If FBI Director James Comey recommends (or has already recommended) that he seek a grand jury indictment against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her handling of classified material, Comey’s boss, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, must grant approval in order for him to proceed.
It is likely that a Justice Department decision on this entire investigation will be announced before presidential primary voting begins at the Iowa Caucus on Feb. 1.
This January timing is the opinion of a former U.S. attorney from a major state (name asked to be withheld) who served for eight years under President George W. Bush. He told me, “Time is of the essence now so voters can weigh in on what effect the indictment would have on their vote.”
Whether Attorney General Lynch will approve of Comey proceeding with his case against the leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination is now more a political decision than judicial one.
A key question is what action Comey takes if he recommends and Lynch rejects his decision to seek an indictment against Hillary Clinton. Comey’s subsequent actions could have major repercussions and reverberate throughout the 2016 election cycle.
In an attempt to garner some insight as to how this case might play out, I spoke with the aforementioned former U.S. attorney. He is a close friend of mine who worked with James Comey at Bush’s Justice Department.
During the years 2002 and 2003, Comey was also a U.S. attorney, representing the Southern District of New York. He was promoted to deputy attorney general in December of 2003 and served until August of 2005.
Then, in September of 2013, Comey, a Republican with a reputation for high integrity, was appointed by President Obama to be FBI director. This position is a 10-year term unless the director resigns, dies or is removed.
My interest in Comey is simple – I believe that he is the one man who can legally stop Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton from becoming the next president.
According to my friend, who has the utmost respect for the FBI director: “When he was deputy attorney general, Comey had the ability to lead and inspire other U.S. attorneys with confidence and respect for the law.”
Moreover, my friend distinctly remembers how Comey viewed the Justice Department – “our obligation is to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons.”
Therefore, if Comey recommends bringing criminal charges against Hillary Clinton and is rebuked by his boss, what happens to Comey’s “obligation”?
Since my friend is familiar with Comey’s judicial philosophy, here is his prediction how Comey will react and respond:
“He has to make a decision – one that is among the most political hot potatoes that an FBI director has ever had to make. His decision will all depend on how firmly Comey believes that his case deserved prosecution. If firm, he might make a public statement, stating frustration, and openly comment on what should have occurred.”
Most important, knowing Comey’s respect for the law, this former U.S. attorney believes that if Comey recommends and Lynch rules against proceeding, Comey will be “wrestling with the ultimate decision” to offer his resignation.
“Comey would have real problems continuing on as FBI director in face of a miscarriage of justice motivated by political considerations,” he predicts.
As for the timing of a decision, “It would appear that because of all the time and effort put into this case up to this point, Comey has a good sense whether they have sufficient evidence that a violation occurred and whether they can prove it.
“I have to believe that discussion at the highest levels of FBI and main Justice is happening right now over whether to proceed, where to proceed and on what charges.
“When we were led by John Ashcroft (attorney general 2001–2005) and when election cycles approached, Ashcroft’s position was to take extreme caution doing anything that would appear to be politically motivated.”
Comey, having served as Ashcroft’s deputy, understands the wisdom inherent in that philosophy and why this former U.S. attorney believes a January decision is imminent.
Of course, no matter how Hillary’s email scandal is officially handled by the Justice Department, whether her case is dropped or proceeds, a political firestorm is forecast.
At the epicenter will be FBI Director James Comey. He is the man to watch, for his actions could be historic. With his well-established “respect for the law,” Comey could greatly hinder or even derail Hillary Clinton’s chances of becoming the first female president.
Moreover, Comey has the potential to become a Republican national hero and/or the Democrat’s new favorite target. But in the end, all Americans will recognize that Comey did “the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons.”