“I got a lot of respect for Jim Comey, but I don’t understand this idea of dropping this bombshell which could be a big dud,” said former federal prosector Peter Zeidenberg, a veteran of politically sensitive investigations. “Doing it in the last week or ten days of a presidential election without more information, I don’t that he should because how does it inform a voter? It just invites speculation … I would question the timing of it. It’s not going to get done in a week.”
Nick Akerman, a former assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York, was more critical: “Director Comey acted totally inappropriately. He had no business writing to Congress about supposed new emails that neither he nor anyone in the FBI has ever reviewed.”
“It is not the function of the FBI Director to be making public pronouncements about an investigation, never mind about an investigation based on evidence that he acknowledges may not be significant,” Akerman added. “The job of the FBI is simply to investigate and to provide the results of its investigation to the prosecutorial arm of the US Department of Justice. His job is not to give a running commentary about any investigation or his opinion about any investigation. This is particularly egregious since Secretary Clinton has no way to respond to what amounts to nebulous and speculative innuendo.”
— Comey’s disclosure shocks former prosecutors, Josh Gerstein, Darren Samuelsohn and Isaac Arnsdorf, Politico, 6:59 p.m. today
Former prosecutors aren’t the only ones shocked by Comey’s disclosure. I have firsthand knowledge of this and can attest to that fact.
This strikes me as an outright abuse of office by Comey. As FBI director he learned that the FBI had found new information potentially relevant to a closed investigation but had not reviewed it yet and so its significance is uncertain. What legal authority does he have to disclose this? Any? At all?
I have no expertise whatsoever on the breadth of latitude that law enforcement investigative agencies have to disclose raw investigative information, but it sure as hell seems to me unlikely that it extends to willy-nilly disclosure of that information.
This guy apparently thinks that his first obligation is to protect his own reputation from certain types of criticism.* But actually it is not.
He chose to serve his own interest when faced with what amounted to a conflict of interest. He doesn’t belong in that job.
*I added that link at 11:22 p.m. after reading the Washington Post article that the link is to, in which dismayed former prosecutors and former Department of Justice officials make statements similar to mine. What also is clear from that article, which reports on a letter Comey emailed to FBI employees this afternoon explaining his decision to notify Congress, is that Comey seems not to understand the role of the FBI in a matter of this sort, and misunderstands the meaning of the term “cover-up” as including ongoing investigations that have not been publicly disclosed, rather than just killing investigations.