Two days before he was elected president, Donald Trump accused James Comey of “rigging” the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server.
“Right now, she is being protected by a rigged system. It’s a totally rigged system,” the GOP nominee told supporters in Michigan, following Comey’s announcement that the emails the FBI had discovered on Anthony Weiner’s laptop had no bearing on Clinton’s case. “You can’t review 650,000 new emails in eight days. You can’t do it, folks.”
Trump lamented the possibility that Comey’s last-minute announcement had “taken [victory] away from us.”
And then, the opposite proved true. Polling — both public and internal — suggested that Comey’s previous letter had tilted the playing field dramatically rightward. That missive — which broke with long-standing Justice Department precedents against commenting on ongoing investigations and making significant announcements in close proximity to an election — alerted the world that FBI agents had discovered new, ostensibly Clinton-related emails on Weiner’s laptop. (Comey had not yet read these emails, but decided he had a public duty to disclose the hypothetical significance of his new discovery.)
Irresponsible headlines and Trumpian hyperbole ensued. Many of Clinton’s marginal supporters decided to let someone else vote for the corrupt, career politician, who was going to win anyway. In hindsight, all that Comey’s last-minute exoneration accomplished was to provide voters with one last reminder that the most important thing to know about Hillary Clinton is that she can’t send an email without getting embroiled in a scandal.
And that isn’t all that we’ve learned about Comey’s conduct since November 8: Even as the FBI director was telegraphing new developments in the Clinton case, he was pressuring journalists not to report on the existence of the bureau’s investigation into the Trump campaign.
Last week, New York Times public editor Liz Spayd revealed that the paper had gotten word that the FBI was investigating possible collusion between the Russian government and members of the Trump campaign back in September — but “with doubts about the material and with the F.B.I. discouraging publication, editors decided to hold their fire.”
All this has rendered James Comey one of the most widely reviled public servants in all of blue America.
It has also secured him a vote of confidence and “bro-hug” from the new president of the United States.
Last week Comey informed the FBI’s senior staff that Trump has decided to retain him for the new administration, the New York Times reported Tuesday.
The FBI’s investigation into Trump’s alleged Russia ties is ongoing, as is the Justice Department’s internal investigation into Comey’s handling of the Clinton case.
But there’s no reason to worry that those investigations will be compromised by political considerations. If there’s one thing the new president can’t stand, it’s when a rigged system shields the powerful against justice.