Monday, October 31, 2016

Comey And Clinton Agonistes

Hillary’s campaign tries to turn Saint James into Ken Starr.

By Review & Outlook 
The Wall Street Journal
October 31, 2016

All of a sudden Hillary Clinton and her presidential campaign have discovered the virtues of transparency. And all of a sudden FBI Director James Comey, formerly Eliot Ness in the eyes of Democrats and the press, is J. Edgar Hoover. Such are the miraculous political transformations caused by Mr. Comey’s announcement Friday that the FBI has found more emails that may be relevant to Mrs. Clinton’s mishandling of classified information.

“It’s not just strange. It’s unprecedented, and it is deeply troubling, because voters deserve to get full and complete facts,” Mrs. Clinton said Saturday about Mr. Comey’s letter to Congress. That wasn’t her line when she created her personal email server to hide her correspondence from public-records laws, or when she claimed not to have sent classified information or did as little as possible to cooperate with Congress and the FBI.

Mrs. Clinton could still help voters out by coughing up her 33,000 missing emails. Or she could let her aide Huma Abedin explain to the press what she may have sent to estranged husband Anthony Weiner,whose laptop contains the new-found emails. But that kind of genuine transparency might be hard to contain. And with eight days until Nov. 8 the Democrats need someone else to blame for all of their previous lack of political transparency.

That means Mr. Comey, who over the weekend became the latest stand-in for the vast right-wing conspiracy. “By providing selective information, he has allowed partisans to distort and exaggerate in order to inflict maximum political damage, and no one can separate what is true from what is not because Comey has not been forthcoming with the facts,” said a clearly agitated Clinton campaign chief John Podesta in a media call Saturday.

Look for more to come as Democrats attempt to mobilize their supporters to vote by turning Mr. Comey into Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr. This won’t be easy since Mr. Comey was appointed by President Obama, and Democrats have spent so many years praising Mr. Comey as St. James of the Beltway.

Maybe they should have listened to our warnings about Mr. Comey when he let his buddy Patrick Fitzgerald prosecute Scooter Libby on dubious charges; when he overreached against financier Frank Quattrone; or when he threatened to resign if the Bush Administration didn’t follow his orders on surveillance. Democrats hailed those events.

Mr. Comey’s original sin in the Clinton investigation was not demanding that Justice empanel a grand jury. He compounded that with his July soliloquy to the media exonerating Mrs. Clinton when that is the job of Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Mr. Comey’s friends are leaking that he felt he had to go public then because Ms. Lynch had compromised her credibility by meeting only days earlier with Bill Clinton on an airport tarmac.

Mr. Comey’s public declaration undercut political accountability. And sure enough, Ms. Lynch responded by saying she would defer to Mr. Comey, essentially ducking her legal and political responsibility. Democrats and the media hailed Mr. Comey for his judgment.

Mr. Comey also told Congress at the time that the investigation was closed, and so he felt he was obliged to update the oversight committees when there was more information. No doubt he believed he had to do that before the election lest he be accused of participating in a cover-up if the new evidence later became public.

Ms. Lynch’s team is now leaking, and the Clinton campaign is amplifying, that Mr. Comey sent his Friday letter over the objections of Justice officials. But then why didn’t Ms. Lynch simply order him not to send the letter? The AG has clear line authority over the FBI director. Our guess is that she feared that Mr. Comey might then have resigned, which would have created an even bigger pre-election firestorm than an ambiguous letter.

Democrats and Mrs. Clinton are now demanding that Mr. Comey release more details, and our sympathies are also toward airing this out. But Mr. Comey can’t make more information public if it would compromise the FBI’s investigative trail, and finishing the probe in a week is highly unlikely. Thus the Clinton campaign’s sudden demands for transparency have the political virtue of making her sound unworried while knowing nothing more is likely to come out before Election Day.

The other Clinton line is that there’s nothing in these emails to worry about, though no one outside the FBI and the Clinton campaign knows. It’s hard to believe, however, that Mr. Comey would have risked the wrath of his former Democratic defenders by sending that letter to Congress if his agents hadn’t discovered something potentially serious. The Journal’s Devlin Barrett also reported Sunday on months of dissension between the FBI and Justice over the agency’s separate probes into the emails and the Clinton Foundation.

Donald Trump is reacting to this with his usual overkill, asserting without evidence that the new emails may be those missing 33,000. But the legal and political blundering at Justice and FBI feed his message that the executive branch needs to be swept clean to end a culture of corruption. Mr. Comey is no hero, but neither is he responsible for Mrs. Clinton’s potential legal jeopardy. She has built her own career monument of deception and public mistrust.

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