Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

James Comey Must Go

Sari Horwitz and Ellen Nakashima at the Washington Post report

Senior FBI officials were informed about the discovery of new emails potentially relevant to the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server at least two weeks before Director James B. Comey notified Congress, according to federal officials familiar with the investigation.

The officials said that Comey was told that there were new emails before he received a formal briefing last Thursday, although the precise timing is unclear.

The information goes beyond the details provided in the letter that Comey sent to lawmakers last week declaring that he was restarting the inquiry into whether Clinton mishandled classified material during her tenure as secretary of state. He wrote in the Friday letter that “the investigative team briefed me yesterday” about the additional emails.

Almost everyone who read Comey’s letter was mislead because “briefed me yesterday” is truth and nothing but the truth, but not the whole relevant truth. The word “yesterday” is accurate, but its only effect is to mislead. The statement “I was told something about the e-mails yesterday” is not logically inconsistent with “and also weeks ago,” but the normal rules for understanding ordinary English imply an interpretation inconsistent with the facts. James Comey is a very skilled lawyer. He knew what he was doing. He deliberately mislead Congress.

More importantly, the anonymous FBI personal talking to the Post can’t get their story straight.

Comey did not notify Congress as soon as he learned about the emails because officials wanted additional information before proceeding, the officials said.

If they were willing to follow proper Justice Department procedures, they would have also wanted, indeed insisted, that the election pass before proceeding.

But now everything is different because metadata.

Even after Comey received the desired information, major questions still remain — for instance, how many emails are related to Clinton or contain classified information.

[skip]

It is unclear what FBI agents have learned since discovering the emails in early October. But officials say they gained enough information from the email metadata to take the next step, seeking a warrant to review the actual emails.

Comey also needed to get out of the period of 60 days before an election to take the next step. I assume that it was legal for the FBI to look at meta data. But it sure doesn’t seem that they have at least 2s weeks looking at metadata. it is clear what FBI agents haven’t learned since discovdring the e-mails. The sender and recipient of an e-mail are metadata. They should know if any of the e-mails were sent to or received from Hillary Clinton.

The current FBI position is that they learned something in the last two weeks of October *and* that they know nothing nothing. The anonymous source is taking advantage of the facts that he or she is anonymous (and not under oath). The explanation of the delay of over two weeks but not 11 days more is plainly false. Horwitz and Nakashima pretty much write this. In Postspeak “It is unclear” means “he’s lying” (or “she’s lying” but certainly not “s/he’s lying” because the “s/he” is even more unacceptable than the “lying”).

The utter contempt for Justice Department rules is underlined by this quote from the liar

“He needed to make an informed decision, knowing that once he made that decision, he was taking it to another level,” an official with knowledge of the decision-making process said.”

He absolutely did not need to make a decision about whether to seek a warrant until next Wednesday. After making that decision, he was forbidden by department rules to take it to another level.

I’m shifting to wild speculation after the jump.

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Yup. Comey’s a Goner.

President Obama briefly addressed the FBI’s reopened investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email practices for the first time, saying in an interview posted Wednesday that the agency does not “operate on innuendo” and emphasizing that there is no evidence that the Democratic presidential nominee had violated the law.

“I do think that there is a norm that when there are investigations we don’t operate on innuendo, and we don’t operate on incomplete information, and we don’t operate on leaks,” Obama said in the interview with NowThis News, which was filmed Tuesday. “We operate based on concrete decisions that are made. When this was investigated thoroughly last time, the conclusion of the FBI, the conclusion of the Justice Department, the conclusion of repeated congressional investigations, was she had made some mistakes but that there wasn’t anything there that was prosecutable.”

Obama on FBI: ‘We don’t operate on innuendo’, David Nakamura, Washington Post, today at 11:46 a.m.

I’m sooo glad that President Obama reads Angry Bear.

Now, Mr. Obama, please read this post of mine.  And this one of mine.  Because you may be the only one who make these points and make them heard, before any more days of early voting go by.

