Bush Admin Just Got Involved In FBI’s Probe Into Clinton’s Emails And It’s Game Changing (IMAGE)
When you imagine partisan government overreach, it’s hard not to think about the Bush administration, especially when it comes to ignoring the law to accomplish their goals (think “enhanced interrogation”). When they tell the FBI they’ve gone too far, well, the FBI had better listen.
In an Op-Ed in the New York Times, Richard Painter, George W. Bush’s White House ethics lawyer from 2005 – 2007, wrote about his problems with the FBI’s latest investigation of Hillary Clinton and, most surprisingly, he’s taking legal action to stop it. According to Painter, it’s an abuse of power.
(I)t would be highly improper, and an abuse of power, for the F.B.I. to conduct such an investigation in the public eye, particularly on the eve of the election. It would be an abuse of power for the director of the F.B.I., absent compelling circumstances, to notify members of Congress from the party opposing the candidate that the candidate or his associates were under investigation. It would be an abuse of power if F.B.I. agents went so far as to obtain a search warrant and raid the candidate’s office tower, hauling out boxes of documents and computers in front of television cameras.
The F.B.I.’s job is to investigate, not to influence the outcome of an election.
Beyond that, Painter says it’s against the law, the Hatch Act in particular, to try to influence the outcome of an election. On that basis, Painter is taking action.
George W. Bush’s ethics lawyer filed a complaint yesterday against the FBI for violations of the Hatch Act. Via NYT: https://t.co/cXbs2xFYxj pic.twitter.com/3FbVRCPTyi
— Nick Gourevitch (@nickgourevitch) October 30, 2016
And that is why, on Saturday, I filed a complaint against the F.B.I. with the Office of Special Counsel, which investigates Hatch Act violations, and with the Office of Government Ethics. I have spent much of my career working on government ethics and lawyers’ ethics, including two and a half years as the chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, and I never thought that the F.B.I. could be dragged into a political circus surrounding one of its investigations. Until this week.
The Hatch Act specifically prohibits government officials, with the exception of the President, the Vice President and a handful of others from engaging in political activities. Painter is particularly concerned about the fact that FBI director James Comey has made comments about Hillary Clinton in the past, such as his statement that Clinton’s handling of classified information was “extremely careless.”
What seems “extremely careless” is the way Comey has handled this investigation.
On Friday, the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, sent to members of Congress a letter updating them on developments in the agency’s investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s emails, an investigation which supposedly was closed months ago. This letter, which was quickly posted on the internet, made highly unusual public statements about an F.B.I. investigation concerning a candidate in the election. The letter was sent in violation of a longstanding Justice Department policy of not discussing specifics about pending investigations with others, including members of Congress. According to some news reports on Saturday, the letter was sent before the F.B.I. had even obtained the search warrant that it needed to look at the newly discovered emails. And it was sent days before the election, at a time when many Americans are already voting.
Painter notes that Comey’s intent doesn’t matter. He violated the rules simply by taking the actions that could influence the election and frankly, there was no reason for Comey to release those emails, which aren’t even directly tied to Clinton, now.
He finished his op-ed with a dire warning to Americans:
This is no trivial matter. We cannot allow F.B.I. or Justice Department officials to unnecessarily publicize pending investigations concerning candidates of either party while an election is underway. That is an abuse of power. Allowing such a precedent to stand will invite more, and even worse, abuses of power in the future.
Painter isn’t alone in sharing this concern about Comey. Before these latest emails, Politico published an op-ed comparing Comey to the notorious J. Edgar Hoover, who was the first FBI director, who was perhaps best known for using questionable tactics to bring down dissidents.
Since taking office, Comey has repeatedly injected his views into executive branch deliberations on issues such as sentencing reform and the roots of violence against police officers. He has undermined key presidential priorities such as crafting a coherent federal policy on cybersecurity and encryption. Most recently, he shattered longstanding precedent by publicly offering his own conclusions about the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email. (The FBI did not respond to a request for comment.)
It would be difficult to argue—in terms of temperament, manner, or motivation—that he is, or ever will be, the next J. Edgar Hoover. But increasing numbers of critics believe he has displayed a worrying disregard for the rules and norms that have constrained all but one of his predecessors, straying with blithe confidence—and with increasing regularity—across the fine line that separates independence from unaccountability.
If nothing else, this election year has shown us something completely unprecedented and completely undemocratic. It’s not just that Comey is influencing the election, he’s using emails stolen by a foreign government to influence an election. As Donald Trump says, this is “worse than Watergate,” just not in the way Trump thinks.