We have gone from well-established practices that keep the FBI insulated from politics to a political free for all where agents and the director feel free effectively to engage in opposition research.
We had FBI Director James B. Comey’s ridiculously vague letter suggesting there might be something relevant to a case dropped on grounds, not of lack of evidence, but of lack of the requisite intent.
The surprise tweet from a little-used FBI account came about 1 p.m. Tuesday, announcing that the agency had published on its website 129 pages of internal documents related to a years-old investigation into former president Bill Clinton’s pardon of a fugitive Democratic donor.
The seemingly random reminder of one of the darkest chapters of the Clinton presidency a week before the election drew an immediate rebuke from Hillary Clinton’s campaign — with its spokesman tweeting that the FBI’s move was “odd” and asking whether the agency planned to publish unflattering records about Republican candidate Donald Trump.
Where’s the outrage? Is the person who put that out there going to get fired?
But wait, we’re not done. We also learn the FBI was looking into the Clinton Foundation, but did not press forward. Now we learn the FBI is investigating Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.), a Senate candidate. “The FBI is investigating an alleged illegal donation scheme involving a wealthy Saudi family that supports Democratic Florida Senate candidate Patrick Murphy,” The Hill reports. “The Hill has found no evidence that Murphy himself was involved in, or even aware of, the alleged scheme. The Murphy campaign declined to say whether the candidate is aware of the FBI probe, but the campaign said neither Murphy nor his campaign staff is being investigated.”
But when it came to Donald Trump, Comey didn’t want to interfere in the election: “Some Democrats have also accused Comey of hypocrisy, citing reports this week that the director argued internally last month that it was too close to Election Day to publicly accuse Russia of meddling in the race. Top intelligence officials issued a rare statement implicating Russia in hacks of Democratic officials and party offices, but Clinton and aides have gone further, alleging that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to tilt the race in Trump’s favor.”
Apparently it’s now fair game to spill the beans on investigations, smearing those involved and raising the specter of wrongdoing. This is outrageous, a corruption of the FBI or a lack of self-discipline so severe as to question its competency and integrity.
President Obama was too gentle when he said, “I do think that there is a norm that when there are investigations we don’t operate on innuendo, and we don’t operate on incomplete information, and we don’t operate on leaks.” Obama continued: “We operate based on concrete decisions that are made. When this was investigated thoroughly last time, the conclusion of the FBI, the conclusion of the Justice Department, the conclusion of repeated congressional investigations, was she had made some mistakes but that there wasn’t anything there that was prosecutable.” Granted Obama doesn’t want to further inflame the situation but a little outrage is certainly appropriate. Obama declined to speak directly about Comey but he could at least have said something along these lines: “I expect Director Comey to follow historical practice and take pains to keep the FBI out of the election. Failure to do so raises questions about his fairness and the Bureau’s impartiality. Anyone leaking information should be punished.”
Clinton will likely win, but that’s beside the point. If Obama doesn’t do it first, she should add to her to-do list for the first day in office: Replace FBI director.