One could say it was all the fault of Loretta Lynch.
As Attorney General, she should have known better than to have a private meeting – no matter how brief – with Bill Clinton when she was in the middle of overseeing an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.
But she blew it, and had to pass the buck to FBI Director James Comey.
Under normal circumstances, Comey would have wrapped up the investigation and handed everything over to Lynch, along with a recommendation, for her to make the final decision. But now, Comey was thrust into the limelight. He, in effect, would have to make the final decision as to whether or not to bring any indictments on Clinton.
As you no doubt recall, the Republicans were foaming at the mouth for something – anything – that would confirm their belief that Clinton was Evil Incarnate. They’d hated her since she became First Lady in 1992. How dare she have an independent career! How dare she have political opinions! How dare she get involved in the administration! Comey had to have known this, and needed to come up with something to satisfy their blood lust.
On the other hand, there really wasn’t anything in the e-mails to justify an indictment. While there were a few more than could be attributed to simple accident, there weren’t enough to show a pattern of deliberate misuse. It came down to different approaches to security between the CIA and the State Department.
So Comey did his best to tread a very fine line.
He announced that although Clinton’s use of a private server was irresponsible and foolish, it was a case of “no harm, no foul.” Any further action would be a waste of time and resources. There would be no indictment.
The Republicans ripped him a new one, but they couldn’t do anything about it.
In October, as Election Day was nearing, some additional Clinton e-mails turned up in a completely unrelated FBI investigation. The news hadn’t yet gone to the press yet, but as we found out later, they came to light in the FBI’s New York office – which just so happened to be filled with pro-Trump people (to the effect that it was practically a campaign office).
It looked like the information about the new e-mails was going to leak out at any moment, so to head things off and cover his ass (knowing what had happened to him just a few months back), Comey sent a memo to eight key Congressmen. The memo was basically a heads-up. “We’ve found some more Clinton e-mails. They probably are just copies and won’t give us any new information, but I just wanted to let you know on the remote chance that something does come of it.”
It was all very innocuous and guarded. No one should have made a fuss over it. Unfortunately, one of the recipients – by virtue of his chairmanship of the House Investigations Committee – was Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). Chaffetz has a nearly pathological hatred of Hillary Clinton. He’s the one who said that should she be elected, he had enough “material” to tie her up with investigations for at least two years, and would start impeachment proceedings on her first day in office
With less than two weeks to go before the election, Chaffetz tweeted that the FBI was reopening the investigation. The crap hit the fan. Pretty much everyone concedes that this announcement is what cost Clinton the election. Actually, the FBI wasn’t “reopening” the investigation, but now they had to rush through an examination of the new e-mails. A few days before the election, Comey announced that all the e-mails were copies of what they’d already seen, but the damage had been done. Not just to Clinton, but to Comey’s reputation.
I cannot really praise Comey, but neither can I condemn him. Circumstances put him in a nearly impossible spot. It’s easy to say he should have done better, but I don’t think I could have.
And to be fired in such a manner – he found out about it by seeing it on a TV monitor as he was addressing agents at the FBI’s Los Angeles office, and the “formal” firing was done by having someone read him Trump’s letter over the phone.
Whatever his faults, he didn’t deserve that.