Former FBI Director James Comey testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. The event garnered attention as if it was a political Super Bowl. The media continues to peel back layers of the onion that is the Trump administration but have little to show for it despite the cry of the pundits and the smell of the bulb.
As the media continues to search for Trump’s tin can wire to Russia, they’ve missed the golden rule of finding where the political ties lie – money. Through all the “scandals” that have emerged since President Trump took office, one name has continued to remain afloat among conservative commentators: Hillary Clinton.
Yes, it’s partisanship, but is there something more? Conservatives continue to ask why Clinton is not facing charges for her mishandling of an e-mail server as Secretary of State. Following an FBI investigation in July 2016, Comey himself admitted that what Clinton did was “extremely careless,” but she avoided criminality because she lacked malintent. The articulable facts stop there, but the money doesn’t.
Before the November election and before the Russian Wikileaks report, something else occurred that links Comey to Clinton in an unignorable way. In 2013, James Comey became a non-executive board member at HSBC Holdings, a British multinational banking and holding company. His initial appointment lasted three years.
Comey’s appointment at the bank seems innocuous enough until you follow the money.
On February 10, 2015, The Guardian reported that the Clinton Foundation had received up to $81 million from clients at HSBC since 2001. Flashback to two years and 10 days prior, February 1, 2013, is the day that Clinton resigned as Secretary of State. Two days before her resignation, Comey became a board member at HSBC. The timing is impeccable.
Clinton served as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. By 2015, she found herself mired in a trio of investigations related to Benghazi, her mishandling of classified e-mails, and the Clinton Foundation’s alleged acceptance of millions of dollars from foreign governments during her time leading the State Department.
The New York Times editorial board stated that by the time Clinton left her position as Secretary of State, it had become difficult to tell where the Clinton Foundation ended and the State Department began.
The same could be said for Clinton herself and her relationship to Comey. According to a Congressional hearing related to U.S. dollars spend on official foreign travel, Comey is equally connected to a global network of money, some of it touched by the Clintons. The hearing took place two months after Comey cleared Clinton of wrongdoing in her handling of classified information.
In the hearing, a Congressman begins reading a news report:
A review of Comey’s professional history and relationships… is deeply entrenched in the big-money cronyism culture of Washington, D.C. His personal and professional relationships – all undisclosed… reinforce bipartisan concerns that he may have politicized the criminal probe [of Clinton].
These concerns focus on millions of dollars that Comey accepted from a Clinton Foundation defense contractor, Comey’s former membership on a Clinton Foundation’s corporate partner’s board… and his surprising financial relationshp with his brother, Peter Comey, who works at the law firm that does the Clinton Foundation taxes.
Then, he starts opining on his own:
“Who knew? Wow. Direct ties here with James Comey’s family and the Clinton Foundation. It is just amazing.”
The Congressmen then continues to read the story which expounds on Comey’s time as a board member at HSBC, which routinely partnered with the Clinton Foundation.
Then, the article states:
Peter Comey serves as Senior Director of Real Estate Operations for the Americas for DLA Piper [the law firm that does Clinton’s taxes].
DLA Piper itself was among the top 10 donors to Hillary’s run for President in 2016. According to OpenSecrets.org, the law firm made more than $1 million in individual donations to Clinton’s campaign and $27,000 in donations to political action committees.
However, if Clinton and Comey are so financially well connected, why did he choose to investigate her, and arguably cost her the election? As it turns out, the FBI investigated both Clinton and Trump during the election, but, Comey only went public with his investigation into Clinton.
Comey’s decision to go public likely came from his perception that then- Attorney General Loretta Lynch attempted to downplay the FBI’s investigation into Clinton. According to the New York Times, Lynch refused to call it an “investigation” and wanted Comey to meet to discuss talking points to shape the matter in a better light.
All told, Comey believed that the Justice Department, led by Lynch in the last year and a half of the Obama administration, did not have the credibility to properly investigate Clinton. So, Comey went public with his investigation and attempted to gain the spotlight for himself.
Despite the financial connections of Comey and Clinton, ego got in the way. Even without bringing charges against Clinton, Comey still obtained some public justice and the social spotlight to boot. It is possible that Comey knew that his unprecedented announcement of an investigation would be enough to sway public opinion without actually bringing criminal charges. He simply wanted to put his career ahead of Clinton’s.
Emboldened, Comey thought he could put himself on top again by investigating Michael Flynn’s connections to Russia, but he was fired. Following his testimony to the Senate on Thursday, Trump remains unscathed, though no one comes out clean.
Trump thwarted Comey’s efforts because he had the power as President to ensure that his career, and that of his subordinates, was not ruined in the same way as Clinton’s, but not before toeing the line on what many are calling obstruction of justice.
What the public must weigh is this: Does Comey’s breaking of the FBI’s historic vow to silence related to investigations for his own personal gain outweigh the President’s inherent incentive to protect the order of the Executive Branch? The answer to that remains as unclear and unpredictable as the events that got us to this point.
What we do know is that the emporer wears no clothes, but if he did, they’d probably be pretty expensive.
Brad Omland is a writer and radio producer. Follow him on Twitter: @bradradio.