From Questions About Clinton’s Emails to Comey’s FBI

On Friday afternoon we all learned that FBI Director James Comey had sent a letter to Congress informing them that they had discovered additional emails that might or might not be pertinent to the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private server. Since then, via unnamed sources in the FBI, we’ve learned a few things.

  1. The new emails were found during in investigation of Anthony Weiner (the former husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin) for sexting with an underage girl.
  2. Comey wrote the letter before the emails had been read. Over the weekend, the FBI obtained a warrant to review them.
  3. Some sources are reporting that the emails in question are not from or to Clinton.
  4. Several sources suggest that some (or all) of the emails are duplicates of those already examined by the FBI in this investigation.

In other words, Comey’s letter raises more questions than it answers. Right now a lot of people are wondering why he wrote it in the first place. We’ve learned that Justice Department officials advised Comey to not write the letter because it was inconsistent with department policies. An ominous quote from an unnamed source signifies the seriousness of the breech:

“Director Comey understood our position. He heard it from Justice leadership,” the official said. “It was conveyed to the FBI, and Comey made an independent decision to alert the Hill. He is operating independently of the Justice Department. And he knows it.”

Two former deputy attorney generals wrote:

As former deputy attorneys general in the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, we are troubled by the apparent departure from these standards in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email server. First, the FBI director, James B. Comey, put himself enthusiastically forward as the arbiter of not only whether to prosecute a criminal case — which is not the job of the FBI — but also best practices in the handling of email and other matters. Now, he has chosen personally to restrike the balance between transparency and fairness, departing from the department’s traditions.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder has weighed in with basically the same message, while the chief White House ethics lawyer under Bush, Richard Painter, filed a complaint against the F.B.I. with the Office of Special Counsel, which investigates Hatch Act violations, and with the Office of Government Ethics.

In answering the question of why Comey wrote the letter, an article by Delvin Barrett in the Wall Street Journal might hold the key. It is important to note that Barrett is the same reporter who wrote the totally debunked story about a connection between Virginia Governor Terry McAulliffe, the failed candidacy of Dr. Jill McCabe for the state legislature and Andres McCabe’s (Jill’s husband) later promotion as deputy director of the FBI. The point is that obviously Barrett has sources within the FBI who are leaking stories. The latest is about some rouge agents in the Bureau who are displeased with the lack of vigor they are seeing in going after Hillary Clinton.

Barrett details a lot of background these agents gave him about their attempts to investigate the Clinton Foundation. Apparently they were no more successful in getting any leads on actual wrongdoing than various media outlets have been. When they presented their findings to career public corruption prosecutors at DOJ, they were told they didn’t have anything – but pressured McCabe into continuing their search for something.

This looks to be the pressure that was being brought to bear on Comey and led to his penning the letter to Congress. He was concerned that these rogue agents would leak news of the new Huma Abedin emails to Congress and he would be seen as stymieing the transparency of the investigation.

That is why we are seeing bipartisan condemnation of Comey for submitting to the pressure. To the extent that this is the story behind his actions, we are witnessing the politicization of the FBI – something that is extremely dangerous to our Constitutional order. What Comey (and AG Loretta Lynch) are now facing is something very similar to what has come to be known as the “Saturday Night Massacre” when Attorney General Elliot Richardson resigned rather than politicize the Watergate investigation. The difference is that in that case, the pressure came from the president rather than rogue elements in the FBI.

This goes way beyond what is/isn’t contained in these new emails. That is why the focus has shifted from Hillary Clinton to Comey’s FBI.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.