The NY Times released a story yesterday that shines a big light on FBI Director, James Comey. It provides more fodder for Hillary Clinton supporters to blame him for her loss to Donald Trump and will likely set off an internal investigation because of the leaks provided to NY Times reporters.
The report isn’t necessarily kind to Hillary Clinton so her supporters shouldn’t thump their chests too much. One aspect of the investigation still revolves around intent:
They knew it would not be enough to prove that Mrs. Clinton was sloppy or careless. To bring charges, they needed evidence that she knowingly received classified information or set up her server for that purpose.
Of course, we do know that Hillary Clinton received emails with classified information despite saying she never did. Comey gave cover to Hillary, saying she wasn’t “sophisticated” enough to understand some of the markings. In other words, “She was too stupid to know.”
There is a small paragraph buried in the report that is quite eye-opening because it throws some cold water on the idea that the Obama administration engaged in dirty tricks using the intelligence community as their resource.
Mr. Comey made those decisions with the supreme self-confidence of a former prosecutor who, in a distinguished career, has cultivated a reputation for what supporters see as fierce independence, and detractors view as media-savvy arrogance.
The Times found that this go-it-alone strategy was shaped by his distrust of senior officials at the Justice Department, who he and other F.B.I. officials felt had provided Mrs. Clinton with political cover. The distrust extended to his boss, Loretta E. Lynch, the attorney general, who Mr. Comey believed had subtly helped downplay the Clinton investigation.
His misgivings were only fueled by the discovery last year of a document written by a Democratic operative that seemed — at least in the eyes of Mr. Comey and his aides — to raise questions about her independence. In a bizarre example of how tangled the F.B.I. investigations had become, the document had been stolen by Russian hackers.
The examination also showed that at one point, President Obama himself was reluctant to disclose the suspected Russian influence in the election last summer, for fear his administration would be accused of meddling.
The point about President Obama blows a big hole in the entire “Obama spied on Trump” narrative people are using to lend weight to President Trump’s absurd Twitter accusation from March about Obama “tapping” his phones in Trump Tower.
Remember, President Obama didn’t confirm Russian involvement in the election through hacking of the DNC until December 2016. If the supposed intent of the Obama administration was to harm the incoming Trump administration through the use of the intelligence community, wouldn’t it have been far more damaging to disclose the Russian influence before the election?
If anything, Hillary’s people are going to be furious President Obama didn’t “meddle” with a bullhorn to help her campaign. In fact, President Obama stopped Comey from acknowledging the investigation into Russian influence was taking place:
As the F.B.I. plunged deeper into that investigation, Mr. Comey became convinced that the American public needed to understand the scope of the foreign interference and be “inoculated” against it.
He proposed writing an op-ed piece to appear in The Times or The Washington Post, and showed a draft that his staff prepared to give to the White House. The article did not mention the investigation of the Trump campaign, but it laid out how Russia was trying to undermine the vote.
The president replied that going public would play right into Russia’s hands by sowing doubts about the election’s legitimacy. Mr. Trump was already saying the system was “rigged,” and if the Obama administration accused Russia of interference, Republicans could accuse the White House of stoking national security fears to help Mrs. Clinton.
Mr. Comey argued that he had unique credibility to call out the Russians and avoid that criticism. After all, he said, he had just chastised Mrs. Clinton at his news conference.
The White House decided it would be odd for Mr. Comey to make such an accusation on his own, in a newspaper, before American security agencies had produced a formal intelligence assessment. The op-ed idea was quashed. When the administration had something to say about Russia, it would do so in one voice, through the proper channels.
It bears repeating: The Obama administration could have done far more harm to the Trump campaign in the summer and fall of 2016 if they chose to do so. It didn’t require them to unmask people in classified reports, and while Susan Rice is clearly not the brightest of bulbs, it seems likely the consternation over her unmasking requests is likely overblown.