FBI Direc­tor Comey should ad­mit his er­ror and re­sign

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - Gene Lyons Ar­kan­sas Times Ar­kan­sas Times colum­nist Gene Lyons is a Na­tional Magazine Award win­ner and co-au­thor of “The Hunt­ing of the Pres­i­dent” (St. Martin’s Press, 2000). You can email Lyons at eu­gene­lyons2@ya­hoo.com.

Sorry, but I’ve seen this movie be­fore and I know how it ends. There will never be a crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion of Hil­lary Clin­ton for two ba­sic rea­sons: First, she’s a cau­tious, in­tel­li­gent politi­cian who doesn’t take reck­less chances. How many failed “in­ves­ti­ga­tions” be­fore Repub­li­cans get that? Sec­ond, bo­gus charges against prom­i­nent in­di­vid­u­als with first-rate at­tor­neys en­dan­ger the pros­e­cu­tion more than the de­fense. You think the for­merly em­i­nent Ken­neth Starr fled to Waco, Texas be­cause he was in­suf­fi­ciently par­ti­san? His ace pros­e­cu­tors lost ev­ery White­wa­ter trial ex­cept the one where they con­victed his own star wit­ness, poor, sick Jim McDou­gal. But let’s go back to the start­ing place, Oc­to­ber 1992, be­cause what hap­pened then has a di­rect bear­ing on to­day’s head­lines.

Based upon some in­ept, not par­tic­u­larly hon­est ar­ti­cles in the New York Times, an un­qual­i­fied par­ti­san in the Trea­sury Depart­ment -- she later ad­mit­ted sell­ing “Pres­i­den­tial Bitch” cof­fee mugs from her govern­ment of­fice -- cob­bled to­gether crim­i­nal re­fer­rals nam­ing just about ev­ery prom­i­nent Demo­crat in Ar­kan­sas as a sus­pect in McDou­gal’s fi­nan­cial shenani­gans.

They in­cluded Bill and Hil­lary Clin­ton, who the ev­i­dence would show -- and Ken­neth Starr’s pros­e­cu­tors even­tu­ally ar­gued in open court -- had been swin­dled and lied to in McDou­gal’s vain at­tempt to keep his founder­ing sav­ings and loan, Madi­son Guar­anty, from go­ing un­der.

As the 1992 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion grew closer, the par­ti­san L. Jean Lewis be­gan to pres­sure the Lit­tle Rock FBI of­fice and U.S. At­tor­ney Charles “Chuck” Banks to in­ves­ti­gate the Clin­tons. Banks was a life­long Repub­li­can who’d been nom­i­nated to a fed­eral judge­ship by Pres­i­dent Bush. Un­less the pres­i­dent was re-elected, Banks would lose two good jobs.

Hav­ing pre­vi­ously pros­e­cuted McDou­gal, Banks and his staff found Lewis’ work both fac­tu­ally de­fi­cient and po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated. Soon, pres­sure be­gan to come from FBI head­quar­ters in Wash­ing­ton. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr de­manded ac­tion.

So the Repub­li­can pros­e­cu­tor wrote a let­ter to the Depart­ment of Jus­tice dated Oct. 16, 1992. Here is what it said:

“(T)he in­sis­tence of ur­gency in this case ap­pears to sug­gest an in­ten­tional or un­in­ten­tional at­tempt to in­ter­vene into the po­lit­i­cal process of the up­com­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. You and I know in in­ves­ti­ga­tions of this type, the first steps such as is­suance of grand jury sub­poe­nas for records will lead to me­dia and pub­lic in­quiries about mat­ters that are sub­ject to ab­so­lute pri­vacy. Even me­dia ques­tions ... all too of­ten pub­licly pur­port to ‘le­git­imize what can’t be proven.’

“For me per­son­ally to par­tic­i­pate in (such an) in­ves­ti­ga­tion ... amounts to pros­e­cu­to­rial mis­con­duct and vi­o­lates the most ba­sic fun­da­men­tal rule of Depart­ment of Jus­tice pol­icy. I can­not be a party to such ac­tions.”

Has Comey been un­aware of Don­ald J. Trump barn­storm­ing around the coun­try promis­ing to put “Crooked Hil­lary” in prison while his sup­port­ers chant “Lock her up”?

Psy­chol­o­gists call it pro­jec­tion: The only way to ra­tion­al­ize sup­port­ing a mo­ral crip­ple like Trump is to con­vince your­self his op­po­nent is worse.

Such an­tics risk a des­cent into the kind of society where the only real po­lice are the Se­cret Po­lice, and the ju­di­ciary ex­ists to ra­tion­al­ize bru­tal­ity. A society like Vladimir Putin’s Rus­sia, for ex­am­ple, where the bu­reau­cracy is filled with use­ful drones who have bartered their honor for com­fort­able po­si­tions.

Comey could undo some of the ter­ri­ble harm he’s done to Amer­i­can democ­racy if he’d sim­ply ad­mit er­ror and re­sign.

Alas, I just don’t think it’s in him.

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