is­tence of se­cret pho­tos. To­day, Comey in­tim­i­dates politi­cians with the ex­is­tence of se­cret emails. The re­sult’s the same.

Even his crit­ics ad­mit that Comey earned a great rep­u­ta­tion as a straight shooter in the Jus­tice Department while serv­ing as deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, dra­mat­i­cally block­ing an ef­fort by the White House to get At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ashcroft to au­tho­rize NSA’s mas­sive do­mes­tic sur­veil­lance pro­gram. And, un­til this week, his rep­u­ta­tion for hon­esty and in­de­pen­dence pre­vailed at the FBI.

Early last sum­mer, the Jus­tice Department launched two in­ves­ti­ga­tions di­rectly re­lated to the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. One in­volved al­leged se­cret deals be­tween Paul Manafort, Don­ald Trump’s then-cam­paign man­ager, and business in­ter­ests in the Ukraine. The sec­ond cen­tered on so-called “pay to play” re­la­tion­ships be­tween Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton and donors to the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion.

Pub­lic knowl­edge of ei­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion would have rocked the 2016 cam­paign. But, as re­ported by The New York Times, Di­rec­tor Comey de­cided to is­sue no sub­poe­nas or take any ac­tions that would make the two cases pub­lic, lest the FBI be seen as try­ing to in­ter­fere with the elec­tion.

Later, Comey ar­gued against re­veal­ing the con­clu­sion of 17 in­tel­li­gence agen­cies that the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment was be­hind the hack­ing of email ac­counts of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee and Clin­ton cam­paign chair­man John Podesta. Why? Again, be­cause he feared giv­ing the ap­pear­ance of tak­ing sides in the elec­tion.

But that ju­di­cious ap­proach went out the win­dow on Fri­day, Oct. 28 — just 11 days be­fore the elec­tion — when Comey dropped a stink bomb in the mid­dle of the race, an­nounc­ing in a let­ter to con­gres­sional lead­ers that the FBI was re­sum­ing its in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Hil­lary Clin­ton’s emails — based on emails dis­cov­ered, not on her pri­vate server, but on a lap­top owned by the dis­graced for­mer Con­gress­man An­thony Weiner, es­tranged hus­band of top Clin­ton aide Huma Abe­din. And Comey did so while ac­knowl­edg­ing he knew noth­ing about the emails: nei­ther how many there were, nor whether they were rel­e­vant, sig­nif­i­cant or con­tained any clas­si­fied ma­te­rial.

Then, four days later, on Tues­day, Nov. 1 — now just one week from D-Day — the FBI dropped an­other po­lit­i­cal bomb­shell, re­leas­ing all files re­lated to for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton’s con­tro­ver­sial 1999 par­don of fi­nancier Marc Rich. And sud­denly the FBI was not only smack dab in the mid­dle of the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, it looked like an arm of the Trump cam­paign.

What hap­pened to Comey? What drove him from im­par­tial ob­server to par­ti­san player? Jus­tice Department in­sid­ers spec­u­late it was his fear of crit­i­cism from con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans, most of whom were al­ready an­gry at him for fail­ing to in­dict Clin­ton last July, after con­clud­ing the FBI’s first in­ves­ti­ga­tion into her emails. Not will­ing to up­set them again, Comey turned the FBI into the CYA.

What­ever his rea­sons, Comey’s ac­tions were a mon­u­men­tal dis­play of in­com­pe­tence, mis­man­age­ment, bad judg­ment and naked par­ti­san­ship, roundly con­demned by Repub­li­cans and Democrats alike. House Demo­cratic Leader Nancy Pelosi sug­gested he was in the wrong job if he “couldn’t take the heat.” Three for­mer at­tor­neys gen­eral — one Demo­crat, two Repub­li­cans — ac­cused him of vi­o­lat­ing a decades-old Jus­tice Department tra­di­tion of re­li­giously stay­ing away from pol­i­tics, espe­cially so close to an elec­tion. And Pres­i­dent Obama lec­tured Comey that “we don’t op­er­ate on in­nu­endo and we don’t op­er­ate on in­com­plete in­for­ma­tion.”

Iron­i­cally, Comey’s let­ter to Congress was so vague and con­tained so lit­tle in­for­ma­tion that it didn’t hurt Hil­lary Clin­ton at all. De­spite Don­ald Trump’s claim that this was “worse than Water­gate,” most Americans had al­ready made up their minds about Clin­ton’s emails, and news of this lat­est batch may slightly al­ter her mar­gin of vic­tory, but not vic­tory it­self.

In the end, the only peo­ple hurt by Comey’s Hoover-like be­hav­ior are those work­ing for the FBI, which must now re­build its rep­u­ta­tion yet again, and Di­rec­tor Comey him­self, who will be out of a job on Nov. 9.

And what do you know? Don­ald Trump may be right. This elec­tion may be rigged, after all. Rigged by the FBI in fa­vor of Don­ald Trump.

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