Ethics Observations: Comey’s Second Letter On The Clinton E-mail Investigation


FBI director James  Comey informed Congress yesterday, two days before the culmination of the Presidential campaign, that the recently re-opened inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s  irregular handling of classified e-mails uncovered no new evidence that would change July’s recommendation that she shouldn’t face criminal charges.

“Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton,”  Comey wrote in a letter to the leaders of several congressional committees.


1. Good.

If Clinton wins the election, she should be able to start her term of office without this scandal of her own making still hanging over her head. After all, there are sure to be new scandals in due time, unless she turns over a new leaf like Richard Nixon did when he finally became President in 1968. Herblock, the Washington Post’s iconic Republican-hating cartoonist, even symbolically gave him a shave. (Herblock drew Nixon with a five-o’clock that made him look like an axe murderer.) Yes, the irony is intentional.

If Hillary loses, Comey’s late “never mind!” might stop Democrats from claiming that her inevitable coronation was prevented by a deliberate FBI plot, and allow them to further undermine trust in law enforcement. It might, but it probably won’t.

2. In fact, this process has already started. The Washington Post’s political columnist Chris Cillizza quickly filed a piece called “It’s hard to see how James Comey could have handled this last 9 days any worse.”

It should be used in classes to illustrate what “hindsight bias” means. He also makes a persuasive argument in favor of Comey’s letters—both of them—thinking he’s doing the opposite:

“If this had been 2014 or even 2015, it’s easy to see how Comey could and should make the choice he did. But, it’s impossible to say that he and the FBI operate entirely outside of the political world or that the same rules of the road apply when it comes to when and whether things should be made public.

Referees in the National Basketball Association ref the first 44 minutes (or so) of a game differently than they ref the final four minutes. They understand that in the final four minutes, the bar for a foul is higher because the stakes are raised. Shooting two free throws in a two-point game in the first quarter is very different from doing the same thing with 35 seconds left in the game.”

Unbelievable: Cillizza is extolling the very practice in the NBA that shows that pro basketball has no integrity. This is why I won’t watch the NBA: it’s just a bit short of professional wrestling, with special rules for home teams and stars, and shifting standards for what’s a foul and what isn’t. (Baseball umpires do not call a different strike zone in the ninth inning, even in games where giving an edge to the team trying to mount a late inning rally would be exciting.)

“It’s impossible to say that he and the FBI operate entirely outside of the political world or that the same rules of the road apply when it comes to when and whether things should be made public,” is it? Well, I’ll say this: it’s the FBI’s duty to do everything it can to operate entirely outside of the political world, and the same rules of the road should apply when it comes to when and whether things should be made public.

3. In the previous election in 2012, the public received a number of nasty post-October surprises. The IRS had been sabotaging legitimate Republican and conservative organizations to cripple their impact on the election. Obamacare didn’t work the way the President promised it would. Al Qida hadn’t been “decimated.” And more. The  FBI’s handling of this matter is how all information that the public has a right to know before picking a President should be handled by the entire federal government. One of the most prominent rationalizations offered in defense of Hillary Clinton is that all politicians are as corrupt as she is, a corrosive lie that seeks to make the public trust irrelevant. This is how ethical standards die and get turned upside-down. What Cillizza calls bad is what used to be called “ethical.”

4. Comey’s letter changed nothing, just as his previous letter changed nothing, and the decision not to prosecute Clinton changed nothing. She still did what she did.

She still intentionally violated her own department’s policies on handling and sending e-mail. She still destroyed potential evidence. She still made U.S. secrets vulnerable to hacking. She still lied about what she has done for over a year. She still behaved ignorantly, incompetently, recklessly and dishonestly. Whether the conduct is called criminal or not, it was still unethical and showed wretched judgment, inept management, and contempt for the leader’s obligation to model conduct for subordinates.

5. It is fascinating to watch Republicans flip yet again to impugn Comey, after praising him to the skies as a great American, after attacking him as Clinton conspirator in July. Do these people have any shame at all? Newt Gingrich, whom everyone should know by now has no shame, stated on multiple forums yesterday that Comey “caved.” He is a blight on the political culture, though he is not alone.

6. Just for fun, I reviewed the posts about the spin, lies and falsehoods that followed the first Comey letter announcing that the Clinton e-mail investigation had been re-opened, to see if any of the ethics conclusions (in this post, this post, this one,this one, and this one) needed to be retracted or changed.  They don’t, not a one. Some were bolstered, and by the way, are Harry Reid and Richard Painter going to argue that this letter is a Hatch Act violation too?

7.  Interestingly, we just learned more about Hillary’s recklessness and astounding lack of judgment in her handling of sensitive material, in accounts that raise again the question of why Clinton’s conduct was deemed not to constitute the “gross negligence” that would have triggered criminal charges.

We learned that mom forwarded to  Chelsea Clinton a State Department email that was later determined to have contained confidential information. Now before you flip to the Clinton talking point that she didn’t knowingly send classified information, which was the final edit of Clinton’s “I never sent nor received classified material” lie from last year (and is still a lie, since the Secretary of State’s communications, in and out, are to be presumed classified until it is determined that they are not), understand that there is never a legitimate reason for a government official to forward a government communication to non-government personnel, family or otherwise. Doing this may not be criminal, but it is arrogant, unprofessional, careless, and stupid….qualities of dubious value in a President.

