Jim Comey’s own words justify Bill Barr’s review

Attorney General William Barr has just blitzed former FBI Director James Comey on third down and there’s a feeling a sack is imminent.

Barr’s tasking of U.S. Attorney John Durham to review the “origins” of the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign becomes the third examination of Comey and his special team, joining efforts by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz and U.S. Attorney John Huber.  

{mosads}This is an entirely appropriate response to the fearful possibility that the FBI was misused by its past leadership for political purposes.  

AG Barr understands well that the FBI is dead as an agency — undeserving of the nation’s trust — if it is commonly perceived to be a weapon for political vagaries rather than an impartial, objective enforcer of the rule of law so vital to the survival of democratic governance.

These three initiatives will either validate Comey’s claim that everything he and his team did was “by the book” or they will expose grievous abuses that will invite reforms to ensure this never happens again.

Early indicators are troubling and Comey, with three linebackers bearing down, is in full scramble mode. His own words do not instill confidence, as evidenced during his most recent media tour last week in which he catapulted stones at all who have offended him.

President Trump is “amoral,” a “chronic liar,” who “eats your soul in small bites,” according to Comey. He claims AG Barr and former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein lack inner strength and character, respectively.

{mossecondads}This seems to be a purposeful, if questionable, strategy. The Mueller report largely has undercut any assertion by Comey that the counterintelligence investigation initiated during Comey’s directorship was founded on solid legal predication.

So now Comey’s game plan seems to be an appeal to emotion: We had to investigate the Trump campaign because he is such a terrible person and, as articulated by his investigator, Peter Strzok, someone who had to be “stopped.”

There’s a problem with that. FBI agents are not allowed to investigate individuals based on emotion or because they don’t like someone, or that someone has distasteful character traits. (For this, all politicians should be grateful.)  

Comey’s insistent disgust with Trump, and his urging Americans to vote Democrat in last fall’s midterms, have produced legitimate concerns that his decisions as FBI director were influenced by personal animus and political biases.   

In op-eds and in interviews, Comey has given new life to the concern that, for the first time in the FBI’s 100-plus years of history, partisan political operatives used the immense authority of the FBI to advance the political goals of one party at the expense of the other.  

His highly charged words are in play and should be taken into account by Durham during his review of the origins of an unprecedented counterintelligence investigation into a presidential campaign.

Comey’s claim that he and his team did everything “by the book” also should invite scrutiny. He is controversial precisely because so many of his actions were not by the book.

Conducting any investigation — as Comey did — out of FBI headquarters, let alone the Director’s Office, is not by the book. It is so outside “the book” that current FBI Director Christopher Wray is implementing policy, according to reliable internal sources, that restores investigations exclusively to the field offices and prohibits headquarters — where the FBI most closely intersects with the flame of political D.C. — from ever conducting investigations again.  Prudent, and good news for the country.

Comey said that running confidential human sources and undercover operatives is normal activity. It is, but under tight restrictions. Targeting U.S. citizens working for a presidential campaign with confidential sources, non-FBI undercover investigators, and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) electronic surveillance, is not normal. It’s never been done before. There is no “book” for it.

This is where U.S. Attorney Durham has his work cut out for him. Did Comey and his team follow Attorney General Guidelines, which govern the proper use of these investigative techniques? A lot of digging is needed here.

In addition, experienced counterintelligence investigators will tell you that when there is an intersection of Russian intelligence operatives and a U.S. citizen, the normal “book” calls for the FBI to warn the American about Russian intelligence “tricks” and then obtain cooperation, to help learn even more about Russian objectives.

This traditional book was not followed by Comey’s team, nor were those courtesies extended to the Trump campaign. Instead, campaign members were immediately targeted for investigation. In light of Comey’s recent comments, we may now know why.

His infamous news conference on July 5, 2016, where he invented a new FBI authority to decline  prosecution of a presidential candidate, only to then publicly excoriate her, was not by the book. His later decision, just days before America voted, to unnecessarily reopen an investigation that he had declined was not by the book either, and it caused a disruption to the election about which the Russians could only fantasize.

His decisions to reveal the existence of an FBI counterintelligence investigation into a presidential campaign during congressional testimony, his leaking of FBI materials to the press, and his post-firing book tour and media blitz are all unfamiliar behaviors for an FBI director. They definitely were not by the book.

For all of these reasons, there is growing concern, based on Comey’s own words and actions, that the FBI may have been hijacked by a partisan political operative. So the attorney general clearly is justified in his appointment of Durham.  

The real FBI, the agents and analysts and support personnel who day in and day out truly conduct themselves “by the book,” want the trust of the American people restored in the FBI. It is a value we should all be fighting for.

Kevin R. Brock, former assistant director of intelligence for the FBI, was an FBI special agent for 24 years and principal deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). He is a founder and principal of NewStreet Global Solutions, LLC.

Tags FBI bias James Comey John Durham Kevin Brock Mueller report Trump-Russia investigation William Barr

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