The Justice Department is moving quickly to resolve the fracas created by FBI Director James Comey last week, according to officials close to the matter.
The turmoil began after Comey sent letters to Republicans announcing the discovery of a laptop belonging to disgraced Congressman Weiner and Hillary’s top aide Huma Abedin containing 30,000 emails.
Now the Justice Department is sending out its own letters to Democrats in Congress in order to allay their concerns the FBI is acting as a political agent during a highly controversial election.
In a response letter to Director Comey, leading Democrats in the Senate prodded the FBI to work “around the clock” to complete the review and put this latest email controversy to rest.
But the process is hamstrung by the sheer amount of newly discovered emails and the number of agencies with a potential interest in their contents. The FBI itself cannot determine if something is “classified” or not.
The FBI’s review must get feedback from more than a dozen agencies, including the CIA, the State Department and the Department of Defense, to determine whether any classified material was improperly transmitted by email.
Eight days is hardly enough to review the more than 30,000 emails discovered in the Weiner-Abedin laptop. If that is, the emails turn out to be new, and not duplicates of previously reviewed emails. The FBI only received the warrant necessary to review the contents of the laptop a few days ago, so we may see the entire fracas quietly blow over if the emails are found to be duplicates.
Meanwhile, within the FBI, a storm is brewing. Comey’s actions are unprecedented and have stained the reputation of the agency among many agents. According to one ex-FBI official interviewed by POLITICO, there’s a “rebellion” happening inside the Bureau.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch is making clear she objects to Comey’s unilateral decision, but there’s no going back now that the cat’s out of the bag.
Comey’s term is set to end during Hillary’s first term. But whether or not the next President of the United States is hungry for revenge, Comey may need to be replaced for purely practical reasons: to heal the rift he created at the agency by interfering in politics, something the rules and the personnel of the FBI tend to take a dim view of.
For now, the men and women of the FBI are putting the controversy behind them and focusing on processing the Huma-Abedin laptop as quickly as possible. But the rift between the Justice Department led by Loretta Lynch and the FBI led by James Comey, not to mention the rift within the FBI itself, may cause Comey’s resignation near the start of Hillary’s first term.
Comey’s October surprise is affecting the race, but by how much is anyone’s guess. Trump’s campaign is seizing upon the release to make a grab for battleground states like Michigan, Colorado, New Mexico, Ohio and Iowa. Clinton maintains a solid lead in most of these states, but Trump is using the revived email investigation as a springboard for a revived campaign in previously solid Democratic turf. The latest two polls surveyed by RealClearPolitics give Trump and 2.2% lead and a tie in a four-way contest with Hillary Clinton, Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, although Hillary still maintains a 2.2% lead in the national average.