“Transparency is the absolute best thing for me and for democracy.”
– FBI Director James Comey, July 2016
FBI Director James Comey, October 2016
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WASHINGTON – FBI chief James Comey, until recently an adherent of the view that transparency is the best policy, has been hidden from public view since Friday, when he threw the nation and the election into chaos by reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. His vague letter to Congress admitted he didn’t know “whether or not this [new] material may be significant.”
Since Comey, in his refusal to explain himself, apparently no longer believes in transparency, he leaves it to our imagination to wonder what he thinks. So let’s take him up on this. Let’s imagine what a fully transparent Comey might say about the mess he made:
Good morning. I’m here to give you an update on the FBI’s reopened investigation of Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal email system during her time as secretary of state.
What I would like to do today is tell you three things: what we did, why we did it and what we found. The answers: “We screwed up,” “I was trying to cover my backside” and “Darned if I know.” Allow me to elaborate.
Just five days ago, I was a public servant of unquestioned integrity. The first paragraph of my obituary was going to be about that time I went to John Ashcroft’s hotel room and defended the Constitution from White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, who wanted to make torture legal.
Yes, Republicans and conservatives were furious with my recommendation not to prosecute Clinton, but nobody except the real Looney Tunes around Trump questioned my integrity. Now, people on both sides are calling me a hack.
It’s not the Democrats’ howling that bothers me. Harry Reid thinks I broke the Hatch Act, but he’s always popping off. He said Mitt Romney didn’t pay taxes and Trump is fat. And everybody knows Romney paid taxes.
But I thought my fellow Republicans would appreciate a makeup call rewarding months of badgering the ref. Instead I get Benghazi Jim Jordan, the Republican congressman from Ohio and honorary chairman of the Hillary-hater caucus, saying, “This was probably not the right thing for Comey to do.”
Thanks, buddy. Similar stuff from Larry Thompson, George Terwilliger, Michael Mukasey – even Karl Rove, per Fox News’s Bill Hemmer. And that loudmouth Joe Walsh says I was “wrong” and “unfair to Hillary.” Fox’s Judge Jeanine Pirro thinks what I did “disgraces and politicizes” the FBI and violates “the most fundamental rules of fairness and impartiality.” And she’s for Trump!
But this really gets me: Gonzales is using this to take his revenge for that night in the hospital. Mr. Torture thinks I made an “error in judgment” and he’s “somewhat perplexed about what the director was trying to accomplish here.”
Well, in the interest of transparency, let me tell him – and you. Since July, I had been getting a lot of grief from FBI agents who thought I went too easy on Clinton, and agents in the New York office were nearing mutiny. It was getting harder to keep them in line.
Then, last week, they jammed me. They sat on the new information for weeks, then dumped it on me 12 days before the election.
So I made a snap decision: I decided to protect myself. If Republicans in Congress found out I withheld this information before the election, I’d be impeached within hours. Heck, they tried to impeach the IRS commissioner for looking at them crosswise.
I thought my disclaimer in the letter to Congress admitting I didn’t know “whether or not this material may be significant” might signal that I was just checking a box – not so much.
The most ridiculous part is Democrats think I’m trying to throw the election for Trump. That orange buffoon? The guy thinks the Constitution has 12 articles!
Now I’m stuck. We don’t have time to read all the emails before the election, and we can’t release them. I’m less concerned about classified material than material involving Anthony Weiner’s weiner.
So, in the interests of transparency, here is what I’ve got:
What is on Weiner’s laptop? Beats me.
Are the emails just duplicates of ones we already have? Maybe.
Is there new evidence of mishandled classified information? No clue.
Why let this play out in the press with anonymous sources? Because I’m freaking out.
Why go public with this but say nothing about the Russians and Trump? Next question.
In full disclosure, I think I botched this one.
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter @Milbank.