Where Comey veered from the normal script was when he cited the meeting between former President Bill Clinton and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, on the tarmac at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, during the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. It’s fair to say that Secretary Clinton had survived the initial investigation into her alleged compromise of classified material before Comey announced a continuation of the investigation. The upshot of Comey’s actions, few can dispute, was that Mrs. Clinton lost an election she was destined to win. No matter that the reopened investigation found no wrongdoing, the timing made it rich political fodder.
Clinton wants to blame Comey for her loss, instead of her top aide Huma Abedin, who sent, or forwarded, emails to a computer she shared with her husband Anthony Weiner, who used the same machine to woo with lewd selfies. Ironically, it was the Secretary who introduced the luckless duo. Clinton, concurrently, blames WikiLeaks and Russia for her loss but Comey is first on her list. That’s too easy because Clinton ran a bad campaign. She spent time in states she was unlikely to win in the hopes of a landslide while ignoring those she should have shored up for the sure thing. It was unexpected but her horse went lame in the last furlong trying to increase its lead.
The failure to supervise Abedin was, also, a monumental error but so was the attempt to run a high-minded campaign. Clinton kept repeating the line, attributed to Michele Obama, that “when they go low we go high.” That was a poor excuse for refusing to engage Donald Trump, a vituperative, street brawling candidate who, sometimes, was his own worst enemy. Instead of meeting his volleys in like form Clinton shrugged them off. This choice ignored a basic tenet of politics. Campaigning is nasty business. It shouldn’t be, but wishing it was otherwise doesn’t make it any less so. Clinton, patently, was much too nice to a deeply flawed opponent.
The central question regarding Comey’s testimony is how much the public is willing to trust the Director. The number of questions he said he was unable to answer, at least in public testimony, was frustrating. Likewise, the simplistic characterization of the options available to him as being “to speak or conceal” assumes that there was something worth concealing. The implication is that the FBI Director felt Clinton had done something wrong even before the revived investigation was complete.
Another problem was the judgment, exercised by Comey, that something untoward took place when Bill Clinton met with Comey’s boss, the Attorney General. Without facts to support this belief Comey’s decision to consider the meeting, at all, may have been improvident.
The real test of Comey’s trustworthiness will be the support he provides for the results of the investigation into Trump. In the meantime, the country has two choices. The first is to believe the Director and take him at his word that he was being dispassionate in his scrutiny. The second is to assume that one of the linchpins of American jurisprudence has been corrupted by politics. That would be an unthinkable result. Since legislators on both sides of the aisle, with virtually unanimity, agree that Comey is an honorable man it’s, also, unlikely. He may not be error free in this matter but his intentions, so far, appear to have been forthright.
Had Comey been allowed to write his op-ed piece warning about Russian interference during the election the entire issue about disparate treatments of the two campaigns would have been moot. Now, it’s still very much alive in the minds of many.