Inspector General Says Comey Blew It

Jeff Malet/ZUMA

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The 500-page (!) inspector general’s report on the FBI’s conduct during the 2016 presidential campaign will be released in a few hours, but I probably won’t have time to get to it today. Luckily, the New York Times has gotten a sneak peek:

The former F.B.I. director James B. Comey was insubordinate in his handling of the investigation of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election, a critical Justice Department report has concluded, according to officials and others who saw or were briefed on it.

But the report, by the department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, does not challenge the decision not to prosecute Mrs. Clinton. Nor does it conclude that political bias at the F.B.I. influenced that decision, the officials said.

“We found no evidence that the conclusions by department prosecutors were affected by bias or other improper considerations,” the report said, according to one official who read the sentence to The New York Times. “Rather, we concluded that they were based on the prosecutor’s assessment of facts, the law, and past department practice.”

I assume that questioning the decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton is beyond the scope of the IG’s remit. At least, I hope it is. But I don’t think it matters. Puerile chants of “Lock her up!” notwithstanding, it’s abundantly clear that Clinton did nothing seriously wrong. The FBI’s own reports leave no real doubt about that.

Beyond that, I’ll be curious to see if the IG draws the obvious conclusion about Comey’s conduct: it probably wasn’t motivated by crude political bias, but it was motivated by a fear of Republican reprisals. It was clear from the start that congressional Republicans wanted blood, and Comey felt like he had to deliver some to keep the FBI out of their crosshairs. Republicans worked the refs ceaselessly, and it worked out spectacularly for them.

Anyway, now we get to look forward to Donald Trump crowing about this, even though he egged on Comey’s actions and they were responsible for his election victory. I’m not sure I can stand that, so it’s just as well that I won’t be around this afternoon.

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In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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