Here’s one thing we can all say for certain regarding the latest twist of the Hillary Clinton email scandal: James Comey, who was once regarded as the Eliot Ness of law enforcement, a modern day straight-shooter impenetrable to political pressure, will instead leave the office of FBI chief as something closer to Inspector Clouseau.
Don’t take my word for it; that’s the assessment of just about every law enforcement official, both former and present, I spoke to in the hours following his bizarre decision on Friday to reopen the case on the legality of Hillary Clinton’s email server, just days before the Nov 8 presidential election.
It was bizarre, these people tell me, because the whole sordid Hillary Clinton email saga should never have gotten this far; Comey launched an investigation that developed far more evidence than anyone in law enforcement ever believed existed that Hillary Clinton broke the laws involving the receipt of sensitive government documents over an easily hacked private email server while she was President Obama’s secretary of state.
My sources in law enforcement were pretty convinced Comey would do the right thing and recommend charges to the Obama Justice Department, despite its political consequence, because the evidence was there and Comey was supposed to be so non political. He was a Republican appointed by Democrat Barack Obama to run a quasi independent investigative arm of the DOJ because he had a fierce independent streak.
He famously brought white-collar cases during the pro-business Bush Administration as the US Attorney for the Southern District. Later in a senior position in the Bush DOJ, he refused to approve aspects of the government's domestic surveillance program.
But there appears to be limits to Comey's independence, these same people now concede. In July, Comey came up with an odd excuse for not recommending criminal charges against Clinton: He couldn’t develop enough evidence that Clinton intended to break the law under the standard of “gross negligence.”
It was such an odd set rationale that Comey laid out for not bringing that case that most people listening to him at first thought he was laying out his reasoning to bring charges, as he explained one reckless move after another from Clinton in establishing the private server and private emails for handing all her government business.
Indeed he initially laid out such a convincingly damning case against Clinton that markets began to crash for much of Comey’s tortured remarks as investors initially came to the conclusion that Hillary Clinton would be indicted and someone as crazy as Donald Trump could become president.
That didn’t happen, of course, as Comey would explain -- and the markets that day recovered as he announced how Hillary Clinton may have done something criminal even if she never intended to do it and as a result he was giving her pass. Note to reader: Markets will take criminal over crazy any day of the week.
But that wasn't the sentiment inside the FBI, where according to my law enforcement sources, a near mutiny broke out among career agents who believe there was plenty of evidence pointing to Clinton's gross negligence that Comey initially said never existed, and that their boss caved to political pressure from the Obama DOJ.
Recall, Attorney General Loretta Lynch just had a private meeting with former president and possible first husband Bill Clinton just days before Comey handed in his verdict, which added to the fetid smell of the FBI chief's decision. Then there was the evidence: Remember, Clinton has never given much of a rationale for using only a private email account via her own server to send and receive state department related emails other than its convenience, which should never outweigh national security. Meanwhile, career agents argued her intent was inherent in simple creation of the private email server and exclusive use of a private email is supposed to be verboten under various laws including the Espionage Act.
Her supporters point out that others like Bush Administration Secretary of State Colin Powell used a private email account, but that omits the fact that Powell’s email was from a computer he kept at the state department and he used it before the document laws were beefed up post 9-11.
He also didn’t go through the process of creating his own easily hacked private server. Another difference: Clinton used her private account exclusively, and Powell didn’t. That’s probably because Powell didn’t have a reason to have a private server that he could control and erase its contents; He didn’t have a private charity that would do business with the federal government and would become a private enrichment vehicle, as Hillary and her former-president husband Bill have in the form of the Clinton Foundation.
Now we have Comey possibly looking to make amends with his troops, possibly looking to cover his rear end, definitely looking incompetent, because of all people Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former Congressman, and soon-to-be ex husband of Hillary Clinton confident, Huma Abedin.
FBI agents, investigating Weiner’s alleged depravity with an underage girl, stumbled across some more Hillary-related emails from Abedin, and as we learned Friday an investigation that was "closed" is now suddenly open.
I say closed in quotes to underscore the murkiness of FBI investigative procedures. Cases are rarely officially closed and even when they are the bureau will leave the door open that additional information would re-ignite their efforts. If you think this story could get any more surreal consider the following: law enforcement sources tell Fox Business that Weiner could soon cooperate with the Feds, and that can’t be good news for his wife or her boss.
(an attorney for Anthony Weiner tells Fox News there is no cooperation agreement in place)
Weiner, I am told, was miffed at the Clinton’s for keeping him away from the campaign before his latest sexting episode. Now facing a possible prison term for alleged dealings with an underage girl he has even more incentive to cooperate against his soon-to-be ex-wife and the Clintons.
I can't tell you whether the new emails will reach Comey's standard for gross negligence, but that's really besides the point. The country could have been spared this spectacle if he had just done the right thing in July and recommended a charge against Clinton. Then the Democrats could have regrouped and given the nomination to Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden or someone who doesn't stand a chance of being indicted or impeached if elected.
Yes if Hillary Clinton manages to win, she will be a sitting duck for every GOP investigative committee, particularly as the odds grow the Republicans will now keep the House and possibly the Senate. If you thought the last eight years were contentious, you ain't seen nothing yet.
Thank you, James Comey.