There is a big difference between breaking tradition and breaking the law. When the actions of our appointed officials go against our own political leanings it’s easy to conflate the former with the latter. But in the case of FBI director James Comey it’s very clear to me that his letter to Congress was not an illegal act; it was merely an unorthodox move and a move he had to make.
The letter, which arrived in the inboxes of eight congressional committee chairmen on Friday morning, was three short paragraphs. New emails had surfaced during the Anthony Weiner sexting investigation and Comey was writing to let Congress know that the FBI had found those emails to be “pertinent” to the closed Hillary Clinton private server investigation.
Traditionally the Justice Department and the FBI don’t publicly comment on politically sensitive investigations so close to an election. But Comey was in a tricky situation. If he had delayed the announcement until after Election Day he would’ve risked criticism from Republicans for willfully holding back crucial information; if he announced the investigation now he would face backlash from Democrats for deliberately interfering with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
The only way for Comey to win was to placate his own conscience. Months ago he made the unprecedented move of publicly announcing that he would close Hillary Clinton’s private server case and not recommend any charges against her. “Given the importance of the matter,” he said at the time, “I think unusual transparency is in order.” It was time for unusual transparency once again.
That didn’t stop Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid from pointing his partisan fingers. On Sunday the Democratic lawmaker delivered the harshest critique of any high-ranking official and accused the FBI director of violating the Hatch Act. Senator Reid needs to do some research. The 1939 Hatch Act was enacted to prevent federal employees from unfairly coercing voters. Anyone voting for Hillary Clinton would not be changing their mind over a few more emails in the next 8 days. Anyone voting against her was already a lost cause.
Campaign manager Robby Mook put it best when asked if the new investigation would hurt Hillary Clinton’s chance for the presidency. On Sunday he told NBC’s Meet The Press, “I don’t think so … We have over 50,000 volunteers out there; we're seeing record early-voting numbers … We're feeling really good about this record turnout."
On Friday afternoon James Comey himself explained the decision to send that morning’s letter to Congress. He said he felt “an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed.” Now Comey has an obligation to continue his transparency crusade and reveal the contents of the new emails before November 8. The future of our country may not depend on it but Comey’s job and reputation on Capitol Hill might.
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