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Media fawning over Comey, McCabe looks silly after stinging IG report

For those journalists who have covered law enforcement for decades, there was some discomfort watching a doting news media bestow adoration earlier this year upon the FBI’s disgraced top two former bosses.

FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyFeinstein requests Senate hearings with Whitaker, Sessions If Mueller were fired, could he — would he — go public? The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Trump says Florida races should be called for GOP | Latest on California wildfires | Congress set for dramatic lame duck MORE, terminated for violating department guidelines and explicit instructions, was given the royal treatment when his memoir came out this spring.

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Deputy Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeNewly empowered House Dems eyeing Trump need to learn from Gingrich debacle Beleaguered FBI scores much-needed win Did McCabe set up Rosenstein? MORE, fired for lying to his own federal investigators, was portrayed as a whistleblower akin to Mark Felt, another former top FBI official who exposed the very real Watergate scandal.

 

But that agitation in the pit of my stomach apparently blinded me from one of Comey’s greatest achievements. In fact, J. Edgar Hoover’s successor, seven times removed, accomplished something few in the Washington world could ever imagine: He got supporters of both President Donald Trump and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonOvernight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — First lady's office pushes for ouster of national security aide | Trump taps retired general as ambassador to Saudis | Mattis to visit border troops | Record number of female veterans to serve in Congress Election Countdown: Lawsuits fly in Florida recount fight | Nelson pushes to extend deadline | Judge says Georgia county violated Civil Rights Act | Biden, Sanders lead 2020 Dem field in poll | Bloomberg to decide on 2020 by February What midterm exit polls tell us about 2020 MORE to agree on something.

That something — as Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsGraham backs bill to protect Mueller Democrats in murky legal water with Whitaker lawsuits Whitaker’s past business dealings under scrutiny MORE put it on The Hill’s new “Rising” digital TV show on Thursday — was that Comey and his band of merry G-men committed “a big mistake” in their oversight of the FBI during the 2016 election.

Unlikely to agree on much else with Sessions regarding policy, former Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta did concur with him that Comey made a mistake — one Podesta says could have cost the former Democratic nominee the 2016 election.

“He violated department standards when he refused to take the advice of senior people in the Justice Department, so I’m not going to defend him,” Podesta also told “Rising” on Thursday. He added that Comey “kind of blew the election for us.”

The Department of Justice (DOJ) official watchdog laid bare on Thursday just how bad Comey’s FBI really was. Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded, in a 500-plus page report, that Comey was insubordinate when he announced the reopening of the Clinton email investigation a few days before the 2016 election, after being told not to do so by Justice officials.

Comey also violated department norms, misused personal email for FBI work, and usurped the authority of Attorney General Loretta Lynch when he decided on his own not to pursue charges against Mrs. Clinton for pushing classified emails through an insecure server.

The man who helped Comey run the two most politically sensitive investigations of 2016 — the Clinton email probe and the Russia-Trump probe — fared no better. FBI agent Peter Strzok was criticized for an exchange of text messages with his reported lover and fellow FBI worker, Lisa Page, in which he suggested the FBI would stop Trump from becoming president through the Russia case.

Even more troubling than that text message’s expression, the IG said it feared Strzok prioritized the Russia probe over the Clinton email case (called “Midyear Exam”) because of his bias against Trump.

“Under these circumstances, we did not have confidence that Strzok’s decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over following up on the Midyear-related investigative lead ... was free from bias,” the IG’s report said.

The IG report will be debated by pundits ad nauseam. It also may give President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeath toll in Northern California wildfire rises to 48: authorities Graham backs bill to protect Mueller Denham loses GOP seat in California MORE’s lawyers a cogent argument to fight special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s inquiry into whether Trump’s firing of Comey was an act of obstruction in the Russia probe.

However, Thursday’s report makes clear that Jeff Sessions, the DOJ and President Trump had a real performance reason to terminate Comey. It also makes clear that Hillary Clinton has a legitimate grievance against the FBI’s treatment of her case.

In the end, though, the real reason Americans should care about Thursday’s development isn’t that it created rare unity of Clinton-Trump opinion.

Rather, it is because the FBI, over which Comey presided, had leaders who lied, violated the rules, usurped authority that was not theirs, and expressed political biases that may have impacted how two presidential candidates were treated by the bureau during the middle of one of America's most precious events — an election.

With all the awesome powers that the FBI possesses, and the trust Americans must place in the agency, that crime is one that should not be tolerated by Republican, Democrat or independent alike.

John Solomon is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work over the years has exposed U.S. and FBI intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal scientists’ misuse of foster children and veterans in drug experiments, and numerous cases of political corruption. He is The Hill’s executive vice president for video.