On May 24th, The Washington Post reported on how James Comey supposedly relied on a false document made up by the Russians to bypass protocol, going around the Justice Department to make his announcement about Hillary Clinton.
I must confess that I smiled at people who breathlessly tweeted the article, exclaiming, “Haha! James Comey got duped!” The irony of so many Trump supporters accepting the narrative laid out in a story based on anonymous sourcing was lost on them. Still, I didn’t entirely dismiss the account, nor did I wholly accept it. The story seemed too good to be true. James Comey may be a lot of things, but he’s not dumb. The notion that he was taken in by a document agents within the FBI knew was false, seemed like a big stretch.
As it turns out, there’s another angle making the rounds. Comey acted on the document not because he was duped, but as a pre-emptive measure:
Then-FBI Director James Comey knew that a critical piece of information relating to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email was fake — created by Russian intelligence — but he feared that if it became public it would undermine the probe and the Justice Department itself, according to multiple officials with knowledge of the process.
As a result, Comey acted unilaterally last summer to publicly declare the investigation over — without consulting then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch — while at the same time stating that Clinton had been “extremely careless” in her handling of classified information. His press conference caused a firestorm of controversy and drew criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.
Comey’s actions based on what he knew was Russian disinformation offer a stark example of the way Russian interference impacted the decisions of the highest-level US officials during the 2016 campaign.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that this Russian intelligence was unreliable. US officials now tell CNN that Comey and FBI officials actually knew early on that this intelligence was indeed false.
In fact, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe went to Capitol Hill Thursday to push back on the notion that the FBI was duped, according to a source familiar with a meeting McCabe had with members of the Senate intelligence committee.
Naturally, this raises an important question: Why on earth did Comey take action based on a document he knew was false?
That is explained:
Sources close to Comey tell CNN he felt that it didn’t matter if the information was accurate, because his big fear was that if the Russians released the information publicly, there would be no way for law enforcement and intelligence officials to discredit it without burning intelligence sources and methods. There were other factors behind Comey’s decision, sources say.
In at least one classified session, Comey cited that intelligence as the primary reason he took the unusual step of publicly announcing the end of the Clinton email probe.
The explanation still leaves a lot of unanswered questions, but it sounds a lot more plausible than the notion of Comey being a stooge who got conned by the Russians.
This certainly sets the stage for what promises to be one hell of a public hearing when Comey testifies publicly before the Senate Intelligence Committee.