Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

In defense of James Comey

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In the New Yorker Ryan Lizza has an interesting column making the case in favor of James Comey, and I highly recommend it. As he points out, Loretta Lynch, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama had previously muddied the water to the point where Comey felt that what he did was appropriate and necessary. It begins:

On October 11, 2015, President Obama was asked by Steve Kroft of CBS News about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server while she was the Secretary of State. It was an awkward question for Obama. The F.B.I., led by James Comey, whom Obama chose to run the agency, was in the middle of an investigation into whether Hillary Clinton mishandled classified information. His Administration has been unusually aggressive in prosecuting government officials who leak classified material. But the Clinton e-mail investigation had also turned into a highly partisan issue, with Republican Presidential candidates making wild and unsubstantiated claims about her conduct. Still, Obama could have remained silent. There is a long-standing tradition by which Presidents do not comment about ongoing F.B.I. investigations, especially when a former member of their own Administration is under scrutiny. Obama seemed to want to follow that protocol and swat the question away. “Well, I’m not going to comment on—” he said before he was cut off.

“You think it’s not that big a deal?” Kroft asked.

If Obama had intended to stick to the standard “no comment” that tradition dictated, he changed his mind. “I can tell you that this is not a situation in which America’s national security was endangered,” the President said, asserting a firm conclusion about the matter eight months before the investigation was completed.

The following April, after it was revealed that classified information did pass through Clinton’s unsecured e-mail server, Obama was asked by Chris Wallace of Fox News if the President stood by his October comment. “Can you still say flatly that she did not jeopardize America’s secrets?” Wallace asked. Obama again hesitated. “I’ve got to be careful because, as you know, there have been investigations, there are hearings, Congress is looking at this. And I haven’t been sorting through each and every aspect of this,” he said.

But once again the President added a seemingly exculpatory comment about the target of an ongoing investigation. “She would never intentionally put America in any kind of jeopardy,” Obama said, of Clinton.

The second comment was less specific than the first, but, as Benjamin Wittes, the editor-in-chief of the Lawfare blog and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Jack Goldsmith, a former assistant attorney general in the Bush Administration, note in a careful analysis of the e-mail investigation, “Both of these statements gave the appearance to many observers that the President had prejudged legally relevant aspects of the investigation.”

Obama’s Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, who oversees the F.B.I, allowed herself to be similarly compromised. On June 27th, President Bill Clinton boarded Lynch’s plane while it was on the tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, and the two spoke for about thirty minutes. Clinton and Lynch, who both insisted that the e-mail investigation was not discussed, quickly admitted that the meeting was a mistake. “People have a whole host of reasons to have questions about how we in government do our business,” Lynch said in an interview with Jonathan Capehart, in Aspen, Colorado, on July 1st. “My meeting on the plane with former President Clinton could give them another reason to have questions and concerns.”

An aide to Bill Clinton told CNN that the meeting “was unplanned” and “entirely social” but “recognizing how others could take another view of it, he agrees with the attorney general that he would not do it again.”

To remove any doubts about political meddling in the matter, Lynch said that she would accept whatever recommendations career prosecutors sent to her in the investigation, but later a Justice official muddied that position by insisting that Lynch would actually be “the ultimate decider.”

Two days later, on July 3rd, the Times reported that “Democrats close to Mrs. Clinton say she may decide to retain Ms. Lynch, the nation’s first black woman to be attorney general,” a report that did little to ease the concerns of those who were worried that Lynch and Obama and the Clintons were trying to unduly influence the investigation.

Why does any of this matter now? Because the statements and actions of Obama, Lynch, and Bill Clinton are necessary to understand the context of Comey’s unusual decision this week to break with long-standing Department of Justice procedures about not taking actions or making public disclosures that could affect an election. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 October 2016 at 1:03 pm

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