FBI Director James Comey doesn’t have too many friends at the moment. The Clinton campaign is furious at his actions in announcing a reopening of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, and the Republican were apoplectic by his actions last July when he exonerated her. Some are wondering if the FBI has gone rogue.
Serves at the pleasure of the President
FBI Director James Comey was appointed by President Obama three years ago and serves at the pleasure of the President. There is a federal statute that the FBI Director can serve only a single ten-year term unless Congress extends that term. In 1993, President Bill Clinton fired then FBI director, William Sessions for ethical reasons halfway through his ten-year term. President Obama, through Press Secretary Josh Earnest, said he remains confident in Mr. Comey’s “integrity and character.”
The Director reports to the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper and is responsible to Attorney General Loretta Lynch for daily operation. Mr. Clapper has not said anything publicly about the release of Mr. Comey’s letter to Congress. However, there are wide spread reports that the Attorney General advised Mr. Comey against issuing the letter informing Congress of new emails that might be “pertinent.”
AG Lynch sidelined
Attorney General Lynch has been sidelined on the Clinton email investigation since she had a meeting with former President Bill Clinton a few days before the FBI interviewed Mrs. Clinton. That meeting raised ethical concerns, and Ms. Lynch has taken a less visible role in recent months. The Department of Justice has made it clear that they feel Mr. Comey’s letter violated Justice Department protocols by disclosing information too early in an investigation.
However, it is not hard to imagine that Mr. Comey would have created perhaps even greater outrage if he had waited until after the election to disclose that the FBI had discovered emails on a computer in the joint custody of Clinton’s closest aide, Huma Abedin. Donald Trump would have cried “coverup, ” and the public would have endlessly questioned if the election results would have been different.
Obama prefers Clinton presidency
The Obama administration, from the President on down would most certainly prefer a Clinton presidency over a Trump presidency. Mr. Comey could hardly have been unaware that his action would not please the President or the Attorney General. It’s hard to imagine that Mr. Comey will continue in his post under Hillary Clinton, or for that matter Donald Trump.
Shades of J.Edgar Hoover
Mr. Comey’s actions have reminded some of the legendary independence of FBI Direction J. Edgar Hoover.
Mr. Comey has at once revived his reputation for confronting commanders in chief and resurrected the spirit of the F.B.I.’s most infamous high priest. Somewhere, tearing wings off flies in a dark star chamber in the sky, J. Edgar Hoover is smiling. The use of secret information to wound public figures was one of his favorite sports. — The New York Times
Surprise release of Marc Rich files
Adding to the Democrats displeasure was the release on Tuesday of FBI files relating to a 2001 probe regarding former President Bill Clinton and his pardon of Marc Rich. The FBI said that it released the records following a routine request under the Freedom of Information Act. Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon tweeted: “Absent an FOIA litigation deadline, this is odd. Will FBI be posting documents on Trump’s housing discrimination in the 70’s.”
While Mr. Comey’s actions have displeased Clinton supporters over the past week, it’s important to remember that he equally annoyed Republicans last July when he declined to recommend prosecution of Mrs. Clinton. His actions have shown that Director Comey is not afraid to take an unpopular course if that’s where his conscience takes him. James Comey may be unpopular, but he is not a rogue.