FBI Director James Comey has inserted himself into the 2016 presidential election and made himself part of the controversy. And all of this looks rather sketchy, which is nothing new for the FBI chief, or for the long-tainted legacy of the bureau he operates.
Comey raised eyebrows when he sent a vague letter to Congress regarding emails possibly related to Hillary Clinton’s personal server as secretary of state — or not, but we’re not sure. Despite disapproval from Attorney General Loretta Lynch — and the Justice Department policy against commenting on investigations so close to Election Day — he sent the letter anyway.
“We don’t operate in incomplete information,” President Obama said in an interview recently, suggesting the FBI violated their guidelines for conducting investigations by dabbling in innuendo. “We don’t operate on leaks. We operate based on concrete decision that are made.”
Meanwhile, the same James Comey who manufactured an October Surprise to apparently help Trump’s chances of winning the presidential election opposed the Obama administration blaming Russia for the hacking of Democratic Party emails because it would make the White House look too partisan before the election.
If Comey is not interviewing for a Trump administration cabinet post, he is passing up a great opportunity. But this is not the first time that the man has placed his own integrity and judgment in question, as he seems to want to conduct investigations over nonexistent crimes, while allowing police violence against black people to go unabated.
For example, Comey recently suggested that there is no epidemic of police violence against black people. Speaking at the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention in San Diego last month, he told the crowd that Americans have no idea about how often police use excessive force and claimed that a small number of videos of police killings gives the impression there is an epidemic. “It is a narrative that has formed, in the absence of good information and in the absence of actual data, and it is this: Biased police are killing black men at epidemic rates,” Comey said. “That is the narrative. It is a narrative driven by video images of real misconduct, possible misconduct, and perceived misconduct.”
Then he praised police officers for serving during a “uniquely difficult time.” And in the process, he insulted the intelligence of the African-American community by trivializing their suffering — essentially telling us that we are imagining the violence perpetrated against us and that our own eyes are deceiving us.
Similarly, Comey has promoted the “Ferguson effect,” a baseless idea that that crime is on the rise because police officers, faced with increased scrutiny from Black Lives Matter protesters, are afraid to do their job, for fear of being the subject of the next “viral video” on YouTube. Some officials have used this fallacious theory to discredit and demonize the anti-police brutality movement and hope it goes away.
Comey once spoke of his bureau’s “shameful” legacy under J. Edgar Hoover, which included attempts to destroy Martin Luther King Jr. by delving into his sex life. “Special agents and intelligence analysts now visit the [King] memorial during their training, where they study Dr. King as part of their curriculum,” Comey said this past MLK Day, noting that the police “serves as an example of constraint and oversight in the history of the FBI and Dr. King.” He also reflected on the divide between law enforcement and communities of color and the implicit bias that all of us carry with us, police and civilians alike.
And yet, Comey contributes to the understandable and palpable fear and mistrust that black people have for the police, because — not unlike the cops as black folks know them — he appears two-faced, prone to selective enforcement and arbitrary investigations, and apparently is making up his own rules. With accountability to no one but himself, Hoover cemented the legacy of sinister shadiness that pervaded the FBI for decades. With COINTELPRO, he waged a war against black civil rights leadership and the Ku Klux Klan at the same time. And it was rumored among black folks in DC that Hoover was a closet “soul brother” — including black Hoovers who said their family member was passing for white.
Under Hoover, the FBI unleashed a police reign of terror on black communities, with arrests on trumped up charges, false imprisonment, brutality and assassinations, forcing some black leaders to flee the country and seek asylum. Our community still lives with that troubling history that has morphed into today’s reality. And rather than use his powers to combat police brutality and corruption, Comey chases Hillary’s emails, tells the police to keep up the good work and assures black people it’s all in their head.
Once again, this smells a lot like Comey auditioning for Trump’s White House edition of “The Apprentice.” However, he might have to fight Uncle Sheriff David Clarke along the way.
Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove