Comey Had Other Options

On May 3, James Comey testified before Congress, rehashing previously provided information, and providing some new information about Hillary Clinton’s emails.

In October 2016, the FBI discovered email messages written to or from Hillary Clinton on a computer that was shared by Clinton aide Huma Abedin and her husband, Anthony Weiner, during an FBI investigation on Weiner.

The FBI could have sought a warrant to open and read the emails to/from Clinton in order to determine whether the FBI had already viewed and evaluated the email messages in its examination of Clinton emails conducted as part of its earlier and ongoing investigation.

But neither FBI Director James Comey nor anyone else from the FBI took that wise and smart action as soon as the email messages were found on the Abedin-Weiner computer. Since it is the job of the FBI to investigate — after all, it is the Federal Bureau of Investigation — investigation of the email messages would have been a logical step.

It is unclear how long the FBI sat on those email messages, without seeking a warrant to read them, between the time they were discovered during the Weiner investigation and Comey’s letter to Congress on October 28.

In Comey’s letter to Congress of October 28, he told Congress that email messages had been found on the Weiner-Abedin computer. The letter from Comey explained that the email messages had not been read or evaluated to determine whether the messages had already been evaluated months before or not. The letter went on to explain that there might be new material in the emails, or there might be nothing new.

Because the FBI had not yet sought a warrant, and had not read the emails, the FBI did not know anything about the email messages other than that their headers indicated that they were sent to or from Hillary Clinton.

The Comey letter was leaked by someone in Congress — some people believe the leaker was Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes — to the news media, which breathlessly reported that email messages to and from Hillary Clinton had been found on the Abedin-Weiner computer as part of the Weiner investigation.

During his May 3 testimony, Comey said that he was compelled to share the information about the uninvestigated email messages, about which the FBI knew almost nothing (because the FBI had taken no steps to investigate those email messages on the Abedin-Weiner computer), versus keeping quiet about the emails. He spoke of only having those two options: speak up or not speak up.

Actually, Comey did have a third path he could have — and most importantly, should have — taken: before saying anything to anyone outside the FBI, or sending any letters to Congress, Comey should have sought a warrant to investigate the emails to and from Hillary Clinton. He and his investigators should have read the email messages and compared them to those emails that the FBI had already investigated.

Then, once the FBI knew — as a result of their investigation — the FBI could have gone public with the facts about the emails. If there was new material — if any of the emails had not already been investigated previously — Comey could have shared that information with Congress.

If after investigation, and before saying anything publicly, the FBI found that all the email messages from the Abedin-Weiner computer were found to be duplicates of those already investigated, then Comey could have communicated that to Congress.

As we learned, the email messages found on the Abedin-Weiner computer were in fact duplicates.

But, we learned that in November, four days before the election, and after Comey had written his election-changing letter to Congress in October.

There was in fact nothing new to see, and absolutely no reason for Comey to have written his letter to Congress saying that emails which had not been investigated had been found on the Abedin-Weiner computer.

Not only that, but Comey’s etter violated the FBI’s own policy against putting out public information about investigations that could have an impact on public elections.

Comey’s action altered the fate of the nation by changing the result of the election. In polling taken before October 28, Clinton had leads of 4% to 6% in several tight battleground states (including Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin,  three states that she lost by less than 1% in the electoral college vote-counting), but in polling taken after October 28, Clinton’s lead in those states dropped to 1 to 2 percentage points.

In polls with a 3% margin of error, there was a critical change in poll data that occurred immediately after Comey’s letter raised new — but completely unfounded – hesitancy and doubt among voters who would have otherwise voted for Clinton.

 

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