Saturday, October 29, 2016

Boost For Republican Senate

James Comey is a career Republican who was a high-ranking official in the extremist, divisive, and destructive Bush 43 Administration. And now he has released, in a manner which was sure to be viciously exploited by surrogates of Trump supporters, which might tip the election to the GOP presidential nominee.

That's all true, and grossly misleading, given that then-Deputy Attorney General Comey demonstrated unusaul integrity by standing up to the White House at a key point in its domestic surveillance program.

But Comey evidently would have no problem with anyone ignoring context and painting him as a GOP partisan out to scuttle the election of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic effort to retake control of the U.S. Senate.

He told us as much himself.  Shortly after he informed Republican and Democratic congressional leadership of the new review of e-mails of Huma Abedin, the FBI director wrote FBI employees

Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed. I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record.  At the same time, however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression.  In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season, there is significant risk of being misunderstood, but I wanted you to hear directly from me about it.

I don't want  to create a misleading impression.  Comey may not have wanted to create a misleading impression, but he clearly did so. As Greg Sargent explains, we don't know whether the e-mails were classified or even that they weren't mere duplicates. Although they may have been sent between Abedin and Clinton, they may have been sent only from Abedin to Clinton, or that they were simply emails printed out by Abedin for Clinton to read.

We don't know any of this but we do know, as investigative reporter extraordinaire Jane Mayer notes, that the Director of the FBI is a Justice Department employee subject to its rules and regulation and

You don’t do this,” one former senior Justice Department official exclaimed. “It’s aberrational. It violates decades of practice.” The reason, according to the former official, who asked not to be identified because of ongoing cases involving the department, “is because it impugns the integrity and reputation of the candidate, even though there’s no finding by a court, or in this instance even an indictment.”

Traditionally, the Justice Department has advised prosecutors and law enforcement to avoid any appearance of meddling in the outcome of elections, even if it means holding off on pressing cases. One former senior official recalled that Janet Reno, the Attorney General under Bill Clinton, “completely shut down” the prosecution of a politically sensitive criminal target prior to an election. “She was adamant—anything that could influence the election had to go dark,” the former official said.

The Washington Post has found much the same, reporting

Senior Justice Department officials warned the FBI that Director James B. Comey’s decision to notify Congress about renewing the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server was not consistent with long-standing practices of the department, according to officials familiar with the discussions.

Comey told Justice Department officials that he intended to inform lawmakers of newly discovered emails. These officials told him the department’s position “that we don’t comment on an ongoing investigation. And we don’t take steps that will be viewed as influencing an election,” said one Justice Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the high-level conversations.

“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.”

He knows also that Donald Trump, who as President might impose martial law and/or precipitate a nuclear war, still is not likely to be elected.  And he probably was aware that most reliable election forecasters had thought that the election would bring a Democratic senatorial majority. Release of this tantalizing, partial information is far more likely to result in continued GOP congressional dominance than a Trump presidency. Although it may not have been Director Comey's intent, it probably would bring a smile to his face on November 9, 2016.

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