How Trump should handle Comey and the FBI

Michael Goodwin,

All hail Hillary Clinton. A presidential candidate with no rationale other than ambition, she is pulling off the neat trick of making herself a martyr in defeat. If that’s her consolation prize, she’s welcome to it.

Clinton World sees vindication in the Justice Department announcement that its inspector general would investigate the actions of FBI Director James Comey and others during their Clinton probe. One of Clinton’s fanboys stopped just short of calling Comey a Republican stooge who cost her the election, while another says the hacking of the emails of John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee cast doubt on the legitimacy of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Their refusal to face the fact that Clinton lost fair and square is their problem. For the rest of us, the Justice Department announcement ­offers both bad and good news.

On the downside, it means 2016 isn’t entirely dead and buried and that we’re going to relive some of the lowlights. The upside is that we might finally get a full reckoning of Clinton corruption.

That’s because the Justice announcement opens the door to a review not only of Comey’s actions, but also of the Clintons’. Among other wonders, we could learn the whole truth about that tarmac meeting between Bill Clinton and Attorney General Loretta Lynch and whether Hillary, as secretary of state, sold favors to donors of the Clinton Foundation.

For Trump, the new probe is another poison pill from the Obama White House. In addition to rescuing Clinton’s reputation, it aims to give the president-elect a choice among bad options.

One option is for him to say nothing that would lead to charges of interference because inspectors general have wide agency latitude and report to Congress as well. Trump would then be in the position of possibly having his own Justice Department do the Democrats’ dirty work of undercutting his victory.

Still, staying above the fray does carry one advantage for Trump. Comey is a tough infighter who wouldn’t go quietly as Clinton agents try to shred his reputation, so by defending himself and the FBI, Comey would also be defending the legitimacy of Trump’s triumph.

comeyfbi_small-2 How Trump should handle Comey and the FBI Opinion

Another option for Trump is to work through his Justice appointees to demand that the investigation be expanded to include Clinton’s ­actions. Although attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions says he would recuse himself from a Clinton probe, there is nothing to stop Trump from asking a deputy attorney general to direct the inspector general to take a wider look, including into whether Clinton should have been indicted. ­Republicans in Congress also have the right to demand a wider probe that could find new evidence.

Either way, the situation is something of a hot potato for Trump. He signaled soon after the election that, campaign promises notwithstanding, he would not appoint a special prosecutor, saying, “I don’t want to hurt the Clintons.”

He is right to avoid the snare of a special prosecutor, but now the wheels are already turning without him. At this point, the doubts and unanswered questions surrounding the Clinton probe can only be resolved by thoroughly reviewing ­everything, including both the evidence against her and the conduct of the FBI.
Trump is right to avoid the snare of a special prosecutor, but now the wheels are already turning without him.
 
After all, we shouldn’t forget why she was under investigation in the first place. It’s because she, as secretary of state, used a homebrew server that risked national-security secrets, withheld thousands of ­emails from freedom-of-information discovery, deleted thousands of others and scrubbed her server with BleachBit. And she lied repeatedly to the public about what she did and why.

Comey’s decision not to recommend charges remains suspect because of the slipshod investigation, which included the failure to empanel a grand jury and issue subpoenas. Immunity agreements with five Clinton aides also were distorted by sweetheart terms that saw the FBI agree to destroy laptops it inspected. Usually it’s the suspects who destroy evidence.

The stink of favoritism, of course, started with President Obama, who declared Clinton innocent while the investigation was supposedly in full swing. It ended with Comey’s finding that she was guilty of “extreme carelessness” but that her conduct did not meet the legal standard of “gross negligence,” which smacks of a semantic trick and a political dodge.

Most Americans are ready to move on from the election and the era of Clinton corruption. But thanks to Obama’s poison pill and the Dems’ aim to undermine Trump, that’s not possible.

We’re being forced to dive back into the swamp, so let’s really drain it this time.