And btw, although I certainly have some issues with Hillary Clinton but unequivocally supported her all along once she won the nomination, the intensity of my support is greater right now than at any earlier point.

I cannot–cannot–overstate the depth of my anger toward Comey.

Cannot.

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The Mad Hatter Columbia U. Law Prof. Who Advised Comey That He Needed to Destroy the Village In Order to Save It* – UPDATED (His name is Daniel C. Richman.)

Daniel C. Richman, an adviser to Mr. Comey and a Columbia University law professor, argued that despite the backlash, Mr. Comey’s decision to inform Congress preserved the F.B.I.’s independence, which will ultimately benefit the next president. “Those arguing that the director should have remained silent until the new emails could be reviewed — even if that process lasted, or was delayed, until after the election — give too little thought to the governing that needs to happen after November,” Mr. Richman said. “If the F.B.I. director doesn’t have the credibility to keep Congress from interfering in the bureau’s work and to assure Congress that a matter has been or is being looked into, the new administration will pay a high price.”

Former senior law enforcement officials in both parties, though, say Mr. Comey’s decision to break with Justice Department guidelines caused these problems. Had he handled the case the way the F.B.I. handled its investigations into the Clinton Foundation and Mr. Manafort over the summer, the argument goes, he would have endured criticism from Republicans in the future but would have preserved a larger principle that has guided cases involving both parties. …

F.B.I.’s Email Disclosure Broke a Pattern Followed Even This Summer, Matt Apuzzo, Michael S. Schmidt, Adam Goldman and William K. Rashbaum, New York Times, today

Gotta say, Comey comes off in this Washington Post article today as dumber than a rock.

– Me, here, yesterday

The particular part of that Washington Post article yesterday, by Ellen Nakashima, that I had most in mind was this:

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Do be sure to watch this video news clip on CNBC, folks

The first part of the video news clip (h/t Paul Waldman), by CNBC correspondent Eamon Javers, is smoking-gun stunning.  And sickening.  Just watch the video or read the accompanying article.

The second part of it, which is a clip of White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, sure seems to me that for all his hesitation and careful wording, Earnest hints that Obama will fire Comey right after the election.

As for me, I want to forcefully retract my suggestion in this post yesterday that NYC FBI agents working on the Weiner case may have planted the emails of Weiner’s computer.

When I wrote that post, the reporting was that the emails at issue numbered about 1,000.  Today it is reported that they number in the tens of thousands—a number almost certainly not within the capacity of investigative FBI agents who are not computer forensics experts to gain access to and put onto a hard drive without it being obvious that that is what happened.  And it’s also now been reported that the agents knew of the emails on the laptop shortly after they took custody of it; the emails were on the hard drive shortly after the FBI took custody of it.

I wrote that post in reaction to the report early yesterday that Abedin has told friends and colleagues that she does not know how the emails came to be on Weiner’s personal computer–something that rings awfully likely to be true, given the enormous number of her personal emails that are now on Weiner’s personal computer.

I wrote here today that in light of today’s information, it appears far more likely that it was Russia that pulled this off than that it was an FBI-agent job.

The Oct. 7 report issued jointly by the NSA and Homeland Security Department stating their conclusion that Russia is responsible for the massive hacks of emails of the Democratic Nationals Committee, Clinton campaign officials and other organizations connected to Clinton or the Democratic Party, and was done with the intent to disrupt the national election—which is the focus of the CNBC report and is quoted in the video—has received almost no attention from the press.

That, I trust, will change now.  Oh, the irony.

Although, of course, you never know.

So Clinton and the Democrats should run ads showing that CNBC clip.  Big ad buys for it on the internet and TV would be good.

And BTW, the CNBC little bombshell nails it that Harry Reid was right about Comey and the Hatch Act, in my opinion.

