Hillary for America has organized some helpful information-at-a-glance around Friday’s “October Surprise” from FBI Director James Comey. In addition, they offer some fact-checking around other incendiary devices aimed at igniting the Clinton campaign.
FBI Director James Comey is under widespread criticism for breaking department precedent by commenting on an ongoing investigation, and doing so just days before a presidential election. Indeed, the Washington Post reported this morning senior Justice Department officials made perfectly clear to Comey that he would be in violation of long-standing DOJ policy.
Moreover, according to CNN, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates both objected to Comey sending this inappropriate letter to Congress. Nevertheless, Director Comey independently decided to move forward, rattling the presidential election with a note that was heavy on innuendo and extremely light on actual information or needed details.
The result? Broad bipartisan condemnation and demands for the swift disclosure of more information:
Washington Post: Justice officials warned FBI that Comey’s decision to update Congress was not consistent with department policy: “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.”
CNN: Comey notified Congress of email probe despite DOJ concerns: “Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates objected to FBI Director James Comey’s decision to notify Congress about his bureau’s review of emails related to Hillary Clinton’s personal server, law enforcement officials familiar with the discussion said. Comey decided to disregard their objections and sent the letter Friday anyway, shaking the presidential race 11 days before the election and nearly four months after the FBI chief said he wouldn’t recommend criminal charges over the Democratic nominee’s use of the server.
New York Times: Justice Dept. Strongly Discouraged Comey on Move in Clinton Email Case: “Mr. Comey’s letter opened him up to criticism not only from Democrats but also from current and former officials at the F.B.I. and the Justice Department, including Republicans. ‘There’s a longstanding policy of not doing anything that could influence an election,’ said George J. Terwilliger III, a deputy attorney general under the first President George Bush. ‘Those guidelines exist for a reason. Sometimes that makes for hard decisions. But bypassing them has consequences.’”
Politico: Comey’s disclosure shocks former prosecutors: “James Comey’s surprise announcement that investigators are examining new evidence in the probe of Hillary Clinton’s email server put the FBI director back under a harsh spotlight, reigniting criticism of his unusual decision to discuss the high-profile case in front of the media and two congressional committees.”
Los Angeles Times: “The emails were not to or from Clinton, and contained information that appeared to be more of what agents had already uncovered, the official said, but in an abundance of caution, they felt they needed to further scrutinize them.
Washington Post Editorial: The damage Comey’s bad timing could do: “Mr. Podesta said he is ‘confident’ full disclosure ‘will not produce any conclusions different from the one the FBI reached in July.’ If so, the question will be how badly damaged was Ms. Clinton’s candidacy by the 11th-hour re-eruption of a controversy that never should have generated so much suspicion or accusation in the first place.”
New York Times Editorial: “But Mr. Comey’s failure to provide any specifics about a new, potentially important development, less than two weeks before Election Day, is confounding. As Mr. Comey put it in July: “The American people deserve those details in a case of intense public interest.” They deserve details even more urgently today.”
Bloomberg: FBI Shocker on Clinton Fuels Criticism of Comey’s Tactics: “FBI Director James Comey is facing extraordinary pressure to explain himself after dropping a bombshell on the campaign of Hillary Clinton just 11 days before the presidential election… Former prosecutors and lawmakers from both parties expressed shock and dismay at Comey’s highly unusual decision, which flouted decades of legal custom that call for avoiding taking actions that could affect the outcome of an election.”
Washington Post: FBI Director James B. Comey under fire for his controversial decision on the Clinton email inquiry: “Nick Ackerman, a former federal prosecutor in New York and an assistant special Watergate prosecutor, said Comey ‘had no business writing to Congress about supposed new emails that neither he nor anyone in the FBI has ever reviewed.’”
Huffington Post: News Outlets Dial Back Reports Of FBI ‘Reopening’ Clinton Email Case: “The story took several other turns on Friday afternoon that complicated the early, screaming headlines, and then ensured the story would remain a topic of discussion in the days ahead. Multiple outlets subsequently reported that the new emails weren’t sent by Clinton and didn’t come from her private server.”
CNN Legal Analyst, Paul Callan: Time for FBI director Comey to go: “Comey’s public announcement in July that the FBI had concluded its investigation regarding Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server in the conduct of official State Department business and would not recommend the lodging of criminal charges was historically unprecedented in a high-profile political case.”
