The FBI, operating under the Department of Justice (DOJ), has very strict rules about commenting publicly on open investigations: Don’t do it. They also, under Department of Justice policy, are not permitted to discuss open investigations on politicians within 60 days of an election, reports CNN today. FBI Director James Comey did that anyway yesterday, despite reportedly being warned not to by top DOJ officials ahead of his letter to Congress, according to the Washington Post today.
The New Yorker also reports today that four years ago, Attorney General at the time Eric Holder wrote a memo to the Department of Justice employees that outlined procedures and practices for all employees when it came to handling cases that were political in nature.
Holder said in his two-page memo, cases of this nature “must be particularly sensitive to safeguarding Department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality, and non partisanship” and that any concerns regarding the “timing of charges or overt investigative steps near the time of a primary or general election” needed to be addressed with the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division.
There is also a longstanding rule of Department of Justice procedures that no public announcements be made on any ongoing investigation, and that those that are political in nature are especially not be discussed publicly within 60 days of an election. Some are calling it the Comey scandal now, not the Clinton scandal as it started as yesterday.
This because yesterday, FBI Director James Comey broke all of these aforementioned DOJ rules and broke from Department of Justice policy to go independently to Congress with an ambiguous letter that included the words “Hillary Clinton” and “email.” It led to a national freak out.
The Washington Post reports today that the Department of Justice not only knew about the letter before he went public but had also reportedly warned James Comey not to do it. But he did it anyway.
The Washington Post says that a senior DOJ source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, reportedly warned James Comey that going to Congress with this letter was not consistent with DOJ policy. When the DOJ was reportedly alerted about Comey’s intent, they said, “We don’t comment on an ongoing investigation. And we don’t take steps that will be viewed as influencing an election.” According to the Washington Post, the official also said the following.
“Director Comey understood our position. He heard it from Justice leadership. It was conveyed to the FBI, and Comey made an independent decision to alert the Hill. He is operating independently of the Justice Department. And he knows it.”
The New Yorker reports that when the Public Integrity Section of the DOJ was asked if FBI Director James Comey followed DOJ guidelines, their response was, “We have no comment on that matter.” But CNN says Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates did not agree with James Comey’s decision to take the letter public and that those disagreements “were conveyed to James Comey by Justice Department staff.”
One administration official told The New Yorker that James Comey felt “obliged” to break with policy, feeling that the impending election “created a compelling need to inform the public.”
Attorney General Loretta Lynch is reportedly “studying the situation” according to The New Yorker. But, as the Inquisitr previously reported, a complaint has already been filed with the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility against FBI Director James Comey for suspected violations of the Hatch Act, which expressly forbids federal employees to interfere in any way with an election.
It’s being cited as an abuse of power by Matthew Miller, a Democrat who has worked in public affairs at the DOJ under then Attorney General Eric Holder. He told The New Yorker that he recalls a situation where the DOJ waited until after an election to send out subpoenas. He also told The New Yorker the following.
“The public always assumes when it hears that the F.B.I. is investigating that there must be something amiss. But there may be nothing here at all. That’s why you don’t do this. Comey is an outstanding law enforcement officer, but he mistakenly thinks that the rules don’t apply to him. But there are a host of reasons for these rules.”
Director Comey was very vague in his letter to Congress, suggesting, but not saying outright, that he was looking into Hillary Clinton’s emails again, but not giving a real reason why. He spoke vaguely of an “unrelated investigation” which was later discovered to be the investigation against disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who is estranged from his wife Huma Abedin, a Clinton aide.
The Washington Post says Comey was hoping to “supplement the record.” The Washington Post also says, “Present and former DOJ officials said they were shocked by Comey’s actions.”
Matt Miller also called it stunning and went on a several tweet rant yesterday calling Comey’s actions an abuse of power.
Miller also reportedly told The Washington Post this.
“Jim Comey forgets he works for the attorney general. I think he has a lot of regard for his own integrity. And he lets that regard cross lines into self-righteousness. He has come to believe that his own ethics are so superior to anyone else’s that his judgment can replace existing rules and regulations. That is a dangerous belief for an FBI director to have.”
Another former senior DOJ official also reportedly told The Washington Post the following.
“His statement has, quite predictably, been blown out of proportion and twisted into a signifier of some momentous discovery, when in fact, the new emails may turn out to reveal nothing new at all. That’s not fair to Clinton.”
An expert on DOJ ethics and professor of NYU School of Law also told The Washington Post he was “disturbed by Comey’s conduct during this election season.”
FBI Director James Comey is in hot water on both sides of the aisle, regardless of what top GOP officials are tweeting in celebration today. Many are tweeting a celebration that Hillary Clinton is under investigation again, but this has not yet even been established.
Speaker Paul Ryan has gone so far as to ask that Hillary Clinton’s security briefings be suspended for the duration of the campaign based on one letter by the FBI director, a letter that did not say Hillary Clinton was under investigation. This is precisely why the DOJ has these policies in the first place to avoid hyped up national freak outs over little information.
As a result, FBI Director James Comey is being strongly urged to provide more information. Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid said the following.
“The public deserves more transparency from the FBI. Director Comey has a responsibility to the public to provide more information than a three-paragraph letter so that the public can base their opinions on facts, not speculation.”
Watch this previous interview of FBI Director James Comey when he is asked about any possible investigation into Trump ally Roger Stone. He clams up, saying he can’t discuss open investigations. So he follows the rules when it comes to the Trump allies, but not, Hillary Clinton?
And, CNN reports that Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is not rushing to indict as Paul Ryan appears to be and instead has asked FBI Director James Comey for more information. He urged Comey strongly in a letter to give the public more information. James Comey has been decidedly quiet since he went public with this letter, that ultimately led to a national freak out.
However, a complaint has already been filed against James Comey with the Department of Justice, at least one that we know of as the Inquisitr reported today. This is a story that has been unfolding slowly since yesterday afternoon, with more information coming to light by the hour it seems.
Stay tuned with the Inquisitr for further updates on this developing story. Do you think James Comey should be sanctioned for this? Do you think he will release more information?
[Featured Image by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Images]