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Several thoughts about Paul Krugman’s NYT column today – UPDATED regarding the Fourth Amendment issue, and (separately) the suddenly real possibility that Putin had the emails planted on Weiner’s laptop

Paul Krugman’s column today titled “Working the Refs,” which I linked to this morning in this post, is absolutely wonderful for its account of the breadth of what amounts to largely successful attempts at movement-rightwing takeover of so very much of American public life—journalism reportage and editing methodology, political punditry, decisonmaking by college and university academic hiring committees, self-styled-centrist fiscal policy organizations. (There is also the courts, but that’s really a separate matter.)

But there are two points I want to make about statements in his column.  One concerns the nature of Comey’s misconduct, which Krugman describes as violating “longstanding rules about commenting on politically sensitive investigations close to an election; and [doing] so despite being warned by other officials that he was doing something terribly wrong.”

That is only part of it, albeit the most immediately harmful part.  But pundits, and the public, should understand that it is a profound misuse of government investigatory and prosecutorial powers to release to the public raw information obtained through compulsory, and secret, investigatory information gathering—information gained through search warrants, grand jury testimony, etc.—and that this is so not only for politically sensitive investigations.

Comey’s deliberate decision, his acknowledged motive, to affect voters’ decisonmaking in an imminent election strikes me as criminal misconduct, as does the release of raw investigatory information irrespective of its political intent.  But these are two distinct issues, of equal importance.

Then again, as I said here yesterday, by Comey’s definition of cover-up, he is engaging in it, as Harry Reid noted in the letter he released yesterday.

I also want to point readers to Orin Kerr’s Washington Post blog post from yesterday titled “Was it legal for the FBI to expand the Weiner email search to target Hillary Clinton’s emails?”  Kerr blogs at the Washington Post’s The Volokh Conspiracy blog, whose contributors all are former law clerks to Republican-appointed justices, and current law professors.  All are center-right libertarians. Kerr, perhaps the least right of them is a law professor at George Washington University and a former law clerk for Anthony Kennedy. 

Kerr’s post begins:

FBI Director James B. Comey recently announced that the FBI had discovered new emails that might be relevant to the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email server. The emails were discovered in an unrelated case, and the FBI now plans to search through the emails as part of the Clinton server investigation.

Comey’s announcement raises an important legal question: Does expanding the FBI’s investigation from the unrelated case to the Clinton case violate the Fourth Amendment?

We don’t know all the facts yet, so it’s somewhat hard to say. But here’s why the expansion of the investigation might be constitutionally problematic. Consider this a tentative analysis unless and until more facts emerge.

He goes on to raise two Fourth Amendment concerns, one which he says, and I agree, seems sort of weak, the other which he says is a significant concern, his take on which is the same as mine in the comments thread to this post.

The FBI obtained a search warrant late yesterday, so the judge who granted it thought the Fourth Amendment wasn’t a bar to it.  But it should be noted that Comey issued his announcement before a search warrant was obtained and in the face of a potential Fourth Amendment issue that might have prevented the FBI from obtaining one.

The other point concerns Krugman’s awesome recitation, yet again, of how deficit mania grabbed a stranglehold on elite policymakers and so-called public intellectuals for so very, very long—and how devastating it has been throughout the last decade.  What he doesn’t mention—appropriately, I think, in that column, whose point is much larger, but inappropriately in any discussion by him (there have been many) of Hillary Clinton and her candidacy in the two or three weeks since a stolen WikiLinks document—this one, a transcript of a paid speech by her to (I think) Morgan Stanley in 2013—in which she says she supports the really awful Bowles-Simpson proposal that Krugman has deconstructed so often since it was announced years ago.

I do get his reluctance during this campaign to address that.  And Clinton clearly has reversed her views on virtually everything in that proposal, a change on her part that I believe is genuine.  But what angers me about Krugman’s consistent refusal to acknowledge this and other significant changes in Clinton’s policy positions, prompted to a significant extent initially by Bernie Sanders’ campaign—not least the healthcare insurance “public option” proposal”, which Clinton should campaign on at rallies—is Krugman’s borderline-vile attacks on Sanders during the primary season.

