FBI Director Comey Ignored DOJ’s Warning Against Releasing Info On Hillary Email (TWEETS)

On Friday, FBI Director James Comey told Congress that his agency had discovered emails that could potentially be related to the flap over Hillary Clinton’s email server. In the 24 hours since then, most of the discussion hasn’t been over the emails, but over whether Comey acted appropriately when he made this disclosure. Well, a front page story in Sunday morning’s edition of The New York Times reveals that Comey’s bosses at the Justice Department believed this letter was manifestly improper.

The reason? Comey’s letter risked running afoul of a longstanding DOJ policy that strongly discourages commenting on politically sensitive investigations within 60 days of an election. It is a policy that has been maintained by both Democratic and Republican administrations in order to avoid even the appearance of partisanship. We can all agree, however, that if there is any case for an exception, it would be if there was a potentially earth-shaking development in a politically-charged investigation.

But based on what has emerged since Friday, Comey’s letter didn’t even begin to meet that standard. According to The Times, the FBI is in the process of getting court permission to review emails it seized from the laptop of longtime Hillary aide Huma Abedin while investigating her estranged husband, former congressman Anthony Weiner, for sexting with a North Carolina teenager. Investigators don’t know as of yet whether those emails contain classified information, or whether it even potentially rose to the level of criminal misconduct. Additionally, there is virtually no chance that such a review will be complete before the election.

That explains why Comey’s draft letter, which was prepared on Thursday, sent eyebrows into hairlines at the DOJ. According to CNN, department staffers told Comey that Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates opposed sending the letter. They told Comey in no uncertain terms that under the circumstances, the letter ran counter to the longstanding policy about politically sensitive investigations. However, according to The Times, Comey believed that the emails would almost certainly be leaked–and the FBI would be accused of misleading Congress.

However, a number of former DOJ officials think Comey made an egregious blunder. I already told you that Matthew Miller, the former chief spokesman for the DOJ under Lynch’s predecessor, Eric Holder, condemned the letter in the strongest terms on Friday. But Comey has been condemned by veterans of Republican administrations as well. One of them, George Terwilliger III, the deputy attorney general for the last two years of the George H. W. Bush administration, was particularly baffled by Comey’s move. Terwilliger said that while the guidelines on politically sensitive investigations can make for “hard decisions” at times, there was “a difference between flying independent and flying solo.”

Kurt Eichenwald of Vanity Fair and Newsweek revealed on Twitter that a number of FBI agents are up in arms over this letter as well.

Based on what we now know, this anger is easy to understand. Apparently Comey was so worried about the potential fallout that he felt compelled to brief Congress before his people even knew whether there was any there there, let alone before getting a court to allow them to find out what was in those emails. If that’s the case, then Comey’s judgment appears curious at best. You would think the FBI would be able to keep a lid on an investigation this explosive.

Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, suggested that the Donald forced Comey’s hand. If Comey was so afraid of being the victim of a Twitter attack from Trump and his alt-right army that it felt the need to throw fundamental fairness and time-honored precedent out the window, as well as leave his own agents on an island, then there is something fundamentally wrong.

(featured image courtesy FBI Flickr feed, part of public domain)

Darrell is a 30-something graduate of the University of North Carolina who considers himself a journalist of the old school. An attempt to turn him into a member of the religious right in college only succeeded in turning him into the religious right's worst nightmare--a charismatic Christian who is an unapologetic liberal. His desire to stand up for those who have been scared into silence only increased when he survived an abusive three-year marriage. You may know him on Daily Kos as Christian Dem in NC. Follow him on Twitter @DarrellLucus or connect with him on Facebook. Click here to buy Darrell a Mello Yello.