Fall out after the FBI Director James Comey's decision to release a shockingly vague and ill-timed letter regarding newly discovered emails somehow, possibly, loosely related to Hillary Clinton has been fast and furious. Just a few short months ago, the Democrats were singing Comey's praises, while the Republicans were calling foul. Now, we have flip-flopped, with Democrats demanding more explanations and Republicans getting ready to erect a 50 foot statue of him in front of the Trump White House.
No one knows what is going on. Within hours it was discovered that these emails were not from or to Hillary Clinton and were not on her server or on any of her devices. In fact, they were found during the investigation into Anthony Weiner (aka Carlos Danger) and his sexting relationship with a then 15 year old girl. So how does this connect to Hillary? Weiner's wife is Huma Abedin, Hillary's long time staffer and former Chief of Staff. The emails most likely are just duplicates of the ones already handed over during the witch-hunt, I mean "investigation," from earlier this year.
Anyways, this whole thing has been a shocking development, coming just 11 days before the election, with early voting already going on in dozens of states. Many came out and declared that this was a possible "Hatch Act" violation. For those that don't know what that means (myself included, until I looked it up), it is defined as:
"The Hatch Act of 1939 is a piece of United States federal legislation which prohibits federal employees, employees of the District of Columbia and certain employees of state and local governments from engaging in partisan political activity."
Certain federal agencies are under tighter restrictions than other employees, with the FBI falling under that category.
To that end, numerous legal minds from both sides of the aisle have come out with strong views, none of them favorable to Comey. Just yesterday the White House ethics lawyer under George W. Bush, Richard Painter, filed a Hatch Act Violation complaint against Director Comey.
In an op-ed piece in the New York Times, Painter outlines a case against Trump, laying out his possible connections to Russia and how nothing is being discussed publicly from the FBI, but then does a 180 pivot to what actually came out, this vague statement on emails.
Painter states it quite clearly:
"Violations of the Hatch Act and of government ethics rules on misuse of official positions are not permissible in any circumstances, including in the case of an executive branch official acting under pressure from politically motivated members of Congress. Such violations are of even greater concern when the agency is the F.B.I."
And this is the kicker:
"But an official doesn’t need to have a specific intent — or desire — to influence an election to be in violation of the Hatch Act or government ethics rules. The rules are violated if it is obvious that the official’s actions could influence the election, there is no other good reason for taking those actions, and the official is acting under pressure from persons who obviously do want to influence the election."
No intent is needed. The fact that Comey put in motion actions that could affect the election is in and of itself a violation of the Hatch Act. Period. And there is no disputing that his actions are having an affect.
Painter closes with this:
"This is no trivial matter. We cannot allow F.B.I. or Justice Department officials to unnecessarily publicize pending investigations concerning candidates of either party while an election is underway. That is an abuse of power. Allowing such a precedent to stand will invite more, and even worse, abuses of power in the future."
Whatever Comey's reasoning, that is was going to come out anyways, that he had no choice, etc, does not change the fact that he clearly violated his power. And it is going to be interesting to see if he himself is convicted of a crime while fighting to keep his job and reputation.