TEL AVIV – Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that President Donald Trump tried during a private meeting to convince then-FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into Michael Flynn, who was fired as national security adviser.
The charge, strongly denied by the White House, relies on a memo the Times reported was written by Comey shortly after the meeting with Trump, propelling the issue of the fired FBI chief’s credibility to centerstage.
Below, in no particular order, are seven significant problems with Comey’s credibility:
1- Comey repeatedly failed to seek the recusal of Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch from the Hillary Clinton email probe despite his reported concerns about her partiality.
In an extensive article published last month that included interviews with more than 30 current and former law enforcement officials, congressional officials and other government employees, the New York Times reported on numerous major concerns Comey had about Lynch’s intentions toward the Clinton email probe.
According to the report, Comey was aware of the existence of a document written by a Democratic operative that allegedly indicated Lynch would have protected Clinton in the email probe. The newspaper reported that “Mr. Comey believed (Lynch) had subtly helped play down the Clinton investigation.”
Adding even more intrigue to the matter, the FBI had further information that the alleged Lynch document had been hacked by Russian intelligence, leading Comey to fear that Moscow could leak the document to call into question the independence of the U.S. government’s Clinton email probe, the Times reported.
Yet Comey didn’t seek Lynch’s recusal.
The Times further reported on Comey’s concerns after Lynch’s infamous tarmac meeting at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in which former President Bill Clinton, the husband of the FBI’s main subject in a criminal probe, boarded the attorney general’s plane and reportedly stayed there for about 20 minutes.
In a letter sent earlier this month from Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein recommending that Comey be fired, Rosenstein admonished Comey for failing to seek Lynch’s recusal from the Clinton email probe and instead bypassing the Justice Department to make public pronouncements about the case.
“The Director now defends his decision by asserting that he believed Attorney General Lynch had a conflict,” Rosenstein wrote. “But the FBI Director is never empowered to supplant federal prosecutors and assume command of the Justice Department. There is a well-established process for other officials to step in when a conflict requires the recusal of the Attorney General.”
2- Comey violated FBI tradition, bypassed the Justice Department and went rogue on several occasions in a manner that clearly impacted the 2016 presidential election.
Instead of seeking Lynch’s recusal, as outlined above, Comey decided to go at it alone on the Clinton email probe, taking matters into his own hands and making his public pronouncements about Clinton’s email case without the Justice Department. He did this at an infamous news conference on July 5, 2016 at which Comey criticized Clinton’s private email server as “extremely careless” before finally stating that “no charges are appropriate in this case.”
The Times‘ extensive April 22 report cited former Justice officials as “deeply skeptical” of Comey’s alleged reasoning that he took the public lead because Lynch was compromised:
Former Justice Department officials are deeply skeptical of this account. If Mr. Comey believed that Ms. Lynch were compromised, they say, why did he not seek her recusal? Mr. Comey never raised this issue with Ms. Lynch or the deputy attorney general, Sally Q. Yates, former officials said.
Mr. Comey’s defenders regard this as one of the untold stories of the Clinton investigation, one they say helps explain his decision-making. But former Justice Department officials say the F.B.I. never uncovered evidence tying Ms. Lynch to the document’s author, and are convinced that Mr. Comey wanted an excuse to put himself in the spotlight.
Comey’s injection into the presidential race did not end there. Less than two weeks before the election, the FBI discovered a trove of Clinton emails on the laptop of Anthony Weiner. Some of the emails, according to reports, originated on Clinton’s old BlackBerry server that she used before setting up her private home server and some believe may have contained the deleted messages.
Comey’s decision this time centered on whether to follow FBI tradition and keep quiet about the reopening of the case, or inform Congress about the ongoing investigation, which, the Times related, “everyone acknowledged would create a political furor.”
Eventually, Comey decided to go rogue again and inform Congress.
Lynch was against the decision, the Times reported, and the Justice Department implored the FBI not to impact the presidential campaign in its final days. The Times added that “even at the F.B.I., agents who supported their high-profile director were stunned.”
“Career prosecutors and political appointees” at the Justice Department quietly criticized not only Comey but Lynch for failing to stop the FBI director, the Times documented.
A chorus of former attorneys general and deputy attorneys general from across the political spectrum publicly criticized Comey’s move.
3- Comey made legal pronouncements about Clinton’s email case.
Comey’s July 5 press conference first stated Clinton was “extremely careless” with her email server and then took the highly unusual step of declaring that “no charges are appropriate in this case.”
With his pronouncements, Comey offered judgments and legal conclusions many argue are out of the purview of the FBI, which is charged with documenting evidence and handing it over to the Justice Department.
The Times, in its April 22 report, cited unnamed “frustrated” prosecutors at the Justice Department complaining that Comey should have first consulted with them.
4- Comey reportedly allowed Lynch to persuade him into publicly minimizing the FBI’s criminal investigation into Clinton’s email server.
