Then-FBI Director James Comey knew that a critical piece of information relating to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email was fake — created by Russian intelligence — but he feared that if it became public it would undermine the probe and the Justice Department itself, according to multiple officials with knowledge of the process.
As a result, Comey acted unilaterally last summer to publicly declare the investigation over — without consulting then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch — while at the same time stating that Clinton had been “extremely careless” in her handling of classified information. His press conference caused a firestorm of controversy and drew criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.
Comey’s actions based on what he knew was Russian disinformation offer a stark example of the way Russian interference impacted the decisions of the highest-level US officials during the 2016 campaign.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that this Russian intelligence was unreliable. US officials now tell CNN that Comey and FBI officials actually knew early on that this intelligence was indeed false.
So, to summarize:
- Comey knew no later than June that Russian officials were trying to ratfuck the election on behalf of Trump.
- At no point during the campaign did Comey inform the public about what Russia was doing.
- He also knew that the “scandal” surrounding Clinton’s email server was the Trump line of attack that was getting the most traction in the media.
- His response was…to violate norms and/or departmental rules to issue multiple prejudicial statements about Clinton’s email server. The last of these statements was a letter prematurely informing Congress about an investigation that had virtually no chance of revealing material information about Clinton less than two weeks before the election. We can perhaps call this response “the Russians can’t ratfuck the election if we ratfuck it first!”
- Conversely, he sat on his hands while FBI sources got a crucial “nothing to see here” story about Russia and Trump planted in the New York Times, at the same time an unprecedented cascade of negative coverage resulting from Comey’s letter was hitting Clinton.
The charitable interpretation is that these indefensible decisions were made solely to Protect the Integrity of the Bureau. A major problem with this defense is that “acting to minimize [Republican] criticism, even if it means violating critical rules and norms and presenting a very misleading picture to the public” is pretty much the antithesis of integrity. Acting with integrity would be “I’m going to follow the rules and I don’t give a shit what Jason Chaffetz has to say about it, and I’m certainly not going to be manipulated by Russian propaganda, let alone advance exactly the narrative they’re trying to push.” As CP says, like Colin Powell Comey is an excellent illustration that people who successfully cultivate a reputation as Men of Great Integrity can be the most dangerously self-serving hacks of all.