House Judiciary Constitution and Civil Justice Subcommittee Ranking Member Cohen Calls for FBI Director Comey to Resign
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, today called on James Comey to resign as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
"FBI Director James Comey’s recent public comments on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her emails, apparently before seeing any evidence, and against the advice of the Justice Department according to press reports, and even, some have suggested, in violation of the Hatch Act, make it clear that for the good of the FBI and the Justice Department, he should resign his position effective immediately,” said Congressman Cohen. “In the past, even quite recently, I have expressed my appreciation for Director Comey. I appreciated his courage as Deputy Attorney General when he stood up to President Bush’s Chief of Staff Andrew Card and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales when they attempted to persuade hospitalized Attorney General John Ashcroft to reauthorize Bush's domestic surveillance program, which the Justice Department had just determined was illegal. When, in July of this year, Director Comey recommended no criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her handling of classified information while she was Secretary of State but added his own sidebar of opinions to the announcement, I gave Director Comey the benefit of the doubt, despite the fact that his making such highly unusual remarks was called into question by many."
Congressman Cohen elaborated, "While I cannot know Director Comey’s reasoning for his recent letter to House members notifying them about the FBI’s review of emails that he deemed 'potentially related' to Hillary Clinton's personal server, it was plainly premature, careless and unprecedented in its potential impact upon a Presidential election without a speck of information regarding the emails in question, their validity, substance or relevance. Director Comey stated in the letter that he had no idea of 'the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails' which makes his decision all the more disturbing.
"There is a reason that FBI investigations are not usually made public until they are completed. To do so gives an impression of guilt before all the facts have been determined. That was the case during the FBI’s investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails that led Director Comey to state that there was no evidence that Secretary Clinton intentionally transmitted or willfully mishandled classified information and that 'no reasonable prosecutor' would bring a case against her. In light of that finding and the Department of Justice’s prohibition and practice against influencing elections, it is clear that Director Comey’s actions, no matter his motivations, have called into question his judgment and ethics. That is unacceptable as the FBI Director must, like Caesar’s wife, be above suspicion. I agree with CNN's Paul Callan who, in calling for Director Comey to resign wrote 'Trashing the Justice and FBI rule books in the interest of "openness" is likely to put the FBI front and center in one of the most contentious presidential races in recent U.S. history.’ "
Congressman Cohen continued, "Additionally revelatory is the New York Times opinion written by Richard Painter, chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, in which he states:
Absent extraordinary circumstances that might justify it, a public communication about a pending FBI investigation involving a candidate that is made on the eve of an election is thus very likely to be a violation of the Hatch Act and a misuse of an official position. Serious questions also arise under lawyers’ professional conduct rules that require prosecutors to avoid excessive publicity and unnecessary statements that could cause public condemnation even of people who have been accused of a crime, not to mention people like Mrs. Clinton, who have never been charged with a crime.
Congressman Cohen concluded, "The fairness of our electoral system is like the fairness of a trial, and no justice official should act in such a way to potentially influence an election whether intended to or not. Standards must be upheld and an FBI Director needs to investigate, not inject issues into a presidential election when no investigation dictates action or basis for action. At a minimum, Director Comey’s actions are, to use his own verbiage, 'extremely careless' this close to the election and without any apparent substance. If Director Comey cares about the Bureau and the rule of law, as I have felt he has in the past, I'm sure upon reflection of this action, he will submit his letter of resignation for the nation’s good."