The Morning Briefing: Baseball, Comey's Reckoning, The Bible, and Much, Much More
Happy Friday Morning!
It's been a long week, and the weekend can't come fast enough. Before delving into the weeds of the inspector general's report into James Comey and the FBI in 2016, let's talk about something more uplifting.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) took the field at Nationals Park for the first time since the horrific shooting last year. The Democrats won 21 to 5, but Scalise played on that field after fighting for his life last year.
When Scalise took the field, the crowd gave him a standing ovation.
The whip himself shared a video about the deep significance of finally being able to play on that field.
Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), another Republican who suffered a violent attack this past year, also took the field.
But now for the less positive news...
Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz published a report on the FBI investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emails. Horowitz concluded that former FBI Director James Comey "deviated" from bureau and DOJ procedures, damaging the FBI's image — even though he wasn't motivated by politics.
“While we did not find that these decisions were the result of political bias on Comey’s part, we nevertheless concluded that by departing so clearly and dramatically from FBI and department norms, the decisions negatively impacted the perception of the FBI and the department as fair administrators of justice,” Horowitz wrote.
As The Wall Street Journal reported, the IG report "didn’t settle long-simmering dissatisfaction among both Democrats and Republicans over the bureau’s handling of the investigation."
Horowitz commented on the key events of the investigation, from Comey's July 5 news conference, to the infamous tarmac meeting between Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton, to FBI staffer Peter Strzok's delay in delving into emails found on Anthony Weiner's laptop, to Comey's October surprise reopening the investigation.
On July 5, Comey pleased no one by giving a press conference attacking Hillary Clinton's handling of her emails as "extremely careless" while recommending no charges against her. The then-FBI director did not tell DOJ leaders he would be speaking about the case until just before the press conference. Horowitz said Comey's secrecy was intended to make it "impractical for Department leadership to prevent him" from giving the statement.
"We found that it was extraordinary and insubordinate for Comey to do so, and we found none of his reasons to be a persuasive basis for deviating from well-established Department policies," the IG report declared.
As for the tarmac meeting between Lynch and Bill Clinton, Horowitz wrote that investigators "found no evidence" of an "inappropriate discussion," but it did find that Lynch's "failure to recognize the appearance problem created by former President Clinton's visit and to take action to cut the visit short was an error in judgment." That seems like an understatement.
Horowitz also attacked FBI staff, especially Strzok, for not acting quickly enough after the discovery of Clinton emails on the laptop of former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) in the fall of 2016. Strzok and others argued that the Russia investigation was a "higher priority" at the time.
"We found this explanation unpersuasive and concerning," the IG report said, noting that the FBI could have gotten a search warrant in late September, but waited more than a month to do so.
Importantly, Horowitz noted that Strzok may have delayed pursuing the Weiner laptop out of bias for Clinton — which PJ Media suggested in January.
Ironically, Clinton and her allies have long argued that Comey's last-minute announcement of the re-opening of the Clinton investigation cost her the election. How tragic for the Democrats that unjust pro-Clinton bias within the FBI may have been directly responsible for Donald Trump's election.
Citing Strzok text messages — some of which had not been reported before this IG report broke Thursday, and one of that involved Strzok pledging that he and Lisa Page will "stop" Trump from becoming president — the IG report said, "We concluded that we did not have confidence that this decision by Strzok was free from bias." No kidding!
By the way, Strzok worked on the Trump-Russia investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and was later re-assigned. When will the IG make sure Mueller's investigation has been "free from bias"?
As for Comey, his "higher loyalty" may have been directed toward himself, rather than the high standards of America's intelligence community. Will Democrats abandon him again?
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the report "reaffirmed the president's suspicions about Comey's conduct and the political bias amongst some of the members of the FBI," Fox News reported.
By the way, Comey also used a private email account — a Gmail account, no less — for official government business while investigating Clinton for doing the same thing.
A disaster of biblical proportions.
In defending the Trump administration's practice of detaining illegal immigrant parents while putting their children into a different program, Attorney General Jeff Sessions quoted the Bible.
"Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution. I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order," Sessions told a law enforcement group in Indiana. "Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful."
Sarah Huckabee Sanders doubled down on this in response to a question from CNN's Jim Acosta. "It is very biblical to enforce the law," she said.
New York Magazine's Ed Kilgore shot this argument down.
Those who are unacquainted with the Bible should be aware that the brief seven-verse portion of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans has been throughout the ages cited to oppose resistance to just about every unjust law or regime you can imagine. As the New York Times’ Yoni Applebaum quickly pointed out, it was especially popular among those opposing resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act in the run-up to the Civil War. It was reportedly Adolf Hitler’s favorite biblical passage. And it was used by defenders of South African Apartheid and of our own Jim Crow.
Sessions’ suggestion that Romans 13 represents some sort of absolute, inflexible rule for the universe has been refuted by religious authorities again and again, most quoting St. Augustine in saying that “an unjust law is no law at all,” and many drawing attention to the overall context of Paul’s Epistle, which was in many respects the great charter of Christian liberty and the great rebuke to legalism in every form. Paul was pretty clearly rejecting a significant sentiment among Christians of his day: that civil authorities deserved noobedience in any circumstance.
Beyond that, even if taken literally, in Romans 13 Paul is the shepherd telling the sheep that just as they must love their enemies, they must also recognize that the wolf is part of a divinely established order. In today’s context, Jeff Sessions is the wolf, and no matter what you think of his policies, he is not entitled to quote the shepherd on his own behalf. Maybe those desperate woman and men at the border should suck it up and accept their terrible lot in life and defer to Jeff Sessions’ idolatry towards those portions of secular immigration law that he and his president actually support. But for sake of all that’s holy, don’t quote the Bible to make the Trump administration’s policies towards immigrant families sound godly. And keep St. Paul out of it.
In Romans 13, St. Paul encouraged Christians to obey the ruling authorities, but that does not give those rulers carte blanche to oppress their subjects. No matter who is to blame on the policy of separating illegal immigrant children from their parents, Romans 13 does not defend this specific immigration law.
Photo of the day.
On June 15, 1215, King John signed the Magna Carta, a bedrock document for Western freedom. The nobles pressured the king to give up some of his rights and ensure rights for the nobles. While this charter did not grant rights to ordinary citizens, it did constrain the power of the king, setting an important precedent and inspiring later generations, especially America's founding fathers.