Some people are calling for FBI Director James Comey’s head, claiming he violated the Hatch Act, a federal law passed in 1939 to stop federal employees and programs from showing political bias or using their position to influence or interfere with an election.
Richard W. Painter, who served as the ethics attorney for former President George W. Bush (let that sink in), took to the New York Times to express his opinion that Comey violated 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 actions, and the official is acting under pressure from persons who obviously do want to influence the election.”
Painter goes on to discuss abuse of power, but it is too bad top political dogs don’t get worked up every time the FBI abuses its power. He filed a complaint against the FBI with the Office of Special Counsel and with the Office of Government Ethics.
Painter took issue with Comey previously saying Clinton's handling of classified information was “extremely careless.” That’s funny since there are many people who believe she was extremely lucky to get off scot-free. Back in July, even Comey said, “To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now.”
Another accusation of violating the Hatch Act
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid sent Comey a letter (pdf) claiming Comey’s “disturbing double standard” may have violated the Hatch Act. Reid claimed:
In my communication with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian Government – a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity. The public has a right to know this information.
Yet Reid believes Comey wasted no time before “tarring Secretary Clinton with thin innuendo” without knowing if the emails are duplicates already examined by the FBI before exonerating Clinton. Reid ended his tirade with how wrong he was to have always been a supporter of Comey.
FBI finally obtains warrant, but knew about emails for weeks
Comey told Congress on Friday, “In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation.” Two days after Comey’s revelation, the FBI finally obtained a warrant to review emails which might be related to Clinton’s handling of classified information.
The Wall Street Journal reported that there could be as many as 650,000 emails on the laptop shared by former Rep. Anthony Weiner and his estranged wife Abedin, one of Clinton’s aides. Although one report claimed the FBI had “no idea what was in the content of the emails,” CNN reported that the FBI knew about the emails for weeks, having taken possession of Wiener’s devices in early October.
A law enforcement official told CNN, “By mid-October, Comey learned investigators in the Weiner case might have found something that could have an impact on the now-closed probe into Hillary Clinton's private email server.”
Yet Comey sat on that information while “trying to figure out how many emails existed and their pertinence to the Clinton probe.” Before obtaining a warrant, the FBI decided there appeared to be emails that were not part of the previous investigation. CNN added, “Investigators believe it's likely the newly recovered trove will include emails that were deleted from the Clinton server before the FBI took possession of it as part of that earlier investigation.”
Comey’s timing then, going to Congress right before the election, will likely result in more accusations of violating the Hatch Act.
Orin Kerr, a professor at the George Washington University Law School, asked if it was legal for the FBI to expand the Weiner email search to target Clinton’s emails. “Does expanding the FBI’s investigation from the unrelated case to the Clinton case violate the Fourth Amendment?” Kerr said it is too soon to know if the FBI will claim the new Clinton-related emails were part of “plain view” discovery while the feds were scouring Weiner’s device to investigate alleged texting crimes with an underage girl.
But even if Comey he did violate the Hatch Act, it’s not like he’ll be going to jail. CNN gave a worst-case scenario of President Obama firing Comey after the election.