Finley: Comey riles election, again

Nolan Finley, The Detroit News

With one brief letter to Congress, FBI director James Comey has gone from Republicans' Public Enemy No. 1 to their last, best hope for winning a presidential election that is just nine days away.

In terms of October surprises, they don’t come much bigger. Comey told Congress he is reopening the investigation into whether Hillary Clinton mishandled classified government information on a home-brew computer server while she was secretary of state.

Earlier in the campaign, Comey had declined to recommend charges against the Democratic presidential nominee, accusing her of extreme recklessness in handling sensitive material, but deciding her actions fell short of an offense that could be viably prosecuted.

Clinton’s opponents howled foul, noting that others, including Gen. David Petraeus, had been convicted for crimes that seemed awfully similar to what Clinton had done.

Comey has been under fire for letting Clinton off the hook. His decision fed into the very real perception that Bill and Hillary Clinton are beyond reach of the law, and claims that the election is rigged.

The Justice Department, for example, has refused to probe disturbing connections between the family’s Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton’s State Department, despite evidence of a pay-to-play culture and highly irregular links between donations to the foundation and access to Secretary Clinton.

In addition, there is a compelling case that Clinton lied to Congress during a hearing about her email server and how and why it was used.

And her staff appears to have destroyed tens of thousands of emails after they were subpoenaed by Congress.

Just last week, a United States sailor was sentenced to one year in prison and other penalties for making pictures with his cell phone of the interior of a nuclear submarine.

Yet an FBI report confirmed Clinton had classified emails on the private server, though she claimed not to know their status when she sent and received them. But the law doesn’t require intent or awareness. The very fact that she was using a private server in violation of government policy should make her culpable for whatever comes into or goes out of that computer.

Comey has walked out into a minefield with this decision. He could have easily shrugged off the new evidence, which apparently was uncovered during a separate investigation of Anthony Weiner, husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Weiner is the pervert, egomaniac, and former congressman who is accused of sexting an underage girl.

How this development affects the election will be seen a week from Tuesday.

The FBI is not likely to conclude its investigation before Election Day. That will make Clinton the first presidential candidate who will head into the balloting while under an active FBI investigation for mishandling her last office.

This latest development strikes directly at Clinton’s biggest vulnerability: trust. Just 30 percent of voters in last week’s Fox News poll found Clinton to be honest. There’s still time, of course, for Republican Donald Trump to bail her out again with another outrageous campaign blunder.

Regardless, an election that looked like a sure thing for Clinton — she was already picking her cabinet — has taken yet another bizarre turn. It would be a fitting end to the craziest presidential campaign in modern history. Except we may not be done yet.