Matthew T. Mangino
November 5, 2016
What could FBI director James Comey learn from the medical profession? Do no harm. Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath which includes, “Also I will, according to my ability and judgment, prescribe a regimen for the health of the sick; but I will utterly reject harm and mischief.”
As the top law enforcement officer in the country, Comey has recklessly caused harm and mischief in the midst of the most important endeavor any country can undertake — the election of a national leader.
Comey’s conduct this past summer and again last week was contrary to the directives of the Justice Department, the FBI and clearly beyond what most elected or appointed lawmen would do in the midst of a contentious and bitter election.
As Charles Kaiser wrote for CNN.com, “His (Comey’s) gratuitous disclosure of the discovery of new emails (which may or may not have anything to do with Hillary Clinton) has done more to politicize the bureau than anything done by any other FBI director since (J. Edgar) Hoover died in office in 1972.”
Comey’s problems started in July when he took the unprecedented action to publicly disclose that an investigation into Clinton’s emails as Secretary of State did not rise to the level of a prosecutorial offense. The FBI usually holds press conferences to talk about charges being filed, one would have to look long and hard to find a news conference by the director of the FBI saying charges would not be filed.
Then last week, Comey took the unusual step of informing Congress — through a vague letter — that the Clinton email investigation was back on. He justified this baffling and inappropriate letter, less than two weeks from Election Day, on the basis that he had previously testified to Congress that the matter was “completed.”
Comey was justifying his latest disregard for Justice Department policy by invoking his previous disregard for Justice Department policy. He was advised in July and again last week by Attorney General Loretta Lynch and other high ranking Justice officials that his announcement could run afoul of department policy.
CNN’s Kaiser wrote that former Justice Department spokesman Matt Miller said Comey’s decision to ignore the advice of leadership at Justice was stunning.
“I think he has a lot of regard for his own integrity,” Miller told the Washington Post. “And he lets that regard cross lines into self-righteousness. He has come to believe that his own ethics are so superior to anyone else’s that his judgment can replace existing rules and regulations. That is a dangerous belief for an FBI director to have.”
Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law School professor and Assistant Attorney General in the George W. Bush Administration and Benjamin Wittes wrote in Time Magazine that Comey should have at least said the following after his unsolicited “October surprise:”
To say that something has to be reviewed does not mean it contains anything implicating anyone of anything. It means only that the material has to be reviewed.
Nobody should draw any conclusions about anyone’s conduct based on the fact that the FBI is reviewing these emails.
Nobody should draw the conclusion that anyone sent or received additional classified material or that any material undermines the FBI’s prior investigative conclusions based on the fact that the FBI is reviewing these emails.
Comey has said nothing. Election Day is four days away — the harm that has been done goes beyond this election and to the reputation of the FBI and the growing distrust of the American system of justice.
— Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book, “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010,” was recently released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino.
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