One day, if we all take good care of ourselves and live long enough, the time might arrive when we find out why FBI Director James Comey held a press conference 11 days before our last presidential election and might have changed the course of history.
But May 3 was not that day.
Never mind if you favored Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton for president – this isn’t about them.
It’s about Comey. It’s about a man whose job description insists on political neutrality, but whose performance on the eve of the election betrayed that vow.
There he was, telling the nation that he was reopening an investigation into Clinton – and failing to tell us that the FBI was simultaneously investigating her opponent.
And, appearing before a U.S. Senate committee on May 3, Comey cleared up his reasoning not even slightly.
He said he had a choice on the eve of the election. He could tell us about the Clinton investigation – “a really bad” thing, so close to the election, he said. Or he could stay silent about it – “a catastrophic” choice, he called it.
Either way, he said, he was “mildly nauseous” to think his decision might affect the election.
But make that choice he did.
Here’s the problem: As Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) put it, after hearing Comey’s words, the choice wasn’t about speaking out or staying silent — it was about abiding by law enforcement policy or not.
And the policy is clear: the FBI, as with all other law enforcement agencies, does not publicly discuss ongoing investigations. Especially in an election year. In fact, they don’t even admit there’s an investigation going on.
This is true whether you’re talking about the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the State’s Attorney’s office or the Attorney General’s office.
But having made that choice to declare the FBI’s investigation of Clinton, why would Comey then decide to stay utterly silent about the concurrent bureau probe of Trump?
And that’s the answer never made clear, which is why so many people continue to question not only Comey but the enduring mark on political history made by his decision.
Top photo: FBI Director James Comey testifying in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill, May 3, 2017. (Eric Thayer/Getty Images)
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books, most recently “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age” (Johns Hopkins University Press).
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