According to a new feature story in The New York Times, FBI Director James Comey had grave reservations about the leadership at the Justice Department when it came to properly investigating Hillary Clinton. The Times reports that Comey suspected that then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and other senior DOJ officials were more interested in giving Hillary political cover than getting to the truth behind her private server.
The Times said that Comey adopted a “go-it-alone strategy” in the Clinton investigation as he realized that the higher-ups in the Obama Justice Department were not terribly enthusiastic about enforcing the law. The article reveals that Lynch, in a September 2015 meeting, asked Comey to substitute the word “matter” for “investigation” when discussing the case with the press. At this and other times, the DOJ tried to minimize the scope and importance of Clinton’s crimes.
While the Department of Justice and the FBI have ongoing policies that discourage officials from confirming any current investigations, Comey believed that Lynch and others went too far when telling reporters that the case was not a “criminal referral.” It gave the Clinton campaign breathing room and allowed Hillary to tell the press that she was not under criminal investigation. This, of course, was quite untrue.
By the summer of 2016, accusations of partisanship against Lynch had reached a fever pitch. After she took a secret, controversial meeting with Bill Clinton on his private plane, Republicans demanded that she recuse herself entirely from the email investigation. She declined to go that far, but she did announce that she would accept whatever the FBI recommended as far as criminal charges were concerned. Only a few days later, the FBI wrapped up the case and Comey delivered his now-infamous speech condemning Clinton for her careless actions…and, ultimately, concluding that there was no prosecutable charges.
Things, of course, got even worse in October when FBI officials in New York discovered another trove of classified emails on a computer belonging to disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner. Comey sent a letter to Congress informing them of the new findings, a decision that had been heavily opposed by Lynch. Months after Republicans had accused Comey of letting Clinton off the hook, Democrats were accusing him of tipping the scales for Trump.
At the end of the day, Comey may have been left with no good options. He tried to play his cards as close to the vest as possible while navigating tumultuous political waters. When it’s all said and done, it might be that he did as good a job in this investigation as anyone could have. But when you have a presidential candidate whose own actions put her under federal investigation – a candidate who belongs to the same party as the sitting president – things are going to inevitably get messy.
The full story of the Clinton debacle has not been written – what DID Lynch and Clinton discuss on that airplane? – but we believe, more than ever, that Comey’s reputation will survive when all the details come to light.