FBI Director James Comey all but admitted he threw the election in favor of Donald Trump this morning when he said he knew that the letter he sent to House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) regarding Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails would be leaked to the press.
“When I sent a letter to Congress, did I know they were going to leak it? Of course I did. I know how Congress works” announced Comey.
— vlh (@coton_luver) May 3, 2017
Since he knew they were going to leak it, given the near-constant media scrutiny that the FBI investigation into Clinton’s emails had garnered, there’s no possible way he could honestly believe that this letter wouldn’t be immediately weaponized in a tight race one week before the election, giving Trump a huge advantage since Comey was keeping the investigation into the Trump team’s potentially treasonous collusion with Russia under wraps.
On October 28th, a week before the election, Director Comey sent a letter to Congress announcing that the FBI had “learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the [Clinton email] investigation” on the hard drive of Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s laptop, which was being examined as part of a separate inquiry into whether her husband Anthony Weiner had engaged in sexually explicit messaging with a minor.
That letter is widely thought to have swung the election in favor of Donald Trump as the ratings-obsessed 24-hour media cycle went into overdrive. The shift in the polls was instantaneous, as detailed by statistician Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.
Clinton’s standing in the polls fell sharply. She’d led Trump by 5.9 percentage points in FiveThirtyEight’s popular vote projection at 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 28. A week later — after polls had time to fully reflect the letter — her lead had declined to 2.9 percentage points. That is to say, there was a shift of about 3 percentage points against Clinton.
It was the dominant story of the last 10 days of the campaign. According to the news aggregation site Memeorandum, which algorithmically tracks which stories are gaining the most traction in the mainstream media, the Comey letter was the lead story on six out of seven mornings from Oct. 29 to Nov. 4, pausing only for a half-day stretch when Mother Jones and Slate published stories alleging ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Which is why it is puzzling to hear Director Comey say that “it makes me mildly nauseous to think we had an impact on the election.” What did he possibly think Inquisitor Chaffetz, who had already vowed to continue prosecuting Clinton’s emails into her presidency, was going to do with that letter?
He tried desperately to defend his decision this morning, but his words ring hollow. “I sat there that morning and I could not see a door labeled ‘no action here. I saw two doors. One was labeled ‘speak’ and one was labeled ‘conceal.’”
His decision to send that letter threw the election into a tailspin and gave the far-right propaganda outlets all the ammunition they needed to further smear Clinton as a criminal and a traitor at the same time that the FBI was investigating Trump’s campaign for collusion with the Russian government.
Comey’s interference in the election has brought us to this point, and it brings up a very important question – can Comey be trusted to prosecute the Trump-Russia investigation with the diligence that it demands?
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.