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Don't Blame Comey for Clinton's Loss!
U.S. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), the highest-ranking Democrat outside of the White House at the time, had officially blamed FBI director James Comey for Hillary Clinton's loss in the 2016 presidential election, as well as for the Democrats' inability to control the Senate. Is this an accurate claim?
The Senate Minority Leader declared that Comey's controversial re-opening of the investigation into Clinton's private e-mail server only days before the 2016 election was a fatal blow to her campaign. Struggling with a completely unexpected loss, Democrats were desperate to figure out how an imminently qualified and impeccably prepared Washington insider lost handily in the electoral college to a bombastic, buffoonish, and offensive political rookie.
Some of the possible answers play out more like a political thriller than a history text: Both the director of the FBI and Russian hackers had been accused by top Democrats of scuttling Clinton's chances on Election Day. As usual, Republican states had been accused of working to suppress the vote of Democratic-leaning minorities and young people. Was Clinton's narrow loss in a handful of states the result of foul play? The fact that the former Secretary of State won 2.6 million more popular votes than Donald Trump gave angry liberals quite a mandate for an investigation.
But publicly blaming FBI director James Comey for Clinton's loss was wrong. Had Comey wanted to scuttle Clinton's candidacy, wouldn't he simply have pushed for her indictment back on July 5? Doing so would have thrown the Democratic Party into chaos. With the primaries over, (mostly centrist) superdelegates would have been given the tense task of deciding whether or not to throw their support behind Clinton's challenger, the outspoken progressive Bernie Sanders. Had Clinton remained in the race, refusing to bow out despite the call for indictment, the party would have been torn asunder.
Public sentiment would likely have shifted to Sanders, placing Team Clinton and its supportive superdelegates in the agonizing position of trying to convince a skeptical electorate that the moderate former First Lady, despite her legal woes, was still the better general election candidate. Even if gobs of superdelegates quickly and quietly defected to Sanders, giving him the nomination, it is likely that Team Clinton would have put up a fight. Just as pro-Sanders progressives were outraged by Clinton's nomination, centrist Democrats would have been similarly outraged by Sanders' nomination.
Clearly, Comey could have destroyed Hillary Clinton on July 5 by recommending to indict. However, he did not do so. This provides ample evidence that he never sought to harm Clinton's candidacy.
So why the big brouhaha less than two weeks before Election Day? Well, think about how it would look months or years later, after Hillary Clinton was in the Oval Office, when someone reported that the FBI had found additional Clinton e-mails on Anthony Weiner's laptop but had kept quiet about it. Republicans would have accused the FBI of a cover-up and insisted that James Comey was in Clinton's pocket. Coming on the heels of Attorney General Loretta Lynch's incredibly stupid chat with Bill Clinton in Phoenix, Comey's refusal to publicly report the FBI's findings would be downright condemned as corruption.
James Comey had to go public in order to not appear corrupt. He was between a rock and a hard place: Report the e-mails and look like a partisan Republican or not report the e-mails and look like Hillary Clinton's patsy.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.