Hillary also, we learned, may have had her maid print out official e-mails. The report, typically, is being ignored by most mainstream media, and Media Matters is issuing its usual spin and denials—hey, as long as the public doesn’t know about it for another day, it won’t matter!—but if true, this bone-headed security breach is certainly consistent with Hillary’s other practices.

8. What should stick with the public, with the Comey letter controversy is behind us, is how the Clinton team immediately shifted into vicious attack mode to discredit a messenger, used its influence to induce former prosecutors to unethically denigrate Comey’s character and professionalism, and was willing to undermine public trust in our law enforcement institutions for Hillary’s political objectives. That much we do know now, in time for it to factor into our decision on November 8.

20 thoughts on “Ethics Observations: Comey’s Second Letter On The Clinton E-mail Investigation

  1. This comes as no surprise; based on my opinion of Comey, he did exactly what I expected him to do.

    I know I’ve stated that I’ve made my decision as to where my Presidential vote will be cast; however, this evening I’m going to review all my notes about the things that I think are important in this election, policies, personalities, truth, lies, character, candidates actual words (not pundits interruptions), etc, etc. I’m going to be saying ARRRRRRGH a lot under-breath. I’m not going to enjoy this but I feel that this propaganda filled campaign has earned a last minute reevaluation so I make sure I’m doing what I genuinely feel is right.

    My personal hope for this evening is that I can reevaluate my vote choice in as unbiased manner as I can, using my morals and my ethics as a guide, to make sure that I am making my vote choice based on what I personally believe is right path for the future of the United States.

    In addition; I will actively be praying for a peaceful transition of power.

    I hope you all can find it within yourselves to do something similar.


    • Isn’t it great to think that, while many of us perseverate over where to cast our one vote, SJW’s will be voting for their candidate by the handful using a paper shredder?

  2. Trust in public institutions? American trust vanished with Watergate, and rightly so. We had some trust during the Carter “I’ll never lie to you” days, and some for a while during the Reagan days, until Iran-Contra and suggestions that he was slipping mentally. Bush the elder said “read my lips” and we know how that went. Clinton was never trustworthy, nor were his underlings, especially not the now-dead Janet Reno, who did the unthinkable now (shipping an immigrant back at gunpoint) and ran roughshod over weird but not openly violent cultists and rural survivalists. He was also clearly an adulterer and a perjurer. GWB tried to pain himself as honorable, then overreached and may have hit the point where he made his own party completely untrustworthy. Obama plenty has been said about. The GOP has proven itself untrustworthy by nomination a man obviously unfit and obviously without honor, and anyone who would trust Hillary now after all these revelations is either corrupted themselves or gullible.

    This maid issue is just the latest. By comparison, and some of you USN vets can probably back me on this, every captain of a major warship is assigned a personal cook who has to have a top secret clearance. This isn’t because every captain gets to have his morning eggs just the way he likes them, it’s because he’s going to be expected to host foreign government reps and military officers, and if the ship is important enough, he may host a lot higher level folks. I sat in the very chair in the stateroom on the USS Wisconsin that Stormin’ Norman sat in during Desert Storm, and the other chairs were occupied by other high-ranking officers, American and otherwise, discussing battle strategy. Obviously the guy in the little kitchen off to the side, cooking up the chicken l’orange for the state dinners or keeping the battle planners’ coffee cups filled needs to be trustworthy, lest he go ashore on liberty, hook up with some femme fatale, and spill the details. I can also guarantee you that any captain whose cook DID let something slip would be punted out of the Navy to finish his days on a tramp steamer. Yet Hillary allows someone who cleans her house and has no clearance of any kind to print out highly classified stuff as a matter of course? Hillary lives by her own set of rules, but that’s something we already knew, this is just another example.

    Unfortunately, bottom line, we’re all going to be living under her rules in 48 hours. Trump ran a surprisingly strong finish, but he’s not winning, he’s in the same position John Kerry was in 2004, behind in key places and hoping the polls are wrong. As I have been saying all along, the polls weren’t all wrong in 2012 and they aren’t all wrong today.

    • That’s a lot of vitriol over something brought up as a “may have” printed out (but we don’t really know), some emails (of whose contents we know nothing about, and are as likely to be generic info and open information as to some kind of top secret thing), which is basically being reported by one of the trashiest, sensationalist newspapers in the country, barely a step up from the National Enquirer.

      Look, she’s crooked, and there are enough provable things on her, but half of what is “reported” turns out to be false info (for her, and for Trump, who has more then enough issues on his own, and is probably only saved by the fact no one is releasing any hacked info of his)

  3. I don’t think we’ve seen the end of this if Hillary wins the election and the Republicans keep the Senate and House. I am currently re-evaluating my initial decision as far as what to do on Tuesday in the voting booth.

  4. There are 12, 960 minutes in 9 days. It would take 50 agents working round the clock to spend exactly 60 seconds each to determine if 650,000 emails contained classified info. Even if you allow for many of them being easily ruled-out as being classified, it would take several agents from multiple agencies quite a bit longer than 60 seconds to iron out any remaining emails that were questionable.

    • This is 100% wrong. There is software that EVERY federal agency and law firm uses that dedupes emails, brings email threads together, searches on “to”, “from”, “cc” fields, etc. I know because this is my job. The software takes seconds (and I mean seconds) to do this. The validation required by a handful of humans would take 1-2 days.

      This is not new, it happens every day in litigations and investigations. In fact, 650,000 emails is pretty small potatoes these days.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.