In late October of 2016 James Comey knew Donald Trump’s candidacy was as dead as a doornail. That must be distinctly understood or nothing wonderful can come from the story I am going to relate. Time soothes the edges of old emotions. We forget the shock of that election night. Almost two years now of articles and TV takes, even books, make Trump’s election seem understandable, even sometimes inevitable.
But that’s not how it was then. When FBI director Comey and the FBI dropped their late October Anthony Weiner surprise, they did so fully confident that Hillary Clinton would win. What we now know for certain from the Department of Justice inspector general report that came out Thursday is that the FBI chose to disclose the Weiner email fiasco to protect a Clinton presidency, a foregone conclusion, from potential claims from Trump that the FBI had rigged the election.
Comey gave us a taste of this back in April when George Stephanopoulos asked if he was assuming Clinton would win. He said: “I don’t remember consciously thinking about that, but it must have been. I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump. I’m sure that it was a factor. I don’t remember spelling it out, but it had to have been. That she’s going to be elected president, and if I hide this from the American people, she’ll be illegitimate the moment she’s elected, the moment this comes out.”
Whatever acid trip Comey was on that makes him feel only now that somehow this reality must have unconsciously affected his decision-making, the IG report presents much more self-aware choices. Take this testimony from Comey himself. The norm he talks about is not revealing information that can affect an election in the days leading up to it:
And so I said okay, those are the doors. One says speak, the other says conceal. Let’s see what’s behind the speak door. It’s really bad. We’re 11 days from a presidential election. Given the norm I’ve long operated under, that’s really bad. Open the second one. Catastrophic. And again this is something reasonable people can disagree about, but my view was to conceal at that point given all I had said would be catastrophic. Not just to the Bureau, but beyond the Bureau…
What does “beyond the bureau” mean? Well, the IG report gives us a good idea what “beyond” means here. It means consequences to a Hillary Clinton presidency. This just becomes clearer and clearer as you read the report. This wasn’t just Emo Twitter Comey having a lot of threads in his old duder head, it was a calculated approach by the FBI to protect Clinton’s presidency from claims that the FBI rigged her election. That was the big fear at the time: When Clinton obviously wins, will Trump accept the results, or foment a revolt based on spurious claims of election-rigging. Remember?
We no longer have to wonder if such political concerns influenced the FBI. Former FBI general counsel James A. Baker spelled it out in the IG report: “If she’s been elected president of the United States, then Donald Trump would say, oh my God, these people knew this beforehand and didn’t say anything. This is a rigged system. This is, this, these people intentionally hid that until after the election so they could get her elected and, and thwart me.”
So what we now know, despite the IG report’s claims otherwise, is that politics played a significant role in the FBI’s decision to reveal the renewed investigation into Weiner’s laptop just days before the election. It was a calculated risk. Might it hurt Hillary? Sure, but she can’t lose, so better to protect against potential damage after her slam-dunk election passes through the hoop. Then election night happened. Hoo boy.
Greek Tragedy Strikes Again
In retrospect, it’s remarkable that Comey’s spectacular hubris may have been the hinge that ironically thrust Trump to the presidency. In his effort to appear more than fair, he may have swung an election to the man who would ultimately expose him and destroy his legacy.
Comey and the FBI got a little too cute in 2016. We all knew Trump would lose. They were preparing for the reaction to that. Let’s remember it was the Left that was concerned Trump supporters would shout “not my president” after Clinton broke through the glass ceiling. We weren’t prepared for the other impossible possibility. But here we are.
Comey used his office and the FBI to attempt to create a safe landing for President Hillary Clinton. There would be no allegations that the FBI had held back on damaging information about Carlos Danger and his possession of thousands of Clinton’s emails. They’d get out in front of it. She was going to win anyway — until she didn’t.
Comey released his information about Weiner’s laptop for one main reason: to protect the future Clinton administration. We had a hint of this before. Now we can see it is blatantly true. It’s a disgraceful misuse of his office. The only solace we can take is that karma and irony are alive and well. And Trump’s election has exposed Comey’s perfidy.