Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Mueller and Comey

From Gregg Jarrett:
As I pointed out three weeks ago, the relationship between Mueller and Comey is not a casual one. They are well known to be good friends and former colleagues who worked side-by-side at the FBI and Department of Justice handling together several important cases. Agents quipped they were joined at the hip.

In one memorable case, they stood in solidarity, both threatening to resign over the warrantless wiretapping fiasco involving then-Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2004. But the Comey-Mueller duo are best known for “badly bungling the biggest case they ever handled” together –the 2001 anthrax letters attacks that killed 5 people and infected 17 others in Washington in 2001. The story is well told by Carl M. Cannon, executive editor and Washington bureau chief of RealClearPolitics. It appears that Mueller, Comey and others misinterpreted the evidence and botched the case by fingering an innocent man, Steven Hatfill. It ended up costing taxpayers roughly $ 5 million in a legal settlement.

Here is the interesting part that few people recall. Hatfill’s successful lawsuit accused the FBI and DOJ of leaking information about him to the press in violation of the federal Privacy Act.  Sound familiar? That’s right, a leak. Very much like Comey’s premeditated leak to the media of his now infamous memo reciting his alleged conversation with President Trump. Perhaps, old habits are hard to break.

As York points out, the Washington Post published a story the day Mueller was appointed special counsel entitled, “Brothers In Arms: The Long Friendship Between Mueller And Comey.”  But nowhere in the article does it venture toward the obvious –that their relationship presents a glaring and disqualifying conflict of interest.  So much for journalistic curiosity.  

Perhaps most revealing is a lengthy Washingtonian story four years ago, describing in detail a deep friendship that stretches back over a decade. Mueller and Comey became “close partners and close allies”.  So close, “there was only one person in government whom Comey could confide in and trust: Bob Mueller.”

Against this backdrop, the inevitable conflict of interest comes into full view.  If the special counsel is investigating whether the president tried to obstruct justice, the case becomes a test of “he said…he said.” Which man will Mueller believe? His good friend or the man who fired his good friend? How can Mueller fairly and impartially assess Comey’s credibility versus Trump’s? He cannot. 
Equally important, how can the public be assured that Mueller’s decision is free of partiality, if not animus, driven by his personal affection for Comey? It is reasonable to assume that Mueller was not pleased to see his good friend fired by Trump. Might the special counsel be tempted to exact retribution by conjuring criminality where none may exist? This is precisely why there are legal and ethical rules which demand recusal based on prior relationships. (Read more.)

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