John D. O’Connor: Politicizing the FBI: How Comey Succeeded Where Nixon FailedPosted: June 5, 2018
D. O’Connor writes: A little over 40 years ago, Richard Nixon went from a landslide re-election winner to a president forced to resign in disgrace. Nixon’s downfall was the direct result of his unsuccessful attempts to politicize through patronage of an independent, straight-arrow FBI. The commonsense, ethical lesson from this for all government officials would be to avoid attempts to use our nation’s independent fact-finder as a partisan force.
There is as well, of course, a more perverse lesson to be learned from Nixon’s downfall at the hands of an independent FBI, to wit: there is much power to gain by politicizing the Bureau, but only if its upper-leadership team is all on partisan board. Emerging evidence increasingly suggests, sadly, that this was former FBI Director James Comey’s leadership strategy in our country’s most sensitive investigations.
In the years running up to the 1972 election, Deputy Associate FBI Director Mark Felt, serving under feisty bulldog J. Edgar Hoover, staunchly refused the entreaties of Nixon lieutenants to act politically, e.g., to whitewash an ITT/Republican bribery scheme and to lock up innocent war protestors. Felt, the natural successor to Hoover, fell out of White House favor as a result.
Following the death of Hoover in May 1972, Nixon appointed in place of Felt the decent but politically malleable L. Patrick Gray. When six weeks later five burglars were arrested in the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, Nixon’s Justice Department tried to limit, through Gray, the scope of the FBI’s investigation. Unfortunately for Nixon, regular Bureau agents, led quietly but spectacularly by Felt, fought these attempts, with a far worse result for Nixon than if the Bureau had been left alone to do its job.
In the years running up to the 2016 presidential election, Comey made sure not to make the same “mistakes” of Felt that plagued Nixon. The IRS conservative harassment scandal was swept under the rug. The Clinton Foundation, seemingly overtly corrupt, was given a pass even after the Uranium One sale by a large Clinton Foundation donor was approved by the Clinton State Department. Comey even went so far as to take the unusual step of exonerating Hillary Clinton for her grossly negligent handling of classified materials, not a decision that was his to make. More shockingly, he permitted the destruction of 30,000 Clinton emails and relevant hard drives. It strains credulity to contend that Comey would have done the same for President Donald Trump if the occasion arose.
Comey’s exoneration of Clinton clearly transgressed clear DOJ standards, although Comey makes a tenuous argument that this was made necessary by the clear bias of Attorney General Loretta Lynch. In so doing, though, he admits that the proper course would have been to recommend a Special Counsel. But, stunningly, he also admits in his recent book that he did not do so because the public might think she was guilty, a political calculation if there ever was one.
Source: The Daily Caller
John D. O’Connor is the San Francisco attorney who represented W. Mark Felt during his revelation as Deep Throat in 2005. O’Connor is the co-author of “A G-Man’s Life: The FBI, Being ‘Deep Throat,’ and the Struggle for Honor in Washington” and is a producer of “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House” (2017), written and directed by Peter Landesman.