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The Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation botched the handling of the conclusion of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to send and receive classified government information.

The FBI is a federal law enforcement agency that investigates alleged violations of federal law. The FBI submits the products of its investigations to the United States Attorneys’ offices, who are under the attorney general in the federal hierarchy.

The U.S. attorneys’ offices around the country review the work of the FBI, decide what crimes if any may have been committed, and present evidence to grand juries. Grand juries determine whether probable cause exists to return indictments charging suspects with crimes.

This is the basic process that the DOJ and FBI follow in every case involving every suspect — except for the case concerning Hillary Clinton. In that case, FBI Director James Comey unilaterally — not U.S. attorneys, not a grand jury — publicly declared that “no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.” Comey also announced that he “could not find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts.”

The FBI does not determine whether to charge suspects with crimes. The FBI does not review decisions of appellate courts in order to assist in determining whether suspects should be charged with crimes.

The irregular handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Clinton’s allegedly improper conduct is a serious breach of the trust and confidence that we the people have placed in our government systems.

The rule of law requires that all persons are equally subject to the established law. Here in the U.S., all citizens know that no one — regardless of power, wealth, or influence — will receive inconsistent treatment under the law. Equal protection of law naturally must include equal application of the law.

Unwavering application of the rule of law results in a degree of certainty in the U.S. We all know that we will all be held to the same established legal standards. If we are a victim of crime, and also if we are accused of having committed a crime, we all know that law enforcement will adhere to the law and the established processes for administering justice fairly.

That is, until there is a very public case involving a powerful, wealthy, and influential person, such as a multi-millionaire former first lady, U.S. senator, secretary of state, presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, whom the current president has enthusiastically endorsed.

When the DOJ and FBI treat that person’s case differently, especially after her husband, a former president, met privately with the head of the DOJ, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, for more than 30 minutes just days before Comey made his irregular unilateral public declarations, the public rightly loses trust and confidence in the fairness of the system.

In Clinton’s matter, after U.S. attorneys reviewed the FBI’s investigatory work, the grand jury should have decided whether probable cause existed to return an indictment. Comey should have remained publicly silent on the case. AG Lynch should have recused herself, because of the appearance of impropriety after her private meeting with former President Bill Clinton.

The end result may have been the same, but strictly following the established processes and applying the rule of law would serve to rebuild trust and confidence that are deficient right now.

Stephen Dunn, a major in the U.S. Army Reserve, is an attorney based in Royal Oak.

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