Comey’s Original Sin
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
The gods of irony must be cackling at the news that the director of the FBI, James Comey, defied Attorney General Lynch over Secretary Clinton’s email messages. This scoop was brought in by the New Yorker’s famed legwoman Jane Mayer. Let us just say that it wouldn’t be the first time Mr. Comey broke with an attorney general of America. It’s just the first time his doing so has angered the Democrats.
The first fracas was when Mr. Comey was acting attorney general under President George W. Bush and was in a lather over the president’s surveillance program. Mr. Comey had acting powers because the actual attorney general, Senator Ashcroft, was in the hospital. When Mr. Comey refused to sign off on it, Mr. Bush’s White House aides rushed to the general’s hospital room to see what they could do.
Mr. Comey did the same, threatening to resign if Mr. Ashcroft agreed to the Bush plan. How he was praised by the Left. So much so that when President Obama named Mr. Comey director of the FBI, the New York Times quoted a White House aide as saying that Mr. Comey’s part in the 2004 crisis was “an important factor in the president’s decision making.” Mr. Obama himself cited the G-man’s “fierce independence and deep integrity.”
Now the administration — and Mr. Obama’s favored candidate for president — are getting a taste of their own medicine. “Coming less than two weeks before the Presidential election,” Ms. Mayer reported early this morning, citing a “well-informed” administration official, “Comey’s decision to make public new evidence that may raise additional legal questions about Clinton was contrary to the views of the Attorney General.”
Mrs. Lynch, according Ms. Mayer’s source, expressed her preference that Mr. Comey follow what Ms. Mayer called “the department’s longstanding practice of not commenting on ongoing investigations” and avoiding “any action that could influence the outcome of an election.” Ms. Mayer reported that despite his reputation for integrity, Mr. Comey’s “latest action” is “stirring an extraordinary level of concern among legal authorities.”
They see it as what Ms. Mayer characterized as “potentially affecting the outcome” of the elections. “You don’t do this,” Ms. Mayer quoted an erstwhile Justice Department official as exclaiming. “It’s aberrational. It violates decades of practice.” The reason, the official told her, is that “it impugns the integrity and reputation of the candidate, even though there’s no finding by a court, or in this instance even an indictment.”
By that standard, of course, everyone in this presidential race should have shut up from the beginning. The whole campaign has been about impugning the integrity and reputation of the candidates. And who is General Lynch, fresh from her tarmac tête-à-tête with President Clinton, to lecture Jas. Comey on the optics of integrity? It was that blunder that forced her to cede authority to Mr. Comey in the first place.
One ex-official of the Justice Department quoted by Ms. Mayer reckons that Mr. Comey’s “original sin” was the press conference in July, when he announced he would not bring charges against Mrs. Clinton. Ms. Mayer quotes Mr. Comey’s supporters as arguing that he had to “act independently, and publicly” because “Lynch had compromised herself” in the meeting with Mr. Clinton. Then again, too, Adam named Eve as handing him the apple.