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FBI: why James Comey was right to disclose the investigation

The criticisms which are being made of FBI Director James Comey for disclosing the latest investigation do not bear scrutiny. The FBI did not violate the terms of the Hatch Act and far from acting contrary to due process the FBI has been careful to follow it.

Hillary Clinton’s response to the revelation that the FBI is investigating the emails on Anthony Weiner’s computer is all that might be expected from someone of her personality.

Whilst a secure and confident person would welcome the FBI investigation, say they had nothing to  hide, and offer assistance, Hillary Clinton’s reaction and that of her campaign team is to release the attack dogs.

Thus over the last two days we have seen an obviously orchestrated storm of criticism of FBI Director James Comey, with claims that he is trying to influence the election, is breaching protocols, and may even have broken federal law, by informing Congress of the new investigation before the election has taken place.

Is there any basis to this?

I am not an expert on the Hatch Act 1939, the federal law which is being spoken about.  However a brief perusal of the legal guidance provided to federal employees by the US Office of Special Counsel concerning its provisions hardly seems to bear out the claims Comey has violated it.

It seems to me that Comey is simply doing his job.  The FBI has been provided with sufficient information to investigate a case.  Comey has simply informed Congress of the fact, as apparently – given the political sensitivity of the case – he had previously promised to do.  It was not Comey’s doing that this information only came to light recently, on the eve of the election, and he is not to blame for that. 

I cannot see how by doing his job and telling Congress about it Comey is doing any of the things the legal guidance says the Hatch Act 1939 prohibits.

What of the claim that because of the proximity of the election Comey and the FBI should have kept the fact of the investigation secret until the election was out of the way?  Apparently that was the advice to Comey of the Attorney General Loretta Lynch.  Is Comey to blame because he did not heed Loretta Lynch’s advice, which seems incidentally to have been political advice rather than legal advice?

Two points can be make about this.

Firstly, in a democracy the people in an election should be given all the available information about a candidate necessary for them to cast an informed vote.  The fact that one of the candidates is under potential investigation by the police is such information. 

No one is saying that the FBI should keep such an investigation secret at any other time, and for that reason it is wrong that it should be kept secret now.  The fact that an election is underway is not a reason for secrecy; in a democracy it is a reason for openness.  I find it strange that there are some people who don’t seem to understand this.

What would of course be fully appropriate would be for Hillary Clinton’s supporters to remind everyone of the presumption of innocence, to which Hillary Clinton is obviously entitled since no charges have been brought against her, and because she was cleared when the email question was investigated previously.  I find it  strange that Hillary Clinton’s supporters don’t talk about this issue in this way.

Secondly, to ask the FBI to keep an investigation like this secret because an election is underway is to ask the impossible.

To think that an FBI investigation of this sort can be kept secret for long in the Washington village is naive.  Besides the FBI needed to obtain a warrant from a court to look at the emails.  That is a legal process which in a democracy is supposed to be carried out openly.  A search warrant is after all a form of court order, which is an official document of public record.  Had Comey tried to keep the investigation secret rumours about it would have quickly spread, and it would have been only a short time before the existence of the court order came to light.  At that point there would have been an even bigger scandal than the one we have now.

In truth what Comey’s critics are really saying is that he should have sat on the investigation and prevented it going forward until after the election.

That of course violates the principle that the police investigate a crime when they learn of it.  Again I find it strange that some of the people who have been talking loudly about Comey’s supposed breach of due process seem unaware of this fact.

Ultimately it seems to me that Hillary Clinton and her supporters are suffering from a bad case of BSE (‘Blame Someone Else’).

The reason an investigation is underway is not because James Comey is trying to swing the election to Donald Trump.  On the contrary in July he bent over backwards to try to help Hillary Clinton – supposedly to the dismay of many people who work for FBI – gaining in the process the lavish praise of Hillary Clinton’s supporters, who praised him to the skies for his staunchness and integrity.

The reason an investigation is underway is because Hillary Clinton broke the terms of a federal law by holding classified material on a private server. 

As I said in my previous article, most people who know about such things think Hillary Clinton was very privileged or very lucky not to have been prosecuted for it when this when she was investigated for this before. 

If she now risks being investigated again less than 2 weeks before the election because new evidence – which should have been disclosed previously – has only now come to light, then she has no-one to blame but herself. 

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Alexander Mercouris
Editor-in-Chief atThe Duran.

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