The Attorney General Loretta Lynch Comey problem requires a response, but what that response can be – or should be – is the question. Should FBI Director Comey be fired by his boss, Loretta Lynch, or forced to resign by President Obama? Or is it too late to do anything about it before the 2016 Election Day?
Yesterday, FBI Director Comey bowed to partisan pressure and released a vague and inappropriate letter to Congress. What you need to know: pic.twitter.com/E5Q8Mgp0h0— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 30, 2016
It seems fairly clear to any objective observer that James Comey has misused his position as FBI director in order to inject himself – and his political views – into the 2016 presidential election process. This is not only a violation of long-standing traditions in government in general – and in the FBI in particular – it is almost certainly a violation of federal law.
The Issue for Lynch
Comey doesn’t even have the excuse of having found actual evidence in Anthony Weiner’s emails implicating Hillary Clinton of some real crime or obscure regulatory infraction. As reported by the Associated Press, the FBI and its current director have freely acknowledged they haven’t even looked at the emails that – supposedly – exist on the Anthony Weiner digital device in question.
Instead of waiting for such evidence, and a mere 11 days before the 2016 presidential election, James Comey – in his capacity as director of the FBI – chose to send an incredibly vague and insinuating letter to various high-ranking Republicans in the House of Representatives. According to CNN, Comey, in this letter, essentially suggested the possibility of damaging information about Hillary Clinton in the Wiener emails without flatly saying so.
Legal Options for Lynch
Comey unquestionably carried out his action fully knowing that he was violating the direct instructions of his immediate superior – namely Attorney General Loretta Lynch. He had been instructed by the Justice Department that moving forward with his plan to send this unprecedented letter would violate both rules and laws regarding federal officials involving themselves in the outcome of a presidential election.
More than this, it could be argued that – in sending his letter to the United States Congress just prior to the 2016 election – Comey is guilty of violating the Hatch Act forbidding interference by federal officials, including FBI directors, in the United States election process.
Reid: FBI sitting on proof of Trump-Russia ties. https://t.co/YzYMkzf8HU— Vivian Griffin (@AdamsFlaFan) October 31, 2016
Prosecution Options for Lynch
Comey violating the Hatch Act has limited consequences legally, with punishments ranging from a reprimand and suspension, to a reduction in pay and a penalty of $1,000. Ironically, the maximum penalty that can be imposed on Comey for violating this act is dismissal as FBI director.
So at the very least, if Comey did violate the Hatch Act, Lynch could – in theory – fire him. But theory and political pragmatism aren’t the same thing.
Considering Political Reality
The simple fact is, whether you could fire FBI Director Comey, prosecute him, or force him to resign, the damage is already done. In addition, there isn’t enough time before the November 8 Election Day to resolve the crisis that Comey has created through his reckless, biased decision.
From President Obama’s perspective – as well as from Hillary Clinton’s – carrying out a prosecution or administrative action against James Comey before the election could be made to look like the punishment of a “whistleblower.” While such an argument would be absurd, the Republican Party has never been reluctant to make absurd arguments when it served their purpose.
The Loretta Lynch Comey conundrum is something that will likely have to be resolved some time after the 2016 election is over. Presuming that Hillary Clinton still wins, it’s likely that President Obama will quickly ask for the FBI director’s resignation. Of course, if Donald Trump were to somehow win – as unlikely as that still is – Comey is more likely to be rewarded for his blatant interference in the presidential election process than punished.
[Featured Image by Win McNamee/Getty Images]