In July, FBI Director James Comey shattered his near-sterling reputation by letting Hillary Clinton off the hook. After delivering a meticulous case against Clinton for setting up a private server and allowing classified information to flow into it illegally, he inexplicably decided not to recommend indictment by the Department of Justice.
This followed hard on President Obama announcing he would begin publicly campaigning for Clinton, Attorney General Loretta Lynch meeting secretly with Bill Clinton at a tarmac in Arizona and the FBI performing a peremptory interview with Hillary Clinton — after which Clinton attended a late showing of “Hamilton.” Minutes before Obama took the stage with Clinton, allowing her to use a lectern with the presidential seal, Comey announced there would be no indictment.
Comey’s decision set off jubilation in Democratic circles, and rage in conservative ones. I wrote for National Review, “This sort of open moral debauchery would have made Boss Tweed blush.”
Then came last Friday.
Comey announced, in a letter to lawmakers, that new emails had been found on a device in Anthony Weiner’s possession — no, not that device — and that they could shed new light on the Clinton private server investigation. All hell broke loose. Democrats immediately labeled Comey faithless, a political hack manipulated by the Russians. Republicans said that all was forgiven and that Comey had finally correct his original error.
In reality, Comey merely committed the cardinal moral sin: He valued his institution over doing the right thing. He did it in July, and he did it again in October.
In July, Comey decided that he didn’t want the FBI dragged into the presidential election. To that end, he stepped beyond the normal powers delegated to the director of the FBI and publicly requested that the DOJ not intervene with Clinton. His goal: to protect the FBI from accusations by the left of politicization. And just to demonstrate how apolitical the FBI supposedly was, Comey listed all the findings of the investigation.
The result: The left was overjoyed, and the right thought the FBI rigged.
Now, Comey wants to ensure that the FBI isn’t accused of being a Hillary Clinton tool. He knew as soon as he heard about Weiner’s device that he’d eventually have to tell the public about the re-initiation of the Clinton investigation, and he feared that if he waited until after the election he’d expose the FBI to a thousand Hillary-controlled-the-FBI allegations. So he came forward.
The result: The right was overjoyed, and the left thought the FBI rigged.
Whenever someone seeks to protect an institution rather than telling the truth, the institution pays the price. When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell attempted to soft-pedal the abuse of women in the NFL in order to “protect the shield,” he only ended up destroying the brand. When Chief Justice John Roberts voted to uphold Obamacare in the name of protecting the reputation of the Supreme Court, he only ended up destroying that reputation. Comey has destroyed the reputation of the FBI.
The only solution to the complete undermining of institutions lies in the honesty of those who head those institutions. At least Comey came clean this time. For Comey and the FBI, though, it’s too little, too late.