On March 9, 2016, FBI director James Comey met with eight members of Congress who have been granted security access to the deepest levels of national intelligence. The purpose of their meeting has not been disclosed to the public, but comes after two major events: President Trump’s accusation of the Obama Administration wiretapping his campaign, and Congressman Adam Schiff’s complaint about Comey deliberately withholding sensitive information from ranking members during a private briefing last week.
The group, nicknamed the “Gang of Eight,” includes names both familiar and unfamiliar to citizens, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Richard Burr and Mark Warner, Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Devin Nunes, and the aforementioned congressman Adam Schiff.
Throughout 2016, Comey gained public notoriety for his involvement in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for national security purposes. As Clinton had won the Democratic Party’s Primary in early June 2016, and thus become the Democratic candidate for the general election, her case became synonymous with her image.
When Comey declared in July 2016 that there would be no charges held against her, it seemed that the election would proceed without further interruptions from the Department of Justice. That was until late October when Comey informed the public that the investigation would be reopened due to apparently new information found from a separate inquiry into former Democratic Senator Anthony Weiner’s email. The decision attracted strong condemnation from politicians on both sides of the political aisle, who largely felt the FBI was playing an unprecedented active role in a United States election.
The months since Donald Trump won the presidency have been full of retrospective reflections, with several noteworthy analysts, such as Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight and Brad Fay of Engagement Labs, citing Comey’s revelations to the mainstream media as the primary cause of Clinton’s loss. Fast forward to President’s Trump’s post-inauguration days in office and the news has seen Comey come under even more scrutiny in light of new information concerning Russia and its alleged hacking of voting machines. Responding to this situation, former Justice Department Public Affairs Director Mark Miller and journalist Glenn Greenwald have both proposed that the FBI had some form of influence on the election, either directly or indirectly. Miller, in particular, advocated that an independent investigation free from the FBI be launched into the matter, a sentiment that was later echoed by Representative Darrell Issa on an episode of the political talk show Real Time with Bill Maher.
Comey, alongside Deputy Director Andrew G. McCabe, did not do himself any further favors by deciding to intentionally violate FBI ethical guidelines through arranging a direct meeting with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, a choice that was widely criticized by fellow agents of the bureau.
Tensions have only arisen since then between the two parties in Congress, with Republicans demanding that the wiretapping charge be looked into and Democrats calling for associates of the president to testify before the Senate over their purported talks with Russian officials. Regarding the former, the FBI has reportedly asked the Justice Department’s National Security Division for advice on the matter due to the exclusivity they would have on it. The latter continues to be met with resistance.
Whatever happens, two things appear clear from a non-partisan point-of-view. The first is that Director Comey should recuse himself from further personal encounters with politicians that may violate basic principles, and the second is that Congress should heed the public’s demand for a special prosecutor to look into future matters concerning Russia and the Trump White House bureaucracy.
[Featured Image by Darren McCollester/Getty Images]