Clinton’s win in this election will be based on the sheer awfulness of Donald Trump and on the policy proposals Clinton adopted last summer because of the strength of Bernie’s campaign.  All that matters now is a Clinton victory and Democratic control of the Senate and large gains in the House.  And I plead with Bernie, with Elizabeth Warren, with Michelle and Barack Obama, to campaign maniacally for these candidates in the now-waning days of this campaign.

___

UPDATE:  About an hour ago, Politico posted a lengthy discussion of the Fourth Amendment issue, by Josh Gerstein, Politico’s legal-issues correspondent.

Gerstein’s article also discusses the fact that Abedin says she does not know how what appears now to be a huge trove of emails of Abedins came to be on Weiner’s personal computer–an issue I discussed here yesterday in a post suggesting the possibility that NYC FBI agents planted it on Weiner’s computer after they gained custody of it.

But Gerstein’s article notes this: that Abedin had an email account on Clinton’s server.  Is it a reach to now suspect that Putin planted those emails on Weiner’s computer and planned somehow to make public just before the election that State Dept. emails are on Weiner’s computer hard drive?  As I mentioned in the Comments thread yesterday on my earlier post, in response to a joke by a reader’s comment, I’d considered that possibility by rejected it as implausible.

It’s now not at all implausible.  And it makes it imperative that, as Harry Reid demanded in his public letter to Comey yesterday, the Justice Department release the information it and other national security agencies have indicating direct coordination between Trump, or people on behalf of Trump, and Putin.

Adedin and Clinton and the Democratic National Committee should file an emergency court petition requesting a court order requiring release of that information.  I absolutely mean that.

And as I suggested in my earlier post, they should petition a court to allow private computer forensics experts, along with FBI forensics experts from an office far from NYC and Washington, DC. to examine the computer in order to determine when and how those emails came to be on it.

I absolutely mean that, too.

And please remember: Trump kept saying that Abedin was a State Dept. security risk because Weiner would have access to her emails.  He’s now saying he called it correctly.  The court petition should note this.

____

PS: Since I’m more or less the legal-issues guru on this blog, I want to point readers to Jennifer Rubin’s blog post on this, with which I agree in every respect.

And since I’m also one of the political-issues gurus here, I want to recommend two perfect political cartoons, one by Tom Toles, the other by Ann Telnaes.

Added 10/31 at 4:08 p.m.

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WHY OBAMA SHOULD FIRE COMEY*: Comey himself makes clear that he either does not understand what a law enforcement cover-up IS, or he knows what it is but acted out of fear that others may not. That’s a profoundly dangerous message to law enforcement and prosecutors nationwide. As well as to the public.

According to senior F.B.I. officials, Mr. Comey felt that he would be breaking his pledge of transparency to Congress if he did not reveal the new information from the Weiner case. And he believed that the bureau would be accused of suppressing details to benefit Mrs. Clinton — an accusation that he believed could do lasting damage to the F.B.I.’s credibility.

10 Questions (and Answers) About New Email Trove, Michael S. Schmidt and Matt Apuzzo, New York Times, yesterday

As it stands, we now have real-time, raw-take transparency taken to its illogical limit, a kind of reality TV of federal criminal investigation. Perhaps worst of all, it is happening on the eve of a presidential election. It is antithetical to the interests of justice, putting a thumb on the scale of this election and damaging our democracy.

James Comey is Damaging Our Democracy, Jamie Gorelick and Larry Thompson, Washington Post, yesterday

You know what is the scariest and most absurd part of Comey’s offered reasons? That he was afraid he would be accused of a cover-up.

Please understand, he’s saying one of two things: Either he himself thinks that not releasing raw information learned through a search warrant, the significance of which his agency does not yet know because it needs a new search warrant to learn more, amounts to a cover-up. Or he himself knows it does not, but is so cowed by the prospect that some political forces will erroneously call it that, that he releases raw information learned through a search warrant.

