FBI Director James B. Comey listens to a question from a reporter during a media conference in San Francisco, Calif., Feb. 27, 2014. 
Photo by Ben Margot/AP

FBI’s James Comey still has some explaining to do

The political world was jolted last night with new, unverified allegations about Donald Trump and Russia, which both the president-elect and President Obama have been made aware of. We don’t yet know which, if any, of the allegations are true.

We do know, however, that FBI Director James Comey has been aware of the allegations for quite a while, and with this in mind, The Guardian reported on a notable exchange on Capitol Hill yesterday.
The director of the FBI – whose high-profile interventions in the 2016 election are widely seen to have helped tip the balance of against Hillary Clinton – has refused to say if the bureau is investigating possible connections between associates of President-elect Donald Trump and Russia.

Testifying before the Senate intelligence committee on Tuesday, James Comey said he could not comment in public on a possible investigation into allegations of links between Russia and the Trump campaign.

“I would never comment on investigations – whether we have one or not – in an open forum like this, so I really can’t answer one way or another,” said Comey, at a hearing into the US intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia intervened in the election to benefit Trump.
Right. We certainly wouldn’t want the FBI director to comment on the status of a possible, politically sensitive investigation in public. Heaven forbid.

Look, this isn’t complicated. As recently as late October, James Comey was aware of allegations that Russia intervened in the American presidential election through an illegal espionage operation and might also have damaging, compromising information on Donald Trump. At the exact same time, Comey believed Anthony Weiner’s laptop might have emails from Hillary Clinton.

The FBI director, just days before Election Day and with early voting already underway across much of the country, found it necessary to share with Americans damaging information about the Democratic candidate, but not the Republican candidate.

As it turns out, of course, the damaging information about Clinton was benign: the emails on Weiner’s laptop were meaningless, and the political world’s hair-on-fire freak-out – which very likely cost Clinton the election – was spectacularly misplaced. The damaging information related to Trump may yet have merit.

But the point remains the same: Comey went public with provocative information about one candidate, not both.

That’s a decision that warrants a thorough explanation.


FBI and James Comey

FBI's James Comey still has some explaining to do