By Mike Whitney / CounterPunch
FBI Director James Comey’s letter to Congress about Hillary Clinton’s emails was an October surprise in presidential politics. (Rich Girard / CC SY-SA 2.0)
The following interview with Dennis Kucinich first ran on CounterPunch.
Mike Whitney: Should FBI Director James Comey be investigated for meddling in the 2016 presidential election?
Dennis Kucinich, former congressman: The director of the FBI is not beyond accountability. President Obama should have demanded Director Comey’s resignation immediately after Comey interfered in the 2016 presidential election with his Oct. 28, 2016, pronouncement of the discovery of new emails in the [Hillary] Clinton case. Comey breached protocol, bypassed channels, and tilted the outcome away from Clinton and toward Trump.
If Comey refused a presidential demand that he resign, then President Obama should have dismissed him. There is a precedent. President Clinton dismissed FBI Director [William] Sessions in 1993. The FBI director also can be subject to impeachment by the House and removal by the Senate. Given his role in upending the 2016 president election, it is astonishing that Director Comey is being given a chance to prove it was “the Russians that did it.”
MW: In a recent Fox News article, you discussed Director Comey’s “unprecedented intrusion into presidential politics”, (that) “has damaged public confidence in the Bureau.” In an earlier article, you mentioned that independent surveys have been conducted that strongly suggest that Comey’s meddling may have changed the outcome of the election.
Here is an excerpt from an article about one of those surveys. The article clearly states that “Comey’s letter, 11 days before the election, was the precipitating event behind Clinton’s loss,” and that “it was the single, most indispensable factor in the surprise election result.” Here is the entire except from the article:
Most decisively, there was a sudden change in the net sentiment results that followed immediately after FBI Director James Comey released his Oct. 28 letter to Congress about a renewed investigation of Clinton emails. Immediately afterwards, there was a 17-point drop in net sentiment for Clinton, and an 11-point rise for Trump, enough for the two candidates to switch places in the rankings, with Clinton in more negative territory than Trump. At a time when opinion polling showed perhaps a 2-point decline in the margin for Clinton, this conversation data suggests a 28-point change in the word of mouth “standings.” The change in word of mouth favorability metric was stunning, and much greater than the traditional opinion polling revealed.
Based on this finding, it is our conclusion that the Comey letter, 11 days before the election, was the precipitating event behind Clinton’s loss, despite the letter being effectively retracted less than a week later. In such a close election, there may have been dozens of factors whose absence would have reversed the outcome, such as the influence campaign of the Russian government as detailed by US intelligence services. But the sudden change in the political conversation after the Comey letter suggest it was the single, most indispensable factor in the surprise election result. (”Comey Letter Swung Election For Trump, Consumer Survey Suggests,” Brad Fay, Huffington Post)
How should Congress deal with this situation?
Dennis Kucinich: Congress could impeach Comey, but that will not happen for two reasons. (1) Democrats want to maintain the fiction that the Russians tipped the election to Trump. (2) Republicans want to maintain the fiction that Trump won because voters preferred Republicans.
I believe it is essential to focus on Comey. His interference was a miscarriage of justice, which must still be rectified. Congress must pass a law which requires all FBI officials to refrain from a public or private comment, within four weeks of a primary or general election, on any case involving a candidate for public office, or executing any search warrant, or seeking charges against any candidate for elected office, under penalty of criminal charges.
The FBI must not be permitted to interfere in elections through supposition, rumor or stuffing the ballot box with allegations or indictments. If voters elect someone who is later proven to have committed a crime, there are plenty of legal procedures to force removal.
MW: Here’s a quote by Masha Gessen from an article titled “Russia: The Conspiracy Trap” at the New York Review of Books. Gessen thinks the Democrats are actually hurting themselves by pursuing the Russia hacking story. Here’s what she says:
Trump is doing nothing less than destroying American democratic institutions and principles by turning the presidency into a profit-making machine for his family, by poisoning political culture with hateful, mendacious, and subliterate rhetoric, by undermining the public sphere with attacks on the press and protesters, and by beginning the real work of dismantling every part of the federal government that exists for any purpose other than waging war. Russiagate is helping him—both by distracting from real, documentable, and documented issues, and by promoting a xenophobic conspiracy theory in the cause of removing a xenophobic conspiracy theorist from office.
Do you agree with Gessen—is Russiagate actually helping Trump? Do you think the investigation could backfire on the Democrats and hurt them politically?
Dennis Kucinich: “RussiaGate” is not helping Trump, nor is it hurting him. It is hurting the Democratic Party as its minions in Congress perform weak imitations of Senator Joe McCarthy. McCarthyism does not sound better spoken out of the left side of the system’s mouth than it did out of the right side. The Democrats are losing valuable time trying to blame the 2016 election results on Moscow. 2020 will be not decided in Moscow, but in Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee and like cities in the U.S., which is why the party should be promoting an alternative economic vision with jobs for all, health care for all, education for all, retirement security for all, a clean environment, fair trade and an end to war.
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to “Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion” (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.