That alone should cause Obama to fire him. Does Comey also think it’s a cover-up to withhold from the public information learned through grand jury testimony? Does he think that OTHER law enforcement agencies should announce to the public raw information learned through a search warrant?

And does this definition of cover-up apply only just before an election, to information about a candidate? He did say, after all–stunningly; this IS the FBI director, remember–that his very purpose was to “inform” the public about new, utterly raw information about a candidate (for president, no less) obtained through law enforcement policy powers.

Where exactly does he think this use of police investigatory power ends?

I think Obama needs to make clear that it ends well before where Comey has now said it ends. And he needs to do that NOW, not after the election.

Something about informing the public before the election.  As Comey himself would say.

In this instance, though, it would be about informing both the public and law enforcement and prosecutors’ offices around the country that, the FBI director’s statement and actions notwithstanding, the law does forbid the use of raw investigatory information obtained through search warrants, grand jury testimony and other means, with the exception of information contained in police reports and in indictments and other court papers available to the public.

Comey has seven years remaining on his 10-year term, but the president can fire him for cause.  Anyone who thinks that statement of his does not constitute cause does not understand the significance of what Comey actually said.

Obama rarely explains things; that’s been a huge problem throughout his presidency and is a large part of the reason for the Democrats’ massive midterm electoral losses, in 2010 and 2014.  But this should not be hard to explain, because it’s just not very complicated.  He can quote this:

Actually, the idea that materials gathered in a governmental investigation resolved without prosecution should, in the name of transparency, be made known in summary form when relevant for the guidance of voters is quite frightening.

– Comey’s mistaken quest for transparency, Donald B. Ayer, Washington Post, yesterday

Donald B. Ayer, the post states under his byline, served as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California, principal deputy solicitor general and deputy attorney general under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Comey does not understand the fundamental nature of police and prosecutorial investigatory powers, either in and of itself or in that public misunderstandings of it should itself alter fundamental nature of police and prosecutorial investigatory powers.  He has misinformed the public, police and prosecutors about this.  This misinformation should not be allowed to stand.

It doesn’t matter whether the misinformation is because Comey is dismayingly weak or instead just stupidyingly stupid.  We need him gone, and his instruction on police and prosecutorial informational obligations corrected.   This is profoundly serious stuff.

Really.

____

* UPDATED: Reader J.Goowin posted this in the Comments thread:

J.Goodwin

October 31, 2016 10:48 am

President Obama probably should not fire the director of the FBI for cause just before the election in reaction to the director’s apparent political efforts. Even asking for his resignation before the election is probably a bad political move.

He’ll certainly be packing up his desk the day after the election though.

Upon reconsideration, I agree that given how very close we are to the election, Obama should just wait until afterward to fire Comey.  But for the reasons I discussed in this post, Obama should fire him shortly after the election, and explain exactly why.

This post’s title originally was: WHY OBAMA SHOULD FIRE COMEY, NOW.  It no longer says “Now.”

Updated 10/31 at 12:15 p.m.

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This Spade Really IS Being Called a Spade. Surprisingly.

THE F.B.I. is currently investigating the hacking of Americans’ computers by foreign governments. Russia is a prime suspect. Imagine a possible connection between a candidate for president in the United States and the Russian computer hacking. Imagine the candidate has business dealings in Russia, and has publicly encouraged the Russians to hack the email of his opponent and her associates.

It would not be surprising for the F.B.I. to include this candidate and his campaign staff in its confidential investigation of Russian computer hacking.

But it would be highly improper, and an abuse of power, for the F.B.I. to conduct such an investigation in the public eye, particularly on the eve of the election. It would be an abuse of power for the director of the F.B.I., absent compelling circumstances, to notify members of Congress from the party opposing the candidate that the candidate or his associates were under investigation. It would be an abuse of power if F.B.I. agents went so far as to obtain a search warrant and raid the candidate’s office tower, hauling out boxes of documents and computers in front of television cameras.

The F.B.I.’s job is to investigate, not to influence the outcome of an election.

