FBI director’s motivations: An ‘obligation to Congress’ and fear of a rank-and-file revolt

FBI Director James Comey prepares to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington in this 2015 file photo. AP Photo/Susan Walsh
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FBI Director James Comey prepares to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington in this 2015 file photo. AP Photo/Susan Walsh

The Washington Post has an interesting analysis here on FBI Director James Comey’s decision, 10 days from an election, to inform Congress that agents had found a previously unknown trove of emails – contents unknown – had been found on a laptop owned by former congressman Anthony Wiener. Two key paragraphs:logo-all

“At the end of the day, if you have the FBI director telling Justice that he has an obligation to tell Congress, there is no way you can direct the FBI to do otherwise,” said one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “That’s too fraught. You can’t direct someone to withhold information from Congress. That’s not a prudent way to do things.”

And this:

Officials familiar with Comey’s decision also said the letter was a very difficult decision for him but he felt the circumstances were “extraordinary” and he believed that word of the newly discovered emails found in the course of an investigation into Weiner would leak to the media and suggest a coverup. Comey also thought the Justice Department policy on handling sensitive information so close to an election was “guidance,” rather than an ironclad rule.

In other words, Comey was both honor-bound to disclose the information, and fearful of a rank-and-file revolt if he didn’t.

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Survey USA this morning made public an automated poll taken last week of Georgia voters, showing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump leading Democrat Hillary Clinton, 49 to 42 percent.

Commissioned by 11Alive, Trump’s lead is an increase over a previous poll taken in August. However, it was completed before Friday’s FBI email revelation.

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Reading too much into early voting data can be perilous, but a consensus seems to have formed that the more than 21 million ballots cast nationwide have given Democrat Hillary Clinton an early advantage.

The New York Times and Los Angeles Times report that Clinton has an edge, if slight, over Donald Trump in battleground states. And a Reuters/Ipsos poll found Clinton has a solid lead among voters who have already cast their ballot.

In Georgia, where more than 1 million ballots have already been cast, it’s a bit more muddied picture. Democratic strongholds are reporting strong turnout, but Trump’s state operation is confident.

The data they’ve collected shows that about 560,000 known GOP voters – those who have cast ballots in a few Republican primaries – have already cast ballots. That’s compared to 520,000 Democrats and about 200,000 voters who are labeled as “unknown” or “other.” Not counting the third category, which is a big wild card, that gives Republicans a roughly 40,000 vote margin. At this point in 2012, the GOP had a 2,000 vote deficit.

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With the national race tightening, the presidential contest in Utah, where Mormon upstart Evan McMullin threatens the lead of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, could suddenly become very important. From the Hill:

“If they go enough for this character that’s running all over the state, and we lose the state of Utah, that’s devastating,” the GOP presidential nominee continued, pointing to the Supreme Court vacancy and vowing to nominate conservative judges to the high court.

 Trump knocked McMullin while going after Bill Kristol, the editor of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine and a vocal opponent of his candidacy. Trump called Kristol a “loser” during the Fox interview, saying “he’s called the wars wrong” and “he’s called everything wrong.”

 “He gets his puppet to go and run in Utah. The guy takes votes away from me. You know, we’re going to win Utah,” Trump said, according to multiple reports.

McMullin sent his response via a medium that Trump understands well:

@realDonaldTrump, Yes you’ve never heard of me because while you were harassing women at beauty pageants, I was fighting terrorists abroad.

Over at the Washington Post, Josh Rogan has a backgrounder on McMullin that includes this paragraph:

Vetting a former spy for the nation’s highest office isn’t easy, considering the classified nature of his government service. This has left McMullin vulnerable to attacks he cannot publicly address. But I interviewed six former CIA officers who worked with McMullin during his 10 years inside the agency. What emerged was a picture of a young case officer who volunteered for duty in the world’s most dangerous places and had a unique talent for recruiting members of extremist organizations as assets.

***

Better Georgia today shows how Democrats intend to use Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy as a measuring stick, accusing Meagan Hanson, the Republican running against Democratic incumbent Taylor Bennett, of promoting Trump’s “birther conspiracy” – as well as a hostility to transgender men and women. Here’s one of several Tweets they’ve focused on:

hansontweet

 

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State Rep. Matt Hatchett of Dublin, chairman of the state House Republican caucus, is warning his colleagues of “a dark money group called Georgia Engaged, Inc.” that is working against the rulers of the chamber.

If you know anything about the group, don’t stop at telling Hatchett. Tell us, too.

***

Political advertising on TV and radio can be tough to track.

But the nonpartisan Wesleyan Media Project put a price tag on the estimated cost of campaign ads that Georgians have watched in the run-up to the state’s U.S. Senate race: $2.2 million between mid-September and mid-October.

That number is fairly low when it comes to other states with competitive Senate races. Pennsylvanians saw more than $21 million worth of ads in that same period, while poor New Hampshirites were bombarded with nearly $28 million worth of political spots.

Overall, Wesleyan ranks Georgia’s  U.S. Senate race 13th in terms of ad dollars spent and number of airings. The site estimates that nearly two-thirds of those spots were in favor of Republican incumbent Johnny Isakson, with the remainder going toward Democrat Jim Barksdale.

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A Yankee judge today will begin unspooling Georgia’s decades-long water tiff with Florida in a Maine courtroom.

Reporting from Portland, our colleague Dan Chapman breaks down what you need to know about the case, which could take up to two months in court, as well as what to expect from the no-nonsense judge, a Supreme Court appointee who’s warned that neither Georgia nor Florida will be happy with his decision.

Chapman’s deep dive on the banks of the Flint River is also worth a read.

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Augusta Congressman Rick Allen’s Democratic opponent has been essentially a ghost this election season in Georgia’s 12 District, according to The Augusta Chronicle:

Patricia Carpenter McCracken, who paid the $5,220 fee to run in March as a Democrat against Republican incumbent Rick Allen, hasn’t made any known appearances or done any campaigning since then.

McCracken’s appearance on the ballot – and her primary win against Joyce Nolin, an Evans candidate who visibly campaigned, on an anti-Opportunity School District platform – continues to frustrate area Democrats, who haven’t seen McCracken at all.

“It’s not fair to the people of Augusta who live in the 12th District. We would ordinarily challenge with the best candidate we have,” said Lowell Greenbaum, chairman of the Richmond County Democratic Party.

McCracken is one of about a dozen challengers two well-funded congressional incumbents in Georgia who have virtually no chance of an upset this year. Read more about why here. 

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Buzzfeed has a profile on the creator of one of the great internet hoaxes of the 2016 political season: U.S. Rep. Steven Smith, R-Valdosta, who Tweets as the representative of Georgia’s 15th congressional District.

Georgia, of course, has only 14 congressional districts. Smith is actually Jeffrey Marty, 41, an attorney in Tampa, Fla. One paragraph:

On the internet, his rich imagination has created a universe that expands beyond his Twitter feed, lending the Smith account a bizarre credibility based on years of repeated, intricate in-jokes. The congressman’s platform positions include promoting a “#cleansexlife”; one of his greatest legislative victories was passing the fictional Carnival Safety Act of 2011 (which included fighting the “big carny” lobby). Smith is militantly opposed to marijuana and frequently bemoans his fictional pothead son, who even has his own account, Steve 420 Jr. (“My dad is a fascist,” the bio reads.)

 


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