Virtually nobody outside of legal circles and academia questioned the appropriateness or outrageousness of Comey’s comments.
One academic legal blogger, Stetson University College of Law professor Ellen Podgor, noted that most FBI investigations with no indictments don’t issue public statements; that the FBI’s investigation was one-sided; that Comey cited hypotheticals without facts; that his accusations about her lawyers were unnecessary and unprofessional; and that it is Congress’ responsibility to upgrade the IT protocols of federal agencies like the State Department.
“When they do provide an announced recommendation of non-indictment, the FBI should limit their statement to just that,” she said. “There is no need to tarnish a person’s reputation in the process—especially when there is no concrete evidence to support the hypotheticals.”
Other practicing lawyers were more blunt.
“The Department of Justice policies are you don’t comment on people you don’t indict. You don’t punish them in the press,” said an ex-Connecticut public defender. “The other thing is the DOJ policy is you don’t do things to affect elections, period. I don’t see anybody questioning this. Everybody thinks the FBI is sacrosanct.”
“I think it was highly inappropriate,” said John Williams, a civil rights lawyer from New Haven, Connecticut. “I suppose he will get away with it because [as FBI director] he is not a prosecutor. And you do get that all too often. Law enforcement will issue a press release and the prosecutor will not say anything.”
“It’s like a perp walk, but this is worse, because they’re saying we will not arrest them,” Williams said. “To hold a press conference where he [Comey] makes comments on the behavior of the person who will not be indicted? That’s not appropriate. I don’t recall ever seeing that by a FBI director. It harkens back to J. Edgar Hoover’s days.”