It was always going to be difficult for FBI Director Jim Comey to oversee an investigation into ties between President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. Thursday’s announcement that the Department of Justice’s Inspector General will investigate Comey’s conduct during last year’s presidential election makes it impossible.
He improperly inserted himself into the 2016 campaign twice, first in July when he violated Department of Justice rules to pass judgment on Hillary Clinton’s conduct, and then again in October when he violated further Justice guidelines to comment on an ongoing case during the waning days of a campaign.
At the same time as Comey was publicly maligning Clinton, he was refusing to answer questions from Congress about whether the FBI was investigating Trump (it was), all while sources within the bureau were repeatedly leaking damaging information about Clinton. Furthermore, Comey in October refused to sign an assessment by other members of the intelligence community finding that the Russian government had intervened in the election — a fact with obvious relevance to the electorate. These issues together had already cast doubt on the FBI’s ability conduct a fair investigation into Donald Trump under the current chain of command. The fact that Comey will now be leading the probe while under investigation himself make it completely untenable.
The situation will only be made worse when Senator Jeff Sessions is confirmed as attorney general and given the duty of supervising Comey and any Justice investigations that are underway into Trump. Sessions did not just endorse Trump and campaign repeatedly for him, he also officially joined his campaign as chair of its national security advisory committee. It is simply impossible for the American people to have confidence that Sessions can conduct a fair investigation into a campaign of which he was a senior official.
This matter requires an unquestionably independent investigation because the outstanding questions go to the heart of our democracy and to the legitimacy of the Trump presidency.
An investigation led by Jeff Sessions and Jim Comey will never be accepted by the American public as having fairly and adequately addressed these questions. Sessions has never been independent from Trump, and Comey has squandered much of his reputation for fairness. It is crucial that Sessions, or Attorney General Lynch in her waning days in office, appoint a special counsel with independent authority to determine whether criminal statutes were violated, and, if appropriate, bring charges.
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