FBI Director James Comey has written a memo to Bureau employees defending his decision not to indict Hillary Clinton, insisting that “despite all the chest-beating by people no longer in government, there really wasn’t a prosecutable case.” He also suggests more Clinton documents will soon be released to the public.
CNN reports that during at least one recent meeting, former FBI agents were “sharply critical of the FBI’s handling of the Clinton probe and particularly the decision to not recommend charges against Clinton.”
Comey was downright belligerent toward his critics: “Those suggesting that we are ‘political’ or part of some ‘fix’ either don’t know us, or they are full of baloney (and maybe some of both.)”
Comey also addressed the criticism that dumping the Clinton report on the Friday evening before Labor Day weekend was an effort to bury the FBI’s findings, although his defense was simply an assertion that “we don’t play games.”
Oddly, he argued that holding the report for an extra couple of days, to get past the holiday weekend, would have been playing politics: “I almost ordered the material held until Tuesday because I knew we would take all kinds of grief for releasing it before a holiday weekend, but my judgment was that we had promised transparency and it would be game-playing to withhold it from the public just to avoid folks saying stuff about us.”
CNN notes that in a Tuesday radio interview, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Labor Day weekend was “the most buried time you could ever put out a story.”
“I’m surprised. I can’t believe that they would do what is such a patently political move. It makes them look like political operators versus law enforcement officers,” Ryan said.
Another prominent Comey critic is former Texas governor Rick Perry, a contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 and 2016. Perry called on Comey to resign last week over his refusal to recommend indictments against Clinton, saying he thought the FBI director “has some skin in the game here somewhere.”
“To protect the Clintons at this particular juncture is an extraordinary failure on his part,” Perry said.
No doubt Comey would also insist the timing of his memo to FBI employees has nothing to do with Wednesday night’s forum between presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, during which the former is likely to bring up the latter’s email scandal.
Although Comey insists the Clinton case was not a “cliff-hanger,” his memo definitely includes one: “We are continuing to process more material and will release batches of documents as they are ready, no matter the day of the week.”
Comey’s memo to FBI employees reads, in full:
Because it is generating a lot of interest, I thought I should update you on where we are with our commitment to transparency in the wake of the Clinton email investigation. As I promised in July, we have leaned very far forward in providing transparency,on a couple fronts:
Congress. In order to afford Congress ample opportunity to discharge its oversight responsibilities, we took the unusual step of sending relevant 302s, our case summary Letter Head Memorandum, and the classified emails we recovered during the investigation to the House and Senate security offices. That permitted them to be reviewed by a number of committees with jurisdiction, instead of requiring that committee staff come to FBI headquarters to review the documents as we would normally require. There have been a variety of complaints because we redacted personal information and, at the request of the originating agency, restricted certain classified portions only to the Intelligence Committees, but our production has been unprecedented. I will be up on Capitol Hill the last week of September to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. This is our regular annual oversight hearing, so I’m hoping to cover many aspects of the Bureau’s great work. Of course, I’m guessing folks will want to ask about the email investigation. Through public statements, testimony (4 hours and 40 minutes without stopping, but who’s counting), and prompt document productions, we have offered unprecedented transparency of the high-quality work your colleagues did in the case. Now I would like to talk about our other work, of which we have plenty.
FOIA. As you might imagine, we have also received many requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and lots of your colleagues havebeen working very hard to process materials under the statute, get the necessary sign-off from other agencies with interests in the information, and get it out to the public. We finished that process Friday morning with respect to the 302 of Secretary Clinton’s interview and our Letter Head Memorandum summarizing the investigation. I almost ordered the material held until Tuesday because I knew we would take all kinds of grief for releasing it before a holiday weekend, but my judgment was that we had promised transparency and it would be game-playing to withhold it from the public just to avoid folks saying stuff about us. We don’t play games. So we released it Friday. We are continuing to process more material and will release batches of documents as they are ready, no matter the day of the week.
You may be sick of this, but let me leave you with a few words about how I have been describing the email investigation in private to our former employees as I meet them around the country. I explain to them that there are two aspects to this: (1) our judgment about the facts and prosecutive merit; and (2) how we decided to talk about that judgment. I tell them that the difficult decision was actually the second part, not the first. At the end of the day, the case itself was not a cliff-hanger; despite all the chest-beating by people no longer in government, there really wasn’t a prosecutable case. The hard part was whether to offer unprecedented transparency about our thinking. I explain to our alumni that I struggled with that part, but decided the best way to protect the FBI, the Department of Justice, and the American people’s sense of justice was to announce it in the way we did -with extraordinary transparency and without any kind of coordination.
I explain to our alums that I’m okay if folks have a different view of the investigation (although I struggle to see how they actually could, especially when they didn’t do the investigation), or about the wisdom of announcing it as we did (although even with hindsight I think that was the best course), but I have no patience for suggestions that we conducted ourselves as anything but what we are -honest, competent, and independent. Those suggesting that we are “political” or part of some “fix” either don’t know us, or they are full of baloney (and maybe some of both).