By Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk
Tribune News Service
Democrats are in an uproar over FBI Director James Comey’s recent letter to Congress, announcing the bureau is reopening its investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s secret email server during her tenure as secretary of state. Democrats have cried foul, saying Comey’s announcement so close to Election Day could sway the outcome of the vote.
It’s quite a turnabout from July, when Republicans were accusing Comey of playing politics with his announcement that the bureau would not seek charges against Clinton for her “extremely careless” use of the private email system.
Has the FBI become too political? Can federal law enforcement be trusted after this election? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlue- America columnists, weigh in.
Understand: The decision by FBI Director James Comey to announce a renewed inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s emails, made even as advanced voting had begun across America, was not wise. The bureau has long operated under a Department of Justice edict to strenuously avoid the appearance of meddling in elections, and that edict was plainly ignored here.
On the other hand, it’s easy to see why Comey arrived at the choice. Not to act – to keep quiet – would also, inevitably, have been seen as a political decision. Republicans would’ve accused Comey of withholding information critical to the public understanding of a presidential candidate. He would’ve been savaged, again, much like he’s been savaged by Republicans since he originally announced he was recommending against charges in the matter.
Instead, Democrats are howling. The man was damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t.
Clinton’s defenders are angry, too, because Comey broke with precedent when recommending against the charges, explaining publicly the reasoning behind his decision – and criticizing Clinton pretty heartily for using an unsecure email server in the first place.
But again: It’s easy to see why he did so. Yes, the FBI is silent on most matters of investigation. But most such matters don’t involve the presidential nominee of a major political party. And Attorney General Loretta Lynch had previously said, after an embarrassingly publicized meeting with Bill Clinton, that she would accept the FBI’s recommendation in the matter – no matter which way it swung. That placed the burden on Comey to produce an explanation.
He did so, breaking with precedent, clearly hoping to convince the public that the decision was apolitical.
There’s no such thing as apolitical in presidential politics. When his decision favored Clinton, Republicans were mad. When his decision put her back under a harsh spot spotlight, it was Dems’ turn to be furious. The FBI could’ve done everything according to Hoyle, and we’d still be debating whether the agency is too politicized. Which is why, in the end, Comey should’ve followed the DoJ’s edict.
It’s an election year, after all. Everything’s too politicized.
President Barack Obama in April assured Americans that “there is no political influence in any investigation conducted by the Justice Department, or the FBI, not just in this case” – referring to Hillary Clinton’s misuse of a private email server to conduct public business – “but in any case.”
“Guaranteed. Full stop,” the president said. “Nobody gets treated differently when it comes to the Justice Department, because nobody is above the law.”
Does anyone really believe that anymore? Especially now?
Let’s face it: James Comey is hopelessly compromised. The FBI director is supposed to be independent from politics. But when you’re working under a Democratic administration and the target of your investigation is not only the Democratic Party’s nominee for president but also potentially the first woman to occupy the Oval Office, politics is the very air you breathe.
Politics very nearly derailed the FBI’s criminal investigation into the Clinton Foundation for fraud and influence peddling. That probe has long been reported, but wasn’t officially confirmed until last week.
The Wall Street Journal recounted an argument between an unnamed Justice Department official and FBI second-in-command Andrew McCabe.
McCabe reportedly asked: “Are you telling me that I need to shut down a validly predicated investigation?” The official paused and said “no” – what else would he say? But the message to back away from a politically sensitive target was clear.
It gets worse. Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik is leading the Justice Department’s new effort to expedite the process of examining the laptop of Clinton lieutenant Huma Abedin and her estranged husband, Anthony Weiner.
And who is Kadzik? He’s a former attorney for Marc Rich, the multimillionaire who received a dubious pardon from former President Bill Clinton during his final hours in office in 2000. Kadzik also represented Clinton campaign chief John Podesta when, as White House deputy chief of staff, he testified before independent counsel Ken Starr’s grand jury in 1998.
“Fantastic lawyer,” Podesta wrote in a 2008 email (since leaked). “Kept me out of jail.” Good to know.
Rightly or wrongly, the FBI and the Justice Department now have reputations as instruments of the Washington power elite. Nobody is above the law? We’ll see where these investigations go if Clinton wins on Tuesday.
Joel Mathis is an award-winning writer in Kansas. Ben Boychuk is managing editor of American Greatness. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.