That is why the F.B.I. presumably would keep those aspects of an investigation confidential until after the election. The usual penalty for a violation is termination of federal employment.

And that is why, on Saturday, I filed a complaint against the F.B.I. with the Office of Special Counsel, which investigates Hatch Act violations, and with the Office of Government Ethics. I have spent much of my career working on government ethics and lawyers’ ethics, including two and a half years as the chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, and I never thought that the F.B.I. could be dragged into a political circus surrounding one of its investigations. Until this week.

On Clinton Emails, Did the F.B.I. Director Abuse His Power?, Richard W. Painter, New York Times, today

 

Actually, the idea that materials gathered in a governmental investigation resolved without prosecution should, in the name of transparency, be made known in summary form when relevant for the guidance of voters is quite frightening.

Comey’s mistaken quest for transparency, Donald B. Ayer, Washington Post, today

When I chose the title for this post on Friday, I didn’t expect that people who actually matter—a lot of them, as there are by now—would outright say this.  I’m very happy to have been proved wrong.

____

UPDATE:  Cool.  (PDF document.)  Also, a cool comment on it at the end of this article.  There’s an incredibly strong consensus that Comey abused his office.  Didn’t expect that.  But it’s happened.

Added 10/30 at 7:13 p.m.

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Did NYC FBI Agents Plant Those Emails on Weiner’s Computer Once They Gained Custody of It? The Evidence Appears to Suggest … Possibly.

Top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin has told people she is unsure how her emails could have ended up on a device she viewed as her husband’s computer, the seizure of which has reignited the Clinton email investigation, according to a person familiar with the investigation and civil litigation over the matter.

The person, who would not discuss the case unless granted anonymity, said Abedin was not a regular user of the computer, and even when she agreed to turn over emails to the State Department for federal records purposes, her lawyers did not search it for materials, not believing any of her messages to be there.

That could be a significant oversight if Abedin’s work messages were indeed on the computer of her estranged husband, former congressman Anthony Weiner, who is under investigation for allegedly exchanging lewd messages with a 15-year-old girl. So far, it is unclear what — if any — new, work-related messages were found by authorities. The person said the FBI had not contacted Abedin about its latest discovery, and she was unsure what the bureau had discovered.

According to federal law enforcement officials, investigators found thousands of messages on Weiner’s computer that they believe to be potentially relevant to the separate, Clinton email investigation. How they are relevant — or if they are significant in any respect — remains unknown.

Clinton aide Huma Abedin has told people she doesn’t know how her emails wound up on her husband’s computer, Matt Zapotosky, Tom Hamburger and Karen Tumulty, Washington Post, Oct. 29 at 7:29 p.m.

On Friday afternoon Yahoo News reported that Abedin stated when she was interviewed by an FBI agent last April that she had used four different devices and accounts to email Clinton, and that one of the devices was the one now at issue.  That report appears to be incorrect.

Here’s what the transcript says:

Q Okay. And what devices did you return for your attorneys to look through with respect to federal records you may have had in your possession to be returned to the State Department?

MS. WOLVERTON: Objection. Beyond the scope.

A My — if my memory serves me correctly, it was two laptops, a BlackBerry, and some files that I found in my apartment.

Apparently neither of those laptops was Weiner’s and therefore the device now at issue.

Also in the transcript of that FBI interview, Abedin told the FBI agent, in answer to a question about whether she deleted her emails from Clinton, that she never deletes emails from anyone, and that she presumed that all her emails dating back many years were still in existence.

Two news reports make it clear that as of late yesterday, the FBI did not yet have the prerequisite court order to read those emails, which appear on a computer taken under a search warrant in an unrelated case concerning an unrelated subject—thus the need for a separate search warrant authorizing access to and review of those emails.

One, on Yahoo News, by Michael Isikoff, titled “Exclusive: FBI still does not have warrant to review new Abedin emails linked to Clinton probe,” says:

As of Saturday night, the FBI was still in talks with the Justice Department about obtaining a warrant that would allow agency officials to read any of the newly discovered Abedin emails, and therefore was still in the dark about whether they include any classified material that the bureau has not already seen.

