My bet is, U.S. Rep. John Mica is about to be vindicated. You might remember the Republican congressman from Central Florida took it on the chin after he questioned FBI Director James Comey during a July 9 House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing.
Comey bristled at Mica's insinuation that the FBI had coordinated events leading up to the announcement so that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton would not be prosecuted.
Mica framed his questioning in terms of having to report back to constituents in cafes and other public settings. He wanted to know what he should tell them.
“I hope what you’ll tell the folks in the cafes is, look me in the eye, and listen to what I’m about to say,” Comey said. “I did not coordinate that with anyone. The White House, the Department of Justice, nobody outside the FBI family had any idea what I was about to say. I say that under oath, I stand by that.”
It was an effective putdown of the Sunshine State congressman.
But was it ever entirely honest?
I think we're about to find out a great deal more about Comey's motives for circumventing his team of investigators in the Clinton case. About his failing to prosecute in the summer, and then disclosing in October -- less than two weeks from the General Election -- a new chapter in the investigation of Clinton.
I tend to agree with those who say Comey's announcement was a mistake. Even if there wasn't a law, 20 million people have voted. It's way too close to the election to be doing this. But it is what it is, we're stuck with it. The genie is out of the bottle.
I can't predict what effect this will have on the election, though I fear nothing good. But I can foretell the fate of soon-to-be-former FBI Director Comey.
The man is toast.
As we now realize, Comey never did the right thing. Not starting in 2015, not in the summer of 2016, not now.
“Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information,” Comey said July 5.
Extremely careless. That's as far as he would go. No prosecution. Strange as it may sound to you or me, apparently because the agency had no proof that Clinton intended to break the law, she was off the hook.
Democrats leapt for joy; Republicans accused Comey of collusion with the Clinton family.
What we're just beginning to find out is what a stir it caused among Comey's troops at the FBI. Much to their outrage, Clinton got preferential treatment all the way through.
Beginning in July, the conservative watchdog site True Pundit conducted interviews with FBI assets and support personnel who collectively painted a dark insiders’ portrait of the Clinton criminal probe commissioned to determine how Clinton and her aides handled, maintained, stored and ultimately botched some of the most sensitive information ever breached in the country’s 240-year history.
You might want to read True Pundit's report. It's gripping all the way through. Here's what the report's interviews and intelligence gathering on the Clinton investigation reveal:
- Allegations of pay-for-play involving the Clinton Foundation were not properly vetted, were instead ultimately whitewashed
- FBI agents were blocked from serving search warrants to retrieve key evidence
- Attempts to secure Clinton’s medical records to confirm her head injury were sabotaged by FBI Director James Comey. (They were important because throughout questioning, on nearly every question, she claimed she couldn't remember.)
- FBI agents were not allowed to interrogate witnesses and targets without warning
- Clinton and aides were provided special VIP accommodations during interviews
- FBI suspended standard investigative tactics employed in other probes
- FBI agents' efforts were often blocked, suppressed by FBI, DOJ brass
- Agents lost faith that their superiors and DOJ wanted to see the case reach a grand jury
- Comey abruptly, and without talking to his hard-working investigative team, scheduled a press conference the day after Fourth of July weekend to announce his "no prosecution" decision.
Before you brush off True Pundit as a partisan website with a conservative ax to grind, you should know that much of its report has been retold by other investigative reporters since, even mainstream reporters who talked with the same disillusioned FBI agents.
A story in The Daily Mail Sunday reported that "Comey's decision to revive the investigation of Clinton's email server and her handling of classified material came after he could no longer resist mounting pressure by mutinous agents in the FBI, including some of his top deputies."
A close friend who has known Comey for nearly two decades, shares family outings with him, and accompanies him to Catholic mass every week, told the Mail, "'The atmosphere at the FBI has been toxic ever since Jim announced last July that he wouldn't recommend an indictment against Hillary.'"
"'The people he trusts the most have been the angriest at him,' Comey's friend continued. 'And that includes his wife, Pat. She kept urging him to admit that he had been wrong when he refused to press charges against the former secretary of state.'"
He told his wife he was depressed by the stack of resignation letters piling up on his desk from disaffected agents. The letters reminded him every day that morale in the FBI had hit rock bottom.
Announcing a new chapter to the Hillary Clinton investigation is Comey's attempt at redemption, his friend said.
Up to 650,000 emails were reportedly found on the laptop shared by Clinton's closest associate, Huma Abedin and her estranged husband, Anthony Weiner. Among those emails were several thousand that might have passed between Abedin and her boss, raising renewed questions about potential breaches of security protocol.
Though it remains unclear exactly what, if any, transgressions might be revealed by the latest FBI investigation, Abedin's position is complicated by the fact that in June she swore under oath that she had already handed over all devices where she may have had State Department emails stored -- a deposition in which she appears to have forgotten to mention the shared laptop.
The Daily Mail story is worth a read, too. But if you can't spare the time, here's a summary of the main points:
- James Comey revived the investigation of Clinton's email server as he could no longer resist mounting pressure by mutinous agents, sources say
- The atmosphere at the FBI has been toxic ever since Jim announced last July that he wouldn't recommend an indictment against Hillary
- He told his wife that he was depressed by the stack of resignation letters piling up on his desk from disaffected agents
- Comey was also worried that Republicans would accuse him of granting Hillary political favoritism after the presidential election
- When new emails allegedly linked to Hillary's personal server turned up in Abedin and Anthony Weiner's computer, Comey jumped at the excuse
The FBI director was always on a loser. There is no precedent for Hillary Clinton's decision as secretary of state to keep her emails under her own control, in violation of State Department rules. In this politically toxic year, Comey was going to get hammered no matter what his decision.
But, while right now it looks as if he's made himself the story of Election 2016, Comey's actions are a whole lot more far-reaching than that. Expect them to begin a long, horrific nightmare. If we are to believe the FBI agents who actually worked on the case for months on end, expect a revelation for the whole world to see -- a very public, a very sordid story of how a woman who may be our next president -- who may be the leader of the free world -- used her team of lawyers and clout to circumvent virtually every aspect of the email investigation to stay clear of a grand jury.
Meanwhile, it won't matter how many sins Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has visited upon the world as we know it -- and surely no matter what our party, we know in our hearts how many of those there are. The unkindest spotlight of all will be on Hillary Clinton.
Comey won't find his redemption here.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith