The IG Report and the James Comey Myth

Former FBI director James Comey pauses during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Thursday, June 8, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
June 14, 2018 10:48 a.m.

There will probably be many findings in the IG report slated to be released this afternoon. One already seems clear. It should be no surprise. James Comey broke dramatically with DOJ guidelines and precedent to take actions which damaged Hillary Clinton. He did so not out of political bias per se (I never thought that). He did so because he wanted to inoculate himself from aggressive Republican harassment over pro-Hillary bias. They worked the refs and they got terrible calls in their favor, which helped them win the election. As I’ve written a few times, this happened because James Comey himself is the greatest devotee of the James Comey Myth. (I discuss it more fully in that link.)

Like most powerful myths, the James Comey Myth is powerful precisely because it carries a lot of truth. It’s Comey as the apolitical truth teller, fearlessness in the face of power, what’s right and the law over party or personal whim. His testimony about the hospital bed confrontation in 2004 is the Myth’s sacral base text. There’s a lot of truth to that. But in the clutch, Comey was more concerned with protecting the Myth than acting according to its prescriptions. He didn’t want to get attacked for going easy on or somehow having a bias in favor of Hillary Clinton. That’s what had him making that public statement in July and even more dropping that bomb in late October.

What’s never been 100% clear is how much he was worried specifically about leaks out of the New York FBI field office if he didn’t act on those Huma Abedin emails. We may find out about that today. But the big picture was clear at the time. In the clutch, he protected the James Comey Myth rather than live up to it.

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