According to the same extensive April 22 report in the New York Times, Lynch, an Obama appointee, convinced Comey to use the word “matter” instead of “investigation” when the FBI director publicly addressed the criminal investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server. This despite the Justice Department knowing the FBI probe was not only an official investigation but a criminal investigation.
Comey reportedly caved in and called the investigation a “matter” even though the Times documented his concerns about Lynch’s intentions toward Clinton.
The Times reported on a meeting between FBI and Justice officials at which, according to the newspaper’s characterization, “Lynch told him (Comey) to be even more circumspect: Do not even call it an investigation, she said, according to three people who attended the meeting. Call it a ‘matter.’”
Continued the Times’ report:
Ms. Lynch reasoned that the word “investigation” would raise other questions: What charges were being investigated? Who was the target? But most important, she believed that the department should stick by its policy of not confirming investigations.
It was a by-the-book decision. But Mr. Comey and other F.B.I. officials regarded it as disingenuous in an investigation that was so widely known. And Mr. Comey was concerned that a Democratic attorney general was asking him to be misleading and line up his talking points with Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, according to people who spoke with him afterward.
As the meeting broke up, George Z. Toscas, a national security prosecutor, ribbed Mr. Comey. “I guess you’re the Federal Bureau of Matters now,” Mr. Toscas said, according to two people who were there.
Even though Comey reportedly had concerns about Lynch’s motivations, he went along and did not call the criminal investigation an investigation.
“I am confident we have the resources and the personnel assigned to the matter,” Comey stated mere days after the meeting with Lynch.
5- Comey denied leaking under oath — days before leaks from a one-on-one dinner with Trump.
In his testimony earlier this month, Comey portrayed himself as someone who does not leak information to the news media, denying he had ever been an anonymous source for news reports related to the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race.
Comey further testified that he never authorized anyone else at the FBI to serve as an anonymous source in news media coverage of that investigation or the agency’s probe into Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
Nine days later, after Comey’s firing, the New York Times published intimate details allegedly from inside a one-on-one dinner at the White House between Comey and Trump that took place seven days after the president was sworn in. The article quoted liberally from “two people who have heard [Comey’s] account of the dinner” in what seems to be a leak from Comey’s camp to fight back after he was fired by Trump. At one point in the article, the Times describes the sources as “associates” of Comey’s.
The White House disputed the Times’ dinner account, which claims that Trump asked Comey to pledge loyalty to him.
That leak was followed up by another news-making leak, first published by the New York Times, claiming that Trump attempted during a private meeting to convince Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn.
6– Comey was accused of mischaracterizing Huma Abedin’s role regarding emails found by the FBI on Anthony Weiner’s laptop.
Speaking under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on FBI oversight, Comey stated that Hillary Clinton’s top aide Huma Abedin “forwarded hundreds and thousands” of emails to the laptop of her estranged husband, former Congressman Anthony Weiner. That mischaracterization prompted the FBI to release a supplement to clarify Comey’s statement.
CNN reported on the supplement to Comey’s testimony:
The note, signed by Gregory Brower, assistant director of the FBI’s Office of Congressional Affairs, clarified that the “hundreds of thousands of emails” that Comey said were “forwarded” from Abedin to her husband’s email “included emails transferred via backups as well as manual forwarding.” …
While some of those emails may have been sent directly from Huma in order to be printed, officials told CNN, the number was far fewer than the amount Comey described.
The FBI confirmed the distinction in its letter Tuesday, which read: “Although we do not know the exact numbers, based on its investigation, the FBI believes it is reasonable to conclude that most of the emails found on Mr. Weiner’s laptop computer related to the Clinton investigation occurred as a result of a backup of personal electronic devices, with a small number a result of manual forwarding by Ms. Abedin to Mr. Weiner.”
7 – Comey reportedly allowed the Obama administration to “shut down” a request to publicize the Russia probe last summer, raising questions about political motives.
In March, Newsweek reported that Comey first wanted to go public as early as the summer of 2016 about the agency’s information on alleged Russian interference in the presidential campaign. However, Obama administration officials blocked Comey from making public statements, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter speaking to Newsweek.
“The White House shut it down,” one source told the magazine, explaining that Comey had pitched the idea of writing an oped about the subject during a White House Situation Room meeting in June or July.
“He had a draft of it or an outline. He held up a piece of paper in a meeting and said, ‘I want to go forward. What do people think of this?’” the source said. The source told Newsweek the meeting was attended by Secretary of State John Kerry, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and National Security Adviser Susan Rice.
Continued the report:
But many in the room didn’t like the idea, and White House officials thought the announcement should be a coordinated message backed by multiple agencies, the source says. “An op-ed doesn’t have the same stature. It comes from one person.”
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.
With additional research by Joshua Klein.