Tuesday, May 9, 2017

To disclose or not disclose

FBI Director James Comey has, to put it mildly, been in the news a lot lately. Last week he was before a Senate hearing saying the idea that the release of his letter hinting at more Hillary Clinton email investigation affected the outcome of the election would make him feel mildly nauseous. Sen. Diane Feinstein was quick to point out that while he felt he had to disclose a tentative investigation on Clinton he was concealing the had an active investigation on Trump.

I wish that in addition to pointing that out she had asked him why the discrepancy.

Senator Richard Blumenthal caught and expressed an important point about that active investigation into Trump and Russia. No matter what Comey’s investigation uncovers he must get permission from the Attorney General (or his deputy) before sharing the results of that investigation with Congress. And both the AG and Deputy AG are nasty guy appointees.

Translation: Comey, perhaps accidentally, stated the reason for the need for an independent investigation.

A big issue about the nasty guy and Russia is whether he has been compromised. That’s a polite way of wondering whether Putin somehow has a way of blackmailing him. Does the nasty guy owe money to Russian banks that would be called in the moment he does something Putin doesn’t like? Did the Russians hack his email and now know a dirty secret? Does Putin have a chain he can yank?

This morning Melissa McEwan of Shakesville made an important point. We know Clinton’s emails were hacked and Russians were using what they found to discredit her and influence the election. It is likely that the nasty guy was hacked too, though harmful details weren’t divulged.

But looking at the GOP obfuscation when Sally Yates went before a Senate hearing makes McEwan wonder. How many senators have been hacked? How many of them are compromised? A couple of those senators, Lindsay Graham and Ted Cruz, were candidates for president. Were they hacked as Clinton was and are they now compromised?

Which means the leaders of the Senate investigation, the ones trying to find out if the nasty guy is compromised, may also be compromised.

FBI policy is that ongoing investigations are not to be disclosed. Comey should not have agonized whether to do so or not. So why did he?

Paul Waldman of The Washington Post discusses Comey’s letter to Congress just before the election that strongly swung the outcome in the nasty guy’s favor. Comey may not have acted out of malice against Clinton. He may have simply been a coward.
If he followed FBI policy, once they learned about it Republicans would accuse him of covering for Clinton. If she became president (which at the time everyone assumed would happen), they’d attack him in the media, they’d haul him before Congress, they’d curse his name. That’s the catastrophe he apparently feared.

Which brings us to this afternoon. Pardon me while I turn off the irony alarm. The nasty guy fired Comey. The “official” reason is because Comey mishandled the Clinton email mess. Or perhaps he mishandled his hearing before Congress where he talked about the Clinton email mess.

So Comey was afraid the GOP would skewer him if he didn’t disclose the latest twist in the Clinton email saga. And then his boss skewered him because he did disclose. Or something like that.

But there is a telling detail. The dismissal letter, signed by the nasty guy, contains the phrase:
While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation...
Which makes me – and the entire Democratic Party – think he protests too much. That the firing was not at all about Clinton’s emails. That the real reason is that Comey’s investigation was getting just a bit too close to the truth about the nasty guy and Russia.

Ever since Comey pulled that stunt back in October I’ve had no respect for the man. But until today his investigation into the nasty guy was the only one not mired in partisan gridlock (even if he wouldn’t have been able to reveal what he found).

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