“We do not have a warrant,” a senior law enforcement official said. “Discussions are under way [between the FBI and the Justice Department] as to the best way to move forward.”

That Comey and other senior FBI officials were not aware of what was in the emails — and whether they contained any material the FBI had not already obtained — is important because Donald Trump’s campaign and Republicans in Congress have suggested that the FBI director would not have written his letter unless he had been made aware of significant new emails that might justify reopening the investigation into the Clinton server.

The other, by four New York Times reporters, titled “Justice Dept. Strongly Discouraged Comey on Move in Clinton Email Case,” reports:

Justice Department officials were particularly puzzled about why Mr. Comey had alerted Congress — and by extension, the public — before agents even began reading the newly discovered emails to determine whether they contained classified information or added new facts to the case.

Law enforcement officials have begun the process to get court authority to read the emails, officials said. How soon they will get that is unclear, but there is no chance that the review will be completed before Election Day, several law enforcement officials said. Many of the emails are most likely copies of messages that the F.B.I. has already read, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly.

But Comey himself answered that when he admitted that his motives were political—he wanted the public to know, before election day and as soon before that as possible in states where voting already was underway, that Huma Abedin had provided her husband access to thousands of her email correspondence with Clinton by providing access to them on a computer that Weiner used.  In other words, he wanted the public to know, before they voted, that Donald Trump’s allegation that Anthony Weiner had access to State Department-related emails turns out to be true.

Or, apparently more accurately, the FBI agents who told him they had found those emails on Weiner’s computer wanted the public to know this, badly enough to threaten to leak the information before the election if Comey himself did not make it public.

Comey, in other words, appears to have acceded to an extortionate threat to misuse information gained through the FBI’s prosecutorial powers by himself misusing information gained through the FBI’s prosecutorial powers.  And this spade is actually being called the spade that it is.

So there are three steps that Huma Abedin should take, immediately. First, she should have her lawyers file an emergency court petition tomorrow requesting the immediate sealing and impoundment of Weiner’s laptop and of all other electronic devices taken through the search warrant concerning Weiner’s online sexual activities.

The petition also should request that she be allowed to have Weiner’s computer examined by an independent, non-government computer forensics experts, in the company of FBI computer forensics experts who are from an office far, far away from NYC and Washington, DC, and who have never worked at either of those offices.

And the petition should request disclosure to her of the identities of the FBI agents who, by Comey’s apparent acknowledgement, threatened him with leaks of what they claim are on Weiner’s computer.

Second, she or her lawyers should file a formal complaint with the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General, requesting investigation into who was threatening Comey with leaks and damage to Comey’s reputation if Comey himself did not make public the existence of State Department-related emails on Weiner’s computer.

The complaint also should request inquiry into Comey’s decision to make public raw information gained by dint of the FBI’s police powers and the Justice Department’s prosecutorial powers, for what he himself has stated was for the purpose of affecting votes for national elective office.

Third, she should ask that her lawyers, immediately after those are filed, hold a press conference detailing what is in the emergency petition and the complaint to the Inspector General’s Office.

Also immensely important: that the fact that that information did end up on Weiner’s personal computer—one that given what he did use it for, was not one that he likely would have invited Abedin to use—has not an iota to do with the facts that Clinton used a private email account and a private server.  Presumably, all sorts of other high-level government employees, some in sensitive positions, probably access their government email accounts from home and also probably do work from home.

And then, of course, there is this: the fact that the FBI has, since late Friday or early yesterday, pushed the claim that Abedin herself had provided that computer to the FBI last spring—after Comey said that Abedin had NOT produced it during the investigation of the email matter, and that that is why he felt compelled to “update” the public–er, the Congress–does speak quite loudly, doesn’t it?

In any event, I will say this: Trump may well prove right after all in his claim that this is bigger than Watergate.

Okay, well, as big, anyway.

