Editorial: FBI’s Comey needs to clarify this mess

  • Thursday, November 3, 2016 1:01am
  • Opinion

The following editorial first appeared in the Sun Sentinel:

It is shameful enough that FBI director James Comey put himself smack in the middle of the presidential election, just days before Election Day.

What’s actually worse is now Comey has decided to keep his mouth shut, at a time when the public has every right to expect an explanation.

The FBI is supposed to be apolitical. The Justice Department even has a policy of not taking unnecessary action action close to Election Day that might influence an election, according to former Attorney General Eric Holder.

But there was Comey last week, writing a vague letter to Congress that material “pertinent to the investigation” about Hillary Clinton’s emails had been found and would be reviewed.

There was no indication about what was in the emails. No indication if the emails were damaging to Clinton, although many accounts indicate there is probably nothing new in the emails.

The new revelations apparently involved the 650,000 emails found on a laptop belonging to disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner — and what is he doing showing up in the presidential race? — the estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Were the messages sent to or from Clinton’s private email server? Is there anything that incriminates Clinton in all of this? Is there anything about the controversial Clinton Foundation?

We don’t know any of that, because Comey has given no indication what might be involved, which has allowed speculation to run wild on the internet and among conspiracy theorists. And Donald Trump, of course, has jumped right in even though he doesn’t know what’s on the emails either. He’s already comparing this to Watergate.

Making things even dicier, the Washington Post revealed agents knew about the emails since early October, but didn’t tell Comey about them until less than two weeks before the election. Had the information been released in early October, it might have had less of an effect on the election than it would by being released just days before Americans go to the polls.

According to the Post, the Justice Department asked the FBI not to disclose the discovery of the emails to Congress so close to the election, but Comey apparently felt an obligation to do so. We can only guess what effect all of this will have on the election and those who haven’t voted yet.

And let’s not forget that in early October, according to reports, Comey apparently advised against publicly accusing Russia of hacking political organizations, saying it was too close to Election Day and would violate Justice Department policies.

But throwing out a potential bombshell days before the election is fine?

Clinton has urged the FBI to release more information about the newly discovered documents.

“The American people deserve to get the full and complete facts immediately,” she said.

Trump is also urging for more information to be released, hoping for something unsavory to give him a boost in a race that is getting tighter by the day.

Comey has a reputation as a good, fair man, someone who relishes his political independence. But he may have gone overboard in a misguided attempt at fairness with the emails. According to the Washington Post, he was being intimidated by congressional Republicans aiming to damage Clinton as she was pulling away from Trump in most polls. Some of Comey’s critics, including some with the FBI, were apparently upset he didn’t make a stronger case against Clinton earlier this year, instead choosing not to recommend criminal prosecution for her mishandling of emails and her private server.

If Comey is trying appease his critics, doing it less than two weeks before the presidential election was outrageous. There is no indication the public will know anything more about the emails until after the election, but that will only lead to more speculation and conspiracy theories in the next few days.

Already, you have some Republicans talking about “potential impeachment” of Clinton should she win, even though she has never been found guilty of any wrongdoing.

With the public being in the dark about the new emails, you will hear a lot of wild talk in the next few days. Comey created this mess. It is now up to him to clarify things in public immediately.

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