Eichenwald: James Comey's Letter Could Damage The Reputation Of The FBI For Years To Come

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Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald didn't mince words when asked by MSNBC's Joy-Ann Reid what he thought about FBI Director James Comey and his decision to basically insert himself into the 2016 presidential campaign with less than two weeks left in the race.

REID: Donald Trump said on the stump that there would be no reason for the FBI to make the announcement that James Comey didn't if they hadn't, quote, discovered something big. Does that make sense to you?

EICHENWALD: Well, only if we can say that James Comey is lying, because Comey has said we don't know what's in them, we don't know if it's relevant. We think it's relevant. We don't know if it's classified. We don't know. Here's my letter. I mean, it was the height of irresponsibility because, you know, everybody is taking this scenario and trying to make it into an exclamation point, when in fact Comey's letter was a question mark. You know, his entire basis of what he was saying was we don't know what any of this means and that's why it was so irresponsible for him to put out the letter at all.

Reid also asked Eichenwald about whether or not his department has even had a chance to read or review the emails.

EICHENWALD: They couldn't have reviewed all the emails with or without a warrant. You know, and an investigative process doesn't happen in ten seconds, and, you know, when Donald Trump is saying they wouldn't have done it without, well, that, you know, would be a logical assumption but it's wrong, and really what happened here is just a major policy violation by Comey.

I could understand if Comey.... I mean, Comey has been making huge mistakes from the beginning. The way the FBI is supposed to talk about an investigation is to say we've made no referral for prosecution, and that's it. You're not supposed to be going in and talking about here's my impression of the meaning of this. You're not supposed to be talking about anything. Investigations are not actually closed unless there is a recommendation by the FBI for prosecution, the prosecutors decide to prosecute. It goes to court. There's a conviction, the case is closed. When you have an investigation, the case stays open. More evidence can be evolved and Comey testified if we get more evidence we'll look at it, you know, of course, because that's the way procedures work, and so what happened was they got more evidence, maybe. They don't know. They're going to look at it, and -- and now everyone in the country is confused or furious.


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I mean, I've been talking to people -- i know a lot of people in the FBI, i know a lot of people in the justice department and a lot of people formerly in the justice department, and it is universal fury at Comey that, you know, he has done something that is -- is going to damage the reputation of the FBI for years to come and if it starts really changing the polls, if there's an effect on the election where, you know, because Comey put out a letter that no FBI Director should ever have done saying, well, we found something and we don't know what it is, if that changes the outcome of the election, the FBI will never recover. It will -- this will make, you know, the -- the scandals of the Hoover years look like nothing.

Eichenwald wrapped things up discussing whether Comey would have appreciated this being done to him back when he was working at the Justice Department:

EICHENWALD: I want to point out in the editorial that I mentioned, Larry Thompson is a dyed in the wool Republican. He was very high level in the Justice Department under George W. Bush, a guy with a lot of integrity. People might say well, Gorelick was a Democrat, let's set her aside. Larry Thompson is saying exactly what I’m hearing from other Justice Department people, you know. The phrase is Comey is swimming out of his lane. He is an investigator. He is not a prosecutor. And the way these procedures are supposed to work are that, you know, the FBI develops information. they put together a memo, particularly in cases involving public officials. they send it to the -- to the Department of Justice and, again, in public official cases it goes up the line for a determination of prosecution. Well, all of that has been turned on its head.

You know, Comey used to be the number two at the Justice Department, and if an FBI Director had done this to him, I have no doubt Comey would be out there seeking the guy's to be fired.

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