Out of all of the events and characters surrounding the 2016 federal election, the role of FBI Director James Comey may be the most curious. Comey reported to Congress in July that the Bureau would not seek charges against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server. Then, in October, he sent a letter to Congress to announce that investigators had uncovered new emails that they needed to review.
As we know, a short time later Comey sent another letter to Congress saying that after an "around the clock" review of the emails, the FBI had not changed its opinion that there was nothing about Clinton's behavior that warranted prosecution. Two days later the country went to the polls. Donald Trump won the Electoral College, and the issue should have been finally put to rest.
But the email "scandal" and Republicans' seemingly limitless interest in talking about it just simply will not go away. And once again, in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Comey made a misleading statement about the email case that now, according to Pro Publica, has the FBI uncertain of what they should do to correct the record.
On May 3, during an annual hearing to review FBI oversight, Comey told the Judiciary Committee that "hundreds and thousands" of Clinton emails had been forwarded to a computer owned by disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner by his wife, Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Comey said that Abedin had made a "regular practice" of forwarding the emails, and did it so that Weiner could print them out for Clinton. What he said was almost completely false.
Pro Publica says that two sources, one of them in the law enforcement community, explained that Abedin only forwarded "a handful" of Clinton emails to Weiner. Those sources say that the forwarding did not appear to be a regular practice, as Comey claimed. It is believed that most of the emails wound up on Weiner's computer from automatic backups performed by Abedin's Blackberry.
It isn't known whether any of those forwarded emails were among the 12 classified communications that Comey had said were found on Weiner's computer. He did manage to correct the record about the number of classified emails when asked about them by Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who wanted to know why Abedin and Weiner had not been charged with mishandling classified information. But even in the clarification he offered to Cruz, Comey repeated the inaccurate statement that Abedin had forwarded "hundreds and thousands" of emails.
Cruz: Under the terms of that statute, the fact pattern you described in this hearing seems to fit that statute directly, in that -- if I understand you correctly -- you said Ms. Abedin forwarded hundreds or thousands of classified e-mails to her husband on a non-government non-classified computer. How is -- how does that conduct not directly violate that statute?
COMEY: First, senator, I -- I -- I -- if I said that I misspoke. She forwarded hundreds and thousands of e-mails, some of which contain classified information.
The Pro Publica report says that on May 8 the FBI was preparing a letter to Congress to correct the record about the emails. But that plan is apparently on hold as the Bureau tries to determine how to proceed.
Comey's actions in the Clinton email controversy have been puzzling from the beginning. His behavior and statements, including his most recent testimony, suggest that he is at the very least not a competent FBI chief. At worst, he is a partisan hack, feeding information to congressional Republicans that he thinks they want to hear. And this person of questionable ability and motives is overseeing an investigation into the current occupant of the White House.
To restore faith and trust in the FBI, particularly given that they are currently investigating the Trump campaign's ties with Russia, Comey needs to personally correct the record regarding his recent misstatements to Congress. But it looks like he's going to leave that to his subordinates, and by all accounts he has left them with no idea of how to go about it.