by Washington Examiner · June 15, 2018
According to a new inspector general’s report on the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s work emails, former Director James Comey was “insubordinate” and “affirmatively conceal[ed]” his intentions from the Justice Department’s leadership.
The report faults him for concealing from then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch his plans to issue public comments and decisions on the case. But in fairness to Comey, it is worth questioning whether that was such a bad thing.
Consider it in light of Lynch’s irresponsible decision to meet former President Bill Clinton when the DOJ was still investigating his wife’s conduct in office. That notorious meeting, secretly and surely disingenuously at a regional airport, compromised the investigation and put Comey in an invidious position. It’s hard to blame him for keeping Lynch at arm’s length after that.
Lynch should have recused herself from the Hillary Clinton email investigation, but, contrary to what some people have said, she never did so.
By keeping her in the dark, Comey may have been trying to preserve public trust in the investigation, which is an entirely proper motive.
Comey didn’t try to be the person who would decide Hillary Clinton’s fate. The story of how he was handed that role is ridiculous, improbable, and perhaps not yet fully told. On June 27, 2016, Bill Clinton was in Arizona for a meeting at a fundraiser for his wife’s presidential campaign. While he waited to depart Sky Harbor Airport, a government plane carrying Lynch, former President Barack Obama’s attorney general, landed. Seeing her plane, he strode across the tarmac and paid what was claimed to be a friendly social call on the woman who was about to decide his wife’s fate. Doubtless, he wore his most winning smile.
Both he and Lynch must have known that the meeting was improper. But they probably thought it would remain a secret. It would have, if not for a local reporter’s hard work.
After the meeting between Lynch and the former president had been made public, Lynch could hardly be the one to announce that Hillary Clinton was off the hook. Such an evidently suspect conclusion to the investigation could have been even more damaging for Hillary Clinton’s campaign than the news of the meeting itself. So Lynch announced that she was leaving it up to Comey’s recommendation.
A week later, Comey pronounced his damning exoneration of Hillary Clinton and her inner circle, a group he said had been “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” Two months later, Comey took the extraordinary step of releasing a 58-page memo on the investigation, which by then had ended. It contained hints that Hillary Clinton had been dishonest in her FBI interview, that devices containing her emails had gone missing, and that her emails had been scrubbed from a server after the order for those records to be preserved was given. It is inconceivable that Lynch would have released such a memo.
Then, in late October, with just days left before the election, Comey informed Congress that he had reopened the investigation because a trove of Hillary Clinton’s emails had been discovered on former New York Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner’s computer. Comey has said that he felt he had to do this, because he had earlier assured Congress that the probe was finished and he didn’t want to be accused in the aftermath of a Hillary Clinton victory of hiding something the public should have known about.
Comey is still facing a report on his conduct in the investigation into alleged collusion between President Trump’s campaign and Russia. Perhaps he won’t emerge from that one looking blameless. But it would be wrong to blame him for “insubordination” now, when all he did was judge, wisely, that Lynch had to be kept away from the email probe.
As he put it himself in subsequent testimony, Lynch’s behavior had convinced him that she was not impartial. He said that when she demanded he call the email investigation a “matter” rather than an “investigation,” it “was one of the bricks in the load that led [him] to conclude, ‘I have to step away from the department if we’re to close this case credibly.’”
You can argue that Comey made the wrong decision on prosecution. You can also argue that detailed statements about a case being closed are inappropriate. This is what Hillary Clinton’s fans have said, and it was also the argument that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein cited when recommending Comey be fired in 2017.
But don’t blame Comey for protecting an investigation from the irresponsible behavior of the senior Obama appointee who was his boss.
Washington Examiner · by Washington Examiner · June 15, 2018