[…] The statements and actions of Obama, Lynch, and Bill Clinton are necessary to understand the context of Comey’s unusual decision this week to break with long-standing Department of Justice procedures about not taking actions or making public disclosures that could affect an election.
We now know that there was an internal debate at the Justice Department about whether to make any disclosure. Investigators reportedly found the e-mails on a laptop belonging to the former Congressman Anthony Weiner that was shared with his now estranged wife Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s longtime aide. An F.B.I. investigative team briefed Comey on the findings on Thursday, and he authorized them to take the necessary steps—presumably including seeking court permission—to look at the e-mails. In September, when the F.B.I. issued a subpoena for Weiner’s cell phone, the news immediately leaked. It is almost certain that the agency’s search of Weiner’s laptop for Clinton-related e-mails would also have leaked.
Comey decided that given the near certainty of a leak, and given the fact that he had previously testified that his investigation was completed, it was better to disclose the new development to Congress than not. “Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations,” he wrote in a letter to F.B.I. employees on Friday, “but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed. I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record.” Obama and Lynch’s previous actions made Comey’s decision more likely.