At various times throughout the election, FBI Director James Comey found himself the subject of intense criticism from both the Democrats and the Republicans.
Comey, who took the post in 2013, attracted the spotlight in July when he announced the conclusion to the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Speaking in place of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who was forced to all-but-recuse herself from the case after a meeting with Bill Clinton caused an uproar, Comey ripped into Hillary’s “extreme carelessness” before ultimately announcing that she would not face charges.
From that point until late October, Republicans – including Donald Trump – accused Comey of bowing to the pressures of the Obama administration. Pointing to specific crimes that Hillary Clinton indisputably committed, they questioned Comey’s assertion that “no reasonable prosecutor” would indict the former secretary of state. Sources inside the FBI reported that agents were handing in their badges in disgust.
But then came the letter.
Eleven days before the election, Comey informed Congress by letter that his agents had stumbled upon some new emails while investigating Anthony Weiner’s online affair with a teenage girl. Weiner, whose wife is Hillary’s top aide, apparently had thousands of emails on his laptop related to the Clinton investigation.
Suddenly, Comey became the Republican Party’s best friend. Democrats, meanwhile, reversed course and began accusing Comey of maliciously interfering in the election. Comey himself remained silent on the public front, vowing only to complete a review of the emails as quickly as possible.
On the Sunday before election day, Comey informed Congress that the emails were duplicates; the FBI stood by its original recommendations after all.
And so the questions remain. Was Comey, at any point, acting out of partisan interests? Has he given the American people the full truth about this investigation? Was he trying to sway the election? If so, in which direction? Is it possible that he was merely doing his duty and his actions are being over-scrutinized by a public desperate to make sense of this whole mess?
One thing is certain; Trump doesn’t appear to have a good feeling about the FBI director. Asked by 60 Minutes if he would demand Comey’s resignation, Trump hedged.
“I haven’t made up my mind,” he said. “I respect him a lot. I respect the FBI a lot. He may have had very good reasons for doing what he did.”
If so, he’s got millions of Americans waiting to hear them.