Watch this brief clip of an interview with President Barack Obama from NowThisNews and decide for yourself if he’s, as a Daily Beast headline suggests, “smacking down” FBI Director James Comey for his letter to members of Congress that his agency was investigating newly discovered emails connected to Hillary Clinton’s private email servers:
Granted, Obama is not one to allow anger or frustration to creep into his pedantic tone except in very particularly calculated cases (being upset over mass shootings, for example). Even so, his response here seems relatively mild and doesn’t really justify the Daily Beast’s “Look who is destroying somebody else!” headlines. I wouldn’t even describe him as “sharply” criticizing Comey as The New York Times does.
It’s clear Obama doesn’t agree with the decision but that’s about it. He says about the timing of Comey’s letter, “There is a norm that when we are investigating, we don’t operate on innuendo. We don’t operate on incomplete information. We don’t operate on leaks.”
Yeah, I would love Politifact to go through eight years of either The Washington Post or The New York Times (or both) and count the number of unnamed sources from somewhere within the Department of Justice who have talked about an investigation or case (here’s one that took me about 30 seconds to find via Google).
And, of course, the further irony here is that Comey’s letter makes it clear he has no plans to “operate” on innuendo, incomplete information, or leaks. “Leaks” is a particularly odd choice because this whole part of the scandal is because Comey went public about the state of the investigation, probably because of the administration’s problems with containing leaks.
This brief clip of the interview also ends oddly, with Obama saying, “When this was investigated thoroughly the last time, the conclusion of the FBI, the conclusion of the Justice Department, the conclusion of repeated congressional investigations, was that she had made some mistakes, but that there wasn’t a thing there that was prosecutable.”
Er … yes … but … the entire point of Comey’s letter is to let Congress know that after all those investigations and those conclusions, they discovered additional information that may end up being relevant. One does not have to agree or disagree with the investigation’s conclusion to understand precisely why they now have to take a second look.
I do think there is a genuine, honest concern about the FBI in general talking publicly about the state of investigations. But the transparency here is pretty much justified by exactly how relentlessly political the entire fight has become. And Clinton didn’t just make a mistake on how she handled her emails. Her responses have been misleading every step of the way. I really don’t think Comey had the option of keeping his mouth shut that there would have to be additional investigations.
I am absolutely no fan of Comey’s, whatsoever. He is completely dismissive (and insulting, even) in regards to the needs of citizens to protect their data from both governments and private hackers. But this is a mess entirely of Clinton’s making, not Comey’s, not the GOP cashing in on it politically, and not the media pursuing page views off it (don’t judge me!).