Monday, October 31, 2016

2016 Election Collateral Damage

Comey Accused of Abuse of Power:

THE F.B.I. is currently investigating the hacking of Americans’ computers by foreign governments. Russia is a prime suspect.

Imagine a possible connection between a candidate for president in the United States and the Russian computer hacking. Imagine the candidate has business dealings in Russia, and has publicly encouraged the Russians to hack the email of his opponent. It would not be surprising for the F.B.I. to include this candidate and his campaign staff in its confidential investigation of Russian computer hacking.

But it would be highly improper, and an abuse of power, for the F.B.I. to conduct such an investigation in the public eye, particularly on the eve of the election. It would be an abuse of power for the director of the F.B.I., absent compelling circumstances, to notify members of Congress that the candidate was under investigation. It would be an abuse of power if F.B.I. agents went so far as to obtain a search warrant and raid the candidate’s office tower, hauling out boxes of documents and computers in front of television cameras.

The F.B.I.’s job is to investigate, not to influence the outcome of an election.

Such acts could also be prohibited under the Hatch Act, which bars the use of an official position to influence an election. That is why the F.B.I. presumably would keep those aspects of an investigation confidential until after the election. The usual penalty for a violation is termination of federal employment.

That is why, on Saturday, I filed a complaint against the F.B.I. with the Office of Special Counsel, which investigates Hatch Act violations, and with the Office of Government Ethics. I spent much of my career working on government and lawyers’ ethics, including as the chief White House ethics lawyer for George W. Bush. I never thought that the F.B.I. could be dragged into a political circus surrounding one of its investigations. Until this week.
Richard Painter was Bush's general counsel from 05-07, so this is pretty serious stuff.

I've refrained from making too much of any of these investigations (emails, sexual assaults, etc.) simply because the election has dragged on for far too long, and I simply don't have the energy to jump into the cesspool of electoral politics at this late stage.

Nonetheless, I did write last summer that Comey's dismissal of Clinton's email investigation struck me as particularly egregious and out of character for a Director who has otherwise been vaunted as an a-political, law and order kind of guy. And then this 11th hour "October surprise" about starting the investigation back up, literally 10 days before the election, even more slipshod.

But as Painter suggests, it's potentially well-beyond egregious, boneheaded, or simply stupid. Comey may have broken the law himself, which the next justice department may have to pursue charges of. Imagine a new administration and attorney general having to take on the prosecution and removal of the FBI Director?

Sadly, this ugly circus won't be over on November 8th. We'll be dealing with the fallout of it for months and possibly years to come.

Happy Friggin Halloween.

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