From a PR and Constitutional Perspective, The Director of the FBI Had No Choice



Comey will resign or be asked to resign immediately after the election.


By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.

Thirty-five years of public affairs for national and state criminal justice agencies. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Management for the National Crime Prevention Council. Graduate-Johns Hopkins University.


Director James Comey of the Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed newly discovered emails that may or may not relate to the Clinton investigation.

From Yahoo News (edited): FBI Director James Comey wrote his bombshell letter to Congress on Friday about newly discovered emails that were potentially “pertinent” to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

At the time Comey wrote the letter, “he had no idea what was in the content of the emails,” one of the officials said, referring to recently discovered emails that were found on the laptop of disgraced ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Weiner is under investigation for allegedly sending illicit text messages to a 15-year-old girl.

Critics of Comey

Critics of Comey railed endlessly against what they see as a politicized FBI director interfering with an election of a president.

Decades ago, the department decided that in the 60-day period before an election, the balance should be struck against even returning indictments involving individuals running for office, as well as against the disclosure of any investigative steps. The reasoning was that, however important it might be for Justice to do its job, and however important it might be for the public to know what Justice knows, because such allegations could not be adjudicated, such actions or disclosures risked undermining the political process. A memorandum reflecting this choice has been issued every four years by multiple attorneys general for a very long time, including in 2016. Washington Post.

Was It a Choice?

But what choice did Comey have? The investigation made its way through an FBI chain of command that involved an endless array of agents, specialists, technicians and lawyers. It was a filtered process that came to probable or reasonable conclusions well before it got to Comey’s desk.

At the time of the decision, there was no warrant for the thousands of e-mails in question (since rectified) but that may be irrelevant based on other sources of information.


Issue one: This information would have leaked immediately before the election, giving the Clinton campaign no time to respond. The FBI had no choice. Breaking bad news first is a basic tenant of good media and public relations; see my book, “Success With the Media,” (Amazon-

Issue two: If news of the extended investigation hadn’t leaked, it would have come after the election. With a probable Clinton victory, it would have thrown the election into endless charges of cronyism. The appearance of impropriety would be massive. The Obama administration would be accused of orchestrating a political fraud.

Issue three: Someone has something of significance to convince Comey to take such drastic action. This is more than Comey’s sense of doing what’s right.

Issue four: Comey will either resign or be pressured to resign immediately after the election. He understands that his career at that level is over. He works for the Obama administration (including his boss, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch) that is beyond consolable for his decision.

Issue Five: Comey did what he had to do to protect the interests of the American political process. Not disclosing it when he did is irrelevant, it would have leaked anyway. Discovering it after the election would have created a crisis of confidence and the Constitution, and played into the hands of those who believe that the process is corrupt.


What was James Comey thinking? The FBI Director’s ambiguous letter to lawmakers Friday about newly-discovered emails that may or may not relate to the Clinton investigation didn’t just break with longstanding Justice Department policy against publicizing FBI work near an election. THE WASHINGTON POST

It also described evidence for which there evidently was no active warrant, setting off a weekend of hand-wringing on the campaign trail and within the Obama administration. YAHOO NEWS

Related: An internal FBI feud over 650,000 emails, none of which may ultimately be dispositive in the Clinton investigation. THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

The very political James Comey. POLITICO

Synopsis of sources from The Marshall Project at

Crime in America at

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