Washington Post Op-Ed by Former DOJ Spokesman Matt Miller: James Comey fails to follow Justice Department rules yet again: “With each step, Comey moved further away from department guidelines and precedents, culminating in Friday’s letter to Congress. This letter not only violated Justice rules on commenting on ongoing investigations but also flew in the face of years of precedent about how to handle sensitive cases as Election Day nears…. The director of the FBI has great power at his disposal…. With that independence comes a responsibility to adhere to the rules that protect the rights of those whom the FBI investigates. Comey has failed that standard repeatedly in his handling of the Clinton investigation.”
New York Times: F.B.I. Chief James Comey Is in Political Crossfire Again Over Emails: “The reaction was swift and damning, with Mrs. Clinton’s supporters and even some Republicans blasting Mr. Comey. Indeed, Mr. Comey, who was attacked this summer by Democrats and Republicans for both his decision not to bring charges against Mrs. Clinton and for the way he handled it, found himself in an even stronger crossfire on Friday.”
Los Angeles Times’ Michael McGough: FBI director should have known what his Clinton emails letter would unleash: “Having raised new doubts about Clinton so close to an election, Comey has an obligation —a moral obligation if not a legal one — to do everything he can to expedite the “additional work” required to determine whether this new information does, in fact, cast doubt on his earlier conclusion that Clinton wasn’t criminally culpable.”
Aurora Sentinel Editorial: FBI’s Comey needs to come clean on details, motivation — or resign: “If there’s damning or critical information about Clinton staff handling of email that creates the clear and immediate threat to national security that would warrant such a ploy, Americans deserve to have Clinton explain them, and Clinton must get that opportunity. Otherwise, Comey needs to apologize for his infelicity and possibly politically motivated stunt, and immediately step aside.”
Newsweek: Hillary Clinton’s Emails: The Real Reason The FBI Is Reviewing More Of Them: “Unfortunately, by trying to have things both ways – revealing the change in circumstances while remaining vague about what the agents know – Comey has created that misleading impression that could change the outcome of a presidential election, an act that, if uncorrected, will undoubtedly go down as one of the darkest moments in the bureau’s history.”
New Yorker: James Comey Broke With Loretta Lynch And Justice Department Tradition: “Coming less than two weeks before the Presidential election, Comey’s decision to make public new evidence that may raise additional legal questions about Clinton was contrary to the views of the Attorney General, according to a well-informed Administration official. Lynch expressed her preference that Comey follow the department’s longstanding practice of not commenting on ongoing investigations, and not taking any action that could influence the outcome of an election, but he said that he felt compelled to do otherwise.”
Charlotte Observer Editorial: Comey drops Hillary Clinton email bombshell; so tell us more: “But it is extraordinary for such volatile information to emerge so close to Election Day and that’s especially true given how few specifics are known. Because Comey was so vague, voters can’t know what to think. The new emails could be anything from meaningless to evidence of criminal activity by Clinton to most anything in between.”
ThinkProgress: The ‘new’ Clinton emails might all be duplicates: “So, to be clear, the FBI Director delivered a gut punch to the Clinton campaign, despite the fact that 1) he doesn’t know what he has; 2) it may be something that he already had; and, 3) whatever it is that he has, it reportedly didn’t come from Secretary Clinton, and was not sent to her.”
Huffington Post: Heat Rises For FBI Director James Comey As Both Campaigns Demand Email Answers: “Both camps demanded that FBI Director James Comey disclose more details about the emails and the bureau’s investigation, which he made known in a letter to Congress just 11 days before the election…. Many challenged the FBI director’s motives, increasing the pressure on him to comply with calls from both campaigns for more information.”
Yesterday, Republican Congressional leaders leaked an unprecedented letter from FBI Director James Comey, with initial reports including dire headlines for Hillary Clinton. But like most “bombshell” discoveries about Clinton over the course of this campaign, it fizzled rapidly as facts actually became available. Let’s review…
YESTERDAY’S BOMBSHELL: NBC News: FBI re-opening investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server
- Jason Chaffetz: “FBI Dir just informed me, ‘The FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation.’ Case reopened”
- GOP: “BREAKING NEWS: The FBI is re-opening their investigation into @HillaryClinton’s secret server.”
- Investigation not reopened. Huffington Post: News Outlets Dial Back Reports Of FBI ‘Reopening’ Hillary Clinton Email Case
- No emails had been withheld. NBC News: “the e-mails Comey announced today were NOT originally withheld by Clinton or campaign.”
