By Frank Bowman
Yesterday Michael Horowitz, Inspector General of the Department of Justice, released his report on the conduct of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s handling of her email accounts while she was Secretary of State. The notable take-aways from the report include:
- The affirmation by the IG that the decision to decline prosecution of Secretary Clinton was legally sound.
- The judgment that none of the conclusions reached by the FBI or the Department of Justice more broadly were influenced by partisan political considerations.
- The observation that imprudent messages between several FBI employees created the appearance of bias on their part against Mr. Trump, even though no evidence exists to show that the private opinions of these persons affected the course of the Clinton investigation.
- The conclusion that former FBI Director James Comey made significant errors of judgment and was “insubordinate” in his decisions about the resolution of the Clinton email investigation, particularly his July 2016 press conference in which he preempted the authority of the Attorney General to decide whether the case should or should not be prosecuted, and his decision in October 2016 to announce the reopening of the investigation upon discovery of (ultimately inconsequential) new emails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop.
- The implicit judgment that both Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates failed to use their undoubted authority to rein in Comey’s tendency to go it alone.
Frankly, none of these conclusions will surprise anyone who has been following this story and has a basic knowledge of how the Justice Department works. Insofar as the entire cavalcade of misjudgments may well have elected Donald Trump to the presidency, it is deeply tragic. But in itself it is nothing more than a tale of basically well-meaning people operating in a complex institutional and political environment … and screwing up.
A notable coda to the publication of the report was the virtually simultaneous publication in the New York Times of a responsive op-ed by Comey in which he persists in claiming that his judgments were correct. I can’t help but find it a sad display. It reaffirms my judgment of Comey laid out in detail in this post from several months ago.
Comey is an honest man, but fatally intoxicated by his own sense of unique personal rectitude. The country and the world are in the grip of a rolling crisis because in 2016 Jim Comey thought his judgment so superior to everyone else’s that the rules and norms of the U.S. Department of Justice just didn’t apply to him. The Times op-ed demonstrates either that his egotism is impenetrable or that he has built a wall of denial to protect himself from the personal devastation of admitting his mistakes.
Unfortunately, the rest of us have to live with them.