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Ethics & Religion
May 4, 2017
Should FBI Director Comey Be Fired?
By Mike McManus

 

Perhaps it is time to ask whether FBI Director James Comey should be fired.

He has made two huge mistakes. First, on October 28, just 11 days before the presidential election, he said he was reopening his investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails.

In July he said he had reviewed 30,000 Clinton emails and discovered 110 contained classified information. He called her "extremely careless," but felt that "no charges are appropriate in this case."

However, in early October, an investigation into Anthony Weiner's possible violation of child porn laws, prompted investigators to look at his laptop, where they found thousands of emails from Clinton, sent to Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, Clinton's closest advisor. Reading them would require a search warrant, reopening the Clinton investigation.

He could have conducted his investigation quietly, as is usual in FBI investigations. However, since he had said his investigation was closed, he felt he needed to say publicly it was reopened. Comey wrote a letter to Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chair of the House Oversight Committee, saying it found "the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent" to the investigation of Clinton's email server.

Chaffetz promptly released the letter. Clinton's poll numbers dropped by 3 points overnight. Three days before the election, Comey exculpated Clinton a second time, saying the new emails contained no evidence that Clinton violated the law.

But the damage had already been done. In a press conference this week, Clinton said, "If the election had been on October 27, I'd be your president." She said she was "on the way to winning." That is correct. On Election Day, she lost Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan - each by less than one percentage point.

Comey told a Senate Committee this week that it would have been "catastrophic" to keep Congress in the dark about the new emails. He confessed that it made him "mildly nauseous" to think his October revelation could have influenced the race won by Trump.

However, he alleged it would have been "catastrophic" to keep silent.

Nonsense. What he found was predictable: emails sent to Clinton's aide were like those on Clinton's computer - which were "careless," but not criminal.

Comey's far greater mistake was his failure to reveal before the election that he was also investigating the campaign of Donald Trump, and a possible collusion between members of his campaign and Russian operatives to tilt the election toward Trump.

That investigation began in July, 2016 when the FBI learned that Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to Trump, gave a speech in Moscow critical of U.S. foreign policy. Years earlier, the FBI believed Page had been recruited by Russian spies. Carter made a second trip to Moscow where he met with suspected Russian intelligence officers.

Trump himself fueled FBI suspicions when he praised Putin and said, "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you will be able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing."

In late August, Comey was briefed on a provocative set of documents about purported dealings between shadowy Russian figures and Trump's campaign. One report from a former British intelligence agent spoke ominously of Trump's "compromising relationship with the Kremlin."

It became increasingly clear to the FBI that Russia was trying to interfere with the election. In fact, Comey was so convinced that the American public needed to understand the scope of the foreign interference that it needed to be "inoculated" against it. He proposed writing an Op Ed piece for the New York Times. He said he would have credibility in doing so, since he had chastised Clinton at his news conference.

But when he showed a draft to the White House, Obama replied that going public would play right into Russia's hands by sowing doubts about the election's legitimacy.

However, CIA Director John Brennan was so concerned about the Russian threat, that he gave an unusual briefing to Sen. Harry Reid, Senate Democratic leader.

In a public letter to Comey, Reid charged, "You possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors and the Russian government - a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States."

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) pressed Comey to testify, noting his investigation of Clinton. "Why shouldn't America have the same level of information with those associated with Mr. Trump?"

Comey refused, which he felt would undermine an active investigation. However, CIA's Clapper and other top intelligence officials accused "Russia's senior most officials" on Oct. 7 of a cyber operation to disrupt the election. The FBI remained silent.

Only in March did Comey acknowledge his eight month investigation of Trump and the Russians. His silence helped Trump defeat Clinton.

In both cases Comey should have remained silent - or gone public about both well before the election. He may have unwittingly changed the course of history.

The FBI needs a new Director.
____________________________________
Copyright (c) 2017 Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. For previous columns go to  www.ethicsandreligion.org. Hit Search for any topic.

 

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