- Emils not from Clinton’s server. Bloomberg: New Clinton E-mails Not From Her Private Server, AP Says
- Emails reportedly not to or from Clinton. Los Angeles Times: “The emails were not to or from Clinton”
- No indication emails bear significance. Comey memo to employees: “we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails”
- Many emails likely duplicates of ones already turned over. ThinkProgress: The ‘new’ Clinton emails might all be duplicates
- Comey letter violates DOJ policy. Washington Post: Justice officials warned FBI that Comey’s decision to update Congress was not consistent with department policy
- Comey overruled AG Loretta Lynch. CNN: “Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates disagreed with FBI Director James Comey’s decision to notify Congress about his bureau’s review…”
- Former officials on both sides of aisle criticized Comey. New York Times: “Mr. Comey’s letter opened him up to criticism not only from Democrats but also from current and former officials at the F.B.I. and the Justice Department, including Republicans.”
- Clinton and Trump both calling for more information. Huffington Post: “Both camps demanded that FBI Director James Comey disclose more details about the emails and the bureau’s investigation”
This is hardly the first time. It seems the script is always the same:
- Bombshell allegation is made hastily without facts available
- Media breathlessly covers the latest supposed Clinton Scandal
- Republicans declare that this time they’ve found the smoking gun
- Initial explosive reports slowly fizzle on account of facts
Here are just five of the many recent examples:
BOMBSHELL: @GOP, 8/30/16: “BREAKING: State Dept discovered 30 emails recovered from Hillary Clinton’s private server that discussed Benghazi.”
…facts emerge: Los Angeles Times, 9/7/16: “There appears to be only one new communication related to Benghazi… a complimentary note from a diplomat to Clinton, praising how she handled herself before a Senate panel investigating the matter.”
BOMBSHELL: @GOP, 5/5/16: “Hacker ‘Guccifer’ told news outlets that he repeatedly accessed Clinton’s unsecure email server & that ‘it was easy’”
…facts emerge: FOX News, 7/7/16: Comey: Hacker ‘Guccifer’ Lied About Accessing Clinton’s Emails
BOMBSHELL: @AP, 8/23/16: “BREAKING: AP analysis: More than half those who met Clinton as Cabinet secretary gave money to Clinton Foundation.”
…facts emerge: Vox, 8/24/16: “Except it turns out not to be true. The nut fact that the AP uses to lead its coverage is wrong, and Braun and Sullivan’s reporting reveals absolutely no unethical conduct…. the AP excluded from the denominator all employees of any government, whether US or foreign.”
BOMBSHELL: Washington Post, 8/22/16: The FBI found 15,000 emails Hillary Clinton didn’t turn over. Uh oh.
…facts emerge: CNN, 10/7/16: “Okay, so what’s in this latest batch? Short answer: No bombshells. More than half of the emails are these so-called “near duplicates” of previously released emails… There are also a number of emails between Clinton and her close aides in which they discuss scheduling matters – timing for phone calls, meetings, etc…. None of the new emails contained information marked as classified or upgraded to classified.”
BOMBSHELL: The Hill, 7/5/16: FBI director: Clinton emails were marked as classified at the time
…facts emerge: MediaIte, 7/7/16: FBI Director Admits Hillary Clinton Emails Were Not Properly Marked Classified
The campaign and the DOJ are treading carefully. AG Loretta Lynch has referred to a break in tradition. No official has yet mentioned the Hatch Act of 1939 (tweeters have), but it appears there could be grounds for a complaint. Looking at this poster from the Office of Special Counsel, you can see the FBI clearly listed among the restricted agencies on the bottom left and, on the right, the second may not involves use of official authority to interfere in an election.
There is no better time than right now to make a donation to help Hillary secure the White House and Dems to capture seats in the Senate, House, statehouses, and assemblies. Let’s not let this slip through our fingers.
“Through your partisan actions,” he tells Comey, “you may have broken the law.”
The Hatch Act is what prevents members of the US military from attending political rallies in uniform, or government workers from wearing campaign pins to work. In other words, it applies to activity that’s a lot less significant than what Reid is accusing Comey and the FBI of: selectively telling the public about information that could be damaging to one candidate, while not telling it about information that could be (much more) damaging to her opponent.
… on Saturday, I 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. I spent much of my career working on government and lawyers’ ethics, including as the chief White House ethics lawyer for George W. Bush. I never thought that the F.B.I. could be dragged into a political circus surrounding one of its investigations. Until this week.
(For the sake of full disclosure, in this election I have supported Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Hillary Clinton for president, in that order.)