EDITORIAL: FBI’s Comey needs to come clean on details, motivation — or resign


FBI Director James Comey has only hours to explain his October Surprise from yesterday and answer detailed questions from the press about why, just days from the election, he chose now to make an obscure announcement that a month-old investigation into the perverse life of disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner has bearing on Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.

Or Comey should immediately resign and allow a credible FBI official to come clean.

It’s unfathomable but not unimaginable to conclude what Comey was thinking.

Comey was bullied unmercifully by Republicans in Congress as to why and how he concluded in July that there was no criminal intent nor behavior by Hillary Clinton or her staff in the matter of Secretary of State emails she kept on her private server.

“Not even close,” Comey said when pressed hard by Clinton’s Republican critics last summer.

Comey bungled the initial announcement about the end of the email investigation by going public and being similarly vague. He then had to tap dance about details of his findings, which unequivocally cleared Clinton of criminal wrongdoing or intent. Later in a show of deference that will surely come to haunt future presidents of both parties, Comey opened up additional details in an unsuccessful effort to prove his case. It was folly.

But those gaffes were nothing compared to his blunder yesterday that some kind of information from somewhere might have some kind of bearing in the previous email investigation into Clinton’s use of a personal server when she was secretary of state.

The public and Clinton campaign were clueless until the press was able to get leaked information that the issue stems from the confiscated computer of Weiner. Weiner is the estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. She left Weiner this summer because after a long, humiliating and career-ending revelation that he was a serial sexter, he continued that behavior. A month after, the FBI announced it was investigating allegations that Weiner had carried on an extensive sexting relationship with a 15-year-old girl.

Now, more than a month after, the implication is that emails on that computer may have something to do with Abedin and her role as a Clinton aid. Or not.

Not since the days of J. Edgar Hoover has the FBI pulled such a politicized stunt, even if was unintended. Had the surprise eleventh-hour announcement been about Donald Trump or Speaker Paul Ryan, the danger and our criticism would be the same.

If there are substantial and provocative details here, the public needs to know them now. The FBI needs to outline exactly what it has uncovered, how it has bearing on the previous closed case regarding Clinton, and why the information is so critical that the agency would risk impacting the outcome of a U.S. election. If the FBI can’t adequately answer these questions immediately, Attorney General Loretta Lynch must intervene and set the matter straight.

If there’s damning or critical information about Clinton staff mishandling email that creates the clear and immediate threat to national security that would warrant such a ploy, Americans deserve to have Clinton explain it — and Clinton must get that opportunity. Otherwise, Comey needs to apologize for his infelicity and possibly politically motivated stunt, and immediately step aside.