Comey’s Interview Highlights The Disastrous Assumption That Clinton Would Win

James Comey’s interview aired last night on ABC and it really did not provide a lot of news that we already did not know. It certainly reinforced Comey’s self-perception of his holier-than-thou status, while highlighting his enormous blind spots and errors. It did not add that much to understanding Trump’s Russian connections and obstruction of justice.

One thing that did come through clearly was that Comey had made the same assumption as much of the mainstream media, namely that Clinton was sure to win the election. With that assumption as a working premise, most of Comey’s most egregious actions were designed to protect himself and, to some degree, the FBI from attacks from the Republican right after the election. Comey admits as much himself but, in usual Comey fashion, describes his actions as an attempt to save Hillary Clinton from charges of illegitimacy. Said Comey, “It must have been. I don’t remember consciously thinking about that, but it must have been. I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump. I’m sure that it was a factor. I don’t remember spelling it out, but it had to have been. That she’s going to be elected president, and if I hide this from the American people, she’ll be illegitimate the moment she’s elected, the moment this comes out.”

More disturbingly, this assumption seems to have colored the entire Obama administration’s approach to Russia’s interference in the election. According to Comey, “I heard the president [Obama] say, as I recount in the book, ‘Putin backed the wrong horse.’ That is, all of us were operating in a world where the polls were showing that Donald Trump had no chance…I think what the president meant by that was the Russian effort is wasted, and so why should we help them by announcing what they’re doing when their work is not gonna achieve their goal?”

In addition, Comey also admitted there was a cabal in the New York FBI office that was determined to stop Clinton from becoming President and that was either implicitly or explicitly threatening to release the existence of the Abedin emails if Comey did not do so himself. This still unidentified cabal has been rumored to be closely associated with Rudy Giuliana and former agent James Kallstrom. In his interview, Comey says, “I knew that there were leaks coming — or appeared to be leaks about criminal investigation of the Clintons coming out of New York. And I don’t know exactly where that was coming from. I commissioned an investigation to find out. I don’t know what the investigation found. But, yeah, I was worried about — [b]ut the criminal folks in New York were now involved in a major way. And I don’t want to single anybody out because I don’t know where it was coming from. But there’d be enough up there that I thought that it was a pretty reasonable likelihood it would leak.”

That unidentified FBI cabal in New York still apparently exists and, for all we know, is playing politics with elements of the ongoing Trump investigations. There is ample evidence that the New York FBI office had certain special relationship with Felix Sater, business partner of Michael Cohen and important Trump associate. That relationship prompted Loretta Lynch to vouch for Sater as an important intelligence asset when she was the US Attorney for the eastern District of New York. It would surely be interesting to find out what the results of Comey’s investigation of those New York leaks showed.

It is now generally accepted that Comey’s actions during the 2016 election, especially the reopening of the email investigation just days before the election, provided the incredibly narrow margin of victory for Donald Trump. Even KellyAnne Conway, the perpetual GOP hack, now admits it, despite her subsequent walk-back in order to avoid the wrath of Trump.

Certainly, that broad assumption that Clinton would win the election has turned out to be one of the most critical mistakes in recent American history. Because of that assumption, the media both overhyped Clinton’s problems and gave an enormous amount of free propaganda to Trump in order to juice ratings. Obama and his administration did not push harder to warn the American public of the Russian intervention in the election. That same belief allowed Comey to protect himself and the FBI by politicizing the agency, something that the anti-Clinton faction in the NY FBI office exploited. The result is a discredited FBI and Justice Department, a Supreme Court in conservative hands for the next few decades, and our democracy under threat like it hasn’t seen since perhaps the Civil War.

Comey will forever bear the brunt of the blame for this miscalculation and deservedly so. But it is important to remember that there were other less important players who fell into the same trap as Comey and bear their own share of responsibility for the disaster we currently face.

Originally published at on April 16, 2018.