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Was Comey effectively extorted by NYC-based FBI agents? And did those agents illegally look at some of those emails without the prerequisite court order?

Most Democrats were outraged. “Mr. Comey said he was duty bound to inform Congress,” Bob Kerrey, the former senator and governor, told me. “Quite the opposite is the case. He was duty bound to make an announcement after he completes his examination of the emails.“

Indeed, he broke with the longstanding F.B.I. policy of not commenting on ongoing investigations.

Comey, Clinton and This Steaming Mess, Frank Bruni, New York Times, today

Bob Kerrey is exactly right, and I’ve posted two posts making that point, the second of them urging Newsweek to retract its representation yesterday that the law required Comey to do what he did, because Comey had told Congress under oath last summer that the FBI investigation was closed—a claim that is utter nonsense.

In response to the first of my posts, reader BillB, in replying to a comment by reader BKrasting, described what I believe amounts to a bizarre decision by some FBI agents involved in the Weiner investigation to effectively extort Comey into disclosing the discovery of the emails (which may be duplicates of ones already investigated).

Here’s what BillB wrote to me in the comments thread to the second of my posts:

BillB / October 29, 2016 4:25 pm

You are absolutely right. I’ll just resubmit what I put in your previous posting in response to bkrasting:

“Would you have preferred that the head of the FBI deliberately break the law?”

Broken what law? Name the law or you are just blowing smoke. There is no law requiring the FBI director to release preliminary information on an investigation it hasn’t even done yet.

Are the emails from or to Clinton? He doesn’t know because he hasn’t seem them yet. Are they related to any other investigation that the FBI has done? He doesn’t know because he hasn’t seen them yet.

The responsible thing to do was to wait until he had a determination of their relevance before making a public announcement. He is not withholding anything because at this point he doesn’t even know what he is holding. It may be absolutely nothing.

But Clinton is correct. At this point Comey has muddied the waters and the only way he can fix it is to immediately tell the public everything he knows and everything he does not know.

The back story to this is management incompetence. The New York FBI office is upset at the DC office because they pulled off and replaced the local FBI agents in the investigation of the Eric Garner case because they were refusing to aggressively pursue the case.

In retaliation, the New York agents were threatening to prematurely leak the email information in defiance of FBI protocol. Comey fell prey to the blackmail and felt that he had to get ahead of the leakers to preserve his credibility with Republicans in Congress. Comey was just covering his own ass. The fact that he can’t control his own office indicates gross incompetence.

I replied:

Beverly Mann / October 29, 2016 4:34 pm

That in itself is a BIG story. But since when does the FBI director make a premature or otherwise inappropriate announcement about a pending investigation because FBI agents are threatening to do so themselves?

This was an appallingly inappropriate use of the FBI itself–of the agency itself and its investigatory powers–in the service of a political goal.

If Comey was effectively extorted, that strikes me as itself a criminal act.

BillB responded:

BillB / October 29, 2016 4:58 pm

I don’t think there is any criminality involved. In any large government or private corporation the saying is that “Information is power.” And people will trade that information as a lever to further their own political interests within the organization. It happens all the time and it isn’t criminal.

But it is despicable. It is evidence that Comey is an incompetent leader. It is evidence that, contrary to Comey’s claims of acting out of ethical imperative, he was simply acting in his own self-interest to preserve his Republican credibility and cover up his own lack of leadership to control his staff.

I dunno.  This wasn’t trading information within an organization.  This was threatening to reveal to the public information that Comey himself already knew—raw, preliminary information obtained through a nascent FBI investigation—unless Comey himself made it public, in order to impact an election for president and for control of Congress.

Sure sounds to me like misuse of information obtained in an incomplete FBI investigation.

It also appears that these agents may have looked at some of the emails without the prerequisite court order  as required by the Fourth Amendment.  Descriptions of the nature of the emails have now been leaked, according to Greg Sargent this morning, who also questioned how this information was known to FBI agents when apparently no search warrant had yet been issued as of early this morning.

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