Eric Holder Sure Isn't Holding Back About James Comey
The response to FBI Director James Comey's letter to members of Congress "updating" them on the Hillary Clinton email investigation has stirred an outcry up and down the Beltway in the days since. One such voice holds particular weight, because he can comment on just how out of line Comey's move was or wasn't with Department of Justice precedent and policies. Former Attorney General Eric Holder's letter denouncing Comey's FBI update is a must-read given what's at stake, the real possibility that the latest news could tip the election in the favor of Donald Trump.
Holder served as attorney general from 2009 to 2015 and was appointed by President Obama. Despite being out of office, he hasn't stopped keeping a watch on the DOJ's work to "defend the security of our nation, protect the American people, uphold the rule of law and be fair." As he explains in an op-ed for The Washington Post, that is why he's so concerned with the latest development. Holder laid out what's wrong with Comey's decision quite matter-of-factly in the piece:
I am deeply concerned about FBI Director James B. Comey's decision to write a vague letter to Congress about emails potentially connected to a matter of public, and political, interest. That decision was incorrect. It violated long-standing Justice Department policies and tradition. And it ran counter to guidance that I put in place four years ago laying out the proper way to conduct investigations during an election season. That guidance, which reinforced established policy, is still in effect and applies to the entire Justice Department — including the FBI.
But that was just one of the pieces he's written. In fact, Holder has made his case against Comey's decision twice in the past days — once in the Post, and again as a signatory on a public letter along with 100 other former federal prosecutors and DOJ officials. Here they explained just why such comments like Holders are so discouraged:
Often, evidence uncovered during the course of an investigative inquiry is incomplete, misleading or even incorrect, and releasing such information before all of the facts are known and tested in a court of law can unfairly prejudice individuals and undermine the public's faith in the integrity of our legal process.
On top of that, they continue, is the issue of releasing the material near an election, as it might "create the appearance of political interference in the fair administration of justice." Therefore — regardless of Comey's intentions — they call on the FBI to release all the emails that were mentioned in the letter because as it stands they have caused "considerable, uninformed public speculation about the significance of newly-discovered material just days before a national election."
The group letter does cast doubt on Comey's decisions, but in the op-ed Holder went even further. Holder speaks about Comey's role specifically. He noted that he considers Comey to be a man of integrity, but that doesn't make the choice to bring up the investigation publicly a good one. "I respect him. But good men make mistakes," Holder said, laying out what Comey must do to correct it:
In this instance, he has committed a serious error with potentially severe implications. It is incumbent upon him — or the leadership of the department — to dispel the uncertainty he has created before Election Day. It is up to the director to correct his mistake — not for the sake of a political candidate or campaign but in order to protect our system of justice and best serve the American people.
Given the role that Clinton's emails have played during the campaign — and just how close we are to Election Day — I'd argue that Holder couldn't be more right.