In a nutshell, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department permitted Hillary Clinton’s aide Cheryl Mills — the subject of a criminal investigation, who had been given immunity from prosecution despite strong evidence that she had lied to investigators — to participate as a lawyer for Clinton, the principal subject of the same criminal investigation. This unheard-of accommodation was made in violation not only of rudimentary investigative protocols and attorney-ethics rules, but also of the federal criminal law.
Yet, the FBI and the Justice Department, the nation’s chief enforcers of the federal criminal law, tell us they were powerless to object.
In his testimony this week before the House Judiciary Committee, FBI director James Comey inveighed against critics who have slimed the Bureau as “weasels” over its handling of the Clinton e-mails investigation. I am not one of those people. After a quarter-century in the trenches with the Bureau as a prosecutor, I am one of those hopeless romantics who love the FBI and harbor real affection for the director himself.
I genuinely hate this case. I don’t mind disagreeing with the Bureau, a not infrequent occurrence in my former career. But I am hardwired to presume the FBI’s integrity. Thus, no matter how much irregularities in the Clinton investigation have rankled me, I’ve chalked them up to the Bureau’s being hamstrung. There was no chance on God’s green earth that President Obama and his Justice Department were ever going to permit an indictment of Hillary Clinton. Jim Comey says he didn’t make his final decision to recommend against prosecution until after Mrs. Clinton was interviewed at the end of the investigation, and that he did not coordinate that decision with his Obama-administration superiors. If he says so, that’s good enough for me. But it doesn’t mean the director made his decision detached from the dismal reality of the situation. And whatever one’s armchair-quarterback view on how he should have handled it, that reality was not of his making.