Nov 01

An Obvious Abuse Of Power Is A Crime

Up Date: 11/1/2016, 16:30

According to Pro Puclica, an ethics complaint has been filed against Rep. Jason Chafetz (R-UT) for releasing information provided to him by FBI Director Comey.

Representative Chaffetz, in an ill-planned partisan attempt, released information that compromised the integrity of the FBI, when he irresponsibly tweeted out that the case investigating Secretary Clinton’s emails had been reopened, when in fact it had not been. Members of Congress are elected to make our country a safer, better place- not to use their power to work with leaders such as Comey in a partisan fashion. I hope that both are held accountable for their actions,” said Scott Dworkin, Senior Advisor to the Democratic Coalition Against Trump.

As most people know by now, FBI Director James Comey sent a cryptic letter to Republican congressional committee chairs informing them that the FBI had uncovered some emails that may, or may not, have something to do with a previous investigation into Secretary Hillary Clinton’s private email server. The letter coming less than two weeks before a presidential election has ignited a fire that has been smoldering since July when Comey inserted his unsolicited and unprofessional opinion about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s handling of her e-mails. Anybody who was paying attention and has not completely blanked out the Bush – Cheney crime family know that Comey has always been a professional hack who has been abusing his powers for years. As a reminder here’s the chronicle of his crimes from The Guardian’s Trevor Timm starting with the facts about that ICU intervention:

Yes, Comey did curtail a small part of the NSA’s sprawling surveillance program in 2004, however, that occurred before the public ever knew of the existence of any NSA domestic program. The version of illegal warrantless wiretapping that the New York Times revealed in 2005, which sparked a firestorm of liberal criticism and widespread accusations of illegal conduct, was the program that Comey was totally fine with and signed off on.

Why he is celebrated as anything close to the hero is baffling. During the Bush administration, Comey also aggressively defended the arrest and due process-free imprisonment of a US citizen, Jose Padilla, on US soil. He was held as an “enemy combatant”, tortured, and refused a lawyer for three and half years – to this day, one of the most egregious violations of the constitution by the Bush administration. In addition, Comey also gave his legal sign-off on torture techniques during the Bush administration, despite harboring personal doubts.

Since taking over at the FBI, speaking up without all – or any – of the facts has become a Comey specialty. He has led a high-profile two-year fight to essentially outlaw end-to-end encryption, a vital tool that protects citizens’ privacy and security. He has done so freely admitting he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, while his demands fly in the face of the opinions of many prominent computer scientists, who have argued mandating backdoors in encryption is impossible to do safely and a recipe for disaster.

After having failed to convince the public – despite claiming it was vital the public debate the issue – he then went to a judge to try to force Apple to backdoor its own iPhone encryption using a law written in the 1700s. As Riley Roberts, previously a speechwriter for former attorney general Eric Holder, wrote in Politico in September, “Comey steamrolled his White House and Pentagon colleagues – even scuttling an administration-wide encryption policy that was under development – by insisting that Apple be forced to unlock the phone for the government.” [..]

Then last year, wholly without evidence, Comey promoted the discredited “Ferguson Effect”, arguing that crime has increased because police were afraid to do their jobs now that there is a slightly higher chance that citizens might film them shooting an unarmed person. Not only do studies show this theory is false (and separately, that crime has not markedly increased), it’s an insult to police officers. [..]

Similarly, as President Obama and many politicians in both parties have called for a reduction in harsh mandatory minimum prison sentences that have made the US by far the largest jailer in the world, Comey publicly spoke out against any such criminal justice reform. [..]

In 2008, the FBI was told by the Bush justice department (after Comey left) that it needed a warrant to gather email records and web browsing about Americans. But under Comey’s FBI, the agency has continued to disregard the justice department’s legal opinion, and to this day, demands tech companies hand it all sorts of data under due-process free National Security Letters.

That’s quite a history, yet, President Barack Obama saw fit to appoint him Director of the FBI and the Senate overwhelmingly approved him. Now, Comey has undermined the credibility of the FBI that the agency has been careful to cultivate since the death of J. Edgar Hoover. It’s bad enough that he totally ignored Justice Department policies and guidelines regarding the release or discussion of information about its investigations, especially in the months prior to an election, he may have broken the law, the Hatch Act, to do so.

The Hatch Act was passed in 1939 to specifically prevent the pernicious political activity of government employees.

The main provision prohibits employees in the executive branch of the federal government, except the president, vice-president, and certain designated high-level officials of that branch, from engaging in some forms of political activity. The law was named for Senator Carl Hatch of New Mexico. [..]

President Barack Obama signed the Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012 on December 28, 2012. It modified penalties under the Hatch Act to allow for disciplinary actions in addition to removal for federal employees; clarified the applicability to the District of Columbia of provisions that cover state and local governments; limited the prohibition on state and local employees running for elective office to employees whose salary is paid completely by federal loans or grants.

On Saturday, former George W. Bush chief White House ethics lawyer from 2005 to 2007 and professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, Richard W. Painter, filed a complaint against the F.B.I. with the Office of Special Counsel, which investigates Hatch Act violations, and with the Office of Government Ethics.

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. Violations are of even greater concern when the agency is the F.B.I.

It is not clear whether Mr. Comey personally wanted to influence the outcome of the election, although his letter — which cast suspicion on Mrs. Clinton without revealing specifics — was concerning. Also concerning is the fact that Mr. Comey already made unusual public statements expressing his opinion about Mrs. Clinton’s actions, calling her handling of classified information “extremely careless,” when he announced this summer that the F.B.I. was concluding its investigation of her email without filing any charges.

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.

Absent extraordinary circumstances that might justify it, a public communication about a pending F.B.I. investigation involving a candidate that is made on the eve of an election is thus very likely to be a violation of the Hatch Act and a misuse of an official position. Serious questions also arise under lawyers’ professional conduct rules that require prosecutors to avoid excessive publicity and unnecessary statements that could cause public condemnation even of people who have been accused of a crime, not to mention people like Mrs. Clinton, who have never been charged with a crime.

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.

Comey’s lame excuse that he did this because it would have been leaked anyway is no excuse at all. Even as last night, it was leaked by “anonymous sources” that the FBI was “looking into” former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s business connections to Russia and Vladimir Putin made the formal FBI response of no comment laughable at this point.

Comey should resign or be fired but, in the meantime, Attorney General Loretta Lynch needs to put a gag order on him. She can. She is his boss.