November 3, 2016

ELI LAKE: The FBI Wants to Make America Great Again.

Comey’s letter to Congress has gotten a lot of attention. But his initial blunder was breaking with precedent and explaining to the public his decision not to recommend prosecution of Clinton for her use of the private e-mail server when she was secretary of state.

“When Comey did his press conference in July, I nearly fell off my chair,” Steven Pomerantz, a retired assistant director for the FBI, told me. “I don’t think the FBI should ever make a prosecution recommendation. I believe Comey was honestly motivated, but I just don’t think process- and procedure-wise it was the right thing to do. And it all got compounded when he testified before Congress.”

Victoria Toensing, a former deputy assistant attorney general under President Ronald Reagan and a Trump supporter, told me much of this goes back to the decision not to impanel a grand jury in either the Clinton Foundation or e-mail investigation. “Comey fumbled the ball in the beginning by not demanding a grand jury,” she said. “And now he’s trying to make it up because he was caught between a rock and a hard place.”

In this case, the rock for Comey is the perception that he is influencing the election by informing Congress about Weiner’s computer. The hard place is his pledge to Republicans in Congress to keep them informed of any developments about Clinton’s e-mails.

Comey appears to have done his best to stay out of the election, but he is in the middle of it now.

Left unsaid? That Attorney General Loretta Lynch forced Comey’s hand. Let’s set the Wayback Machine to July 1:

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, conceding that her airport meeting with former President Bill Clinton this week had cast a shadow over the federal investigation of Hillary Clinton’s personal email account, said Friday that she would accept whatever recommendations career prosecutors and the F.B.I. director made about whether to bring charges in the case.

Ms. Lynch said she had decided this spring to defer to the recommendations of her staff and the F.B.I. because her status as a political appointee sitting in judgment on a politically charged case would raise questions of a conflict of interest.

So, yes, Comey “broke precedent,” but only after his boss forced him to.

At the end of his column, Lake implies that the FBI may have “rigged” the election against Hillary Clinton. If so, it would seem to be the almost-inevitable result of events set into motion by Bill Clinton and the head of Barack Obama’s Justice Department.

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