It’s July 4, 2016. Although it is Independence Day, a national holiday, an unusual meeting is taking place inside the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in Washington, D.C. FBI Director, James Comey, is meeting with one of his lead investigators, Peter Strzok, concerning the Clinton email case. Unbeknownst to the two men is the presence of a third individual — a fly on the wall, who is strategically positioned within earshot of their conversation and was able to provide the following satirical transcript of the clandestine meeting.
Peter Strzok: Jimmy, what the hell was she thinking?
James Comey: She wasn’t. As soon as she found out that her meeting with Bill had become headline news, she had kittens. She was frantic and telephoned me immediately. Apparently, Bill told her privately that he wanted her to put an end to our investigation. He demanded that Lynch exonerate his wife of all charges and do so immediately if she wanted to keep her job in the forthcoming Clinton administration. Bill told her that Hillary has a campaign to run and she doesn’t need a cloud hanging over her head.
Peter Strzok: So why doesn’t Lynch handle it herself? Why does she need you?
James Comey: Because, after meeting privately with the ex-president, she has zero credibility. Lynch would be laughed out of town if she attempted to exonerate Hillary at this point and she knows it. So she wants me to do it. Therefore, I’m on the bubble.
Peter Strzok: I understand your dilemma. But it shouldn’t be that much of a problem. Two months ago, I reviewed the draft you prepared of the FBI’s recommendation to exonerate Hillary Clinton of all allegations. Overall, I thought you did a fine job but I suggested a few changes to the document. I sent you an email with the edits I recommended.
James Comey: Peter, that’s exactly what I want to discuss with you because I will be exonerating Clinton tomorrow in a nationally televised announcement. The draft exoneration document that you marked up will be the basis of my presentation.
Peter Strzok: Are you comfortable doing this?
James Comey: Not really. But I’m the one with the Boy Scout reputation and, therefore, I stand the best chance of convincing the public. I was hoping Lynch would make the exoneration statement, but she can’t after her harebrained meeting with Bill Clinton. I know I will be bypassing normal DOJ procedures when I do so. But it’s incumbent on me to do it. The time has come to end this charade. I hope I can pull this off with a straight face.
Peter Strzok: I believe you can.
James Comey: Considering the mountains of damning evidence found by our team of investigators, I will have to walk a tightrope as I deliver my bullshit presentation. I want it to sound like the FBI did a thorough investigation but the evidence we found doesn’t reach the threshold that would warrant criminal charges being brought against Clinton.
Peter Strzok: For what it’s worth, we have one big factor working in our favor. Tomorrow, you as Director of the FBI will be meeting the public’s low expectations. Other than crazy conspiracy theorists, the general public doesn’t expect Clinton to be charged with any crimes. In fact, they would be shocked if they she were. Considering the multitude of Clinton scandals over the years and the fact that they were never indicted for anything in the past, it is natural for the public to expect the same outcome in this case. Your exoneration of Clinton tomorrow would simply be par for the course as far as the Clintons are concerned. Only politically tone-deaf Clinton haters would expect the U.S. Department of Justice in the Obama administration to indict its own party’s front-running presidential candidate. We didn’t indict Lois Lerner who pleaded the Fifth when she was guilty as hell and we sure aren’t going to indict the next president of the United States.
James Comey: Thanks for the encouraging words. Your perspective puts me at ease somewhat, but I still have to contend with pain-in-the-ass lawyers who will take to the airwaves criticizing me for legal malpractice. I am particularly concerned with one of the edits you suggested — changing the words “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless.”
Peter Strzok: Obviously, you had your lawyer’s hat on when you wrote those words. When I read the draft, the words “grossly negligent” jumped off the page because they are the exact words used in subsection 793(f) of the Espionage Act. It would be poor form, not to mention a major faux pas, to publicly exonerate someone while using the precise statutory language, “grossly negligent,” that would be applied if a criminal indictment were handed down instead. So, I changed the term to “extremely careless” instead. Although it’s a change without any real difference, it is nuanced enough, in my opinion, to avoid the statutory language problem. Extremely careless also softens the rather harsh and legally inexcusable behavior of being “grossly negligent.”
James Comey: Brilliant. You’re a lifesaver. And thank you for catching something else. I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote it is “reasonably likely that hostile actors gained access to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email account.” Changing the words from “reasonably likely” to “possible” sounds a lot less damaging.
Peter Strzok: Yeah, Jimmy, it is difficult giving her a pass, but we had to do what we had to do. I can tell you the hundred-plus agents, who worked on the case, will be very unhappy when you exonerate her. They found an avalanche of evidence that should put her away. They are particularly upset with Clinton’s willful destruction of subpoenaed evidence. When I interviewed Clinton’s associates, Huma Abedin and Cheryl Miller, I had to hold my nose because I knew they were lying through their teeth. When I and others interviewed Hillary on Saturday, we made sure we didn’t record the interrogation. And I use the term “interrogation” loosely, if you know what I mean. We didn’t even bother putting her under oath.
James Comey: Peter, you’re just doing your job. I’m proud to have dedicated law enforcement professionals like you on my staff. The same goes for the rank-and-file agents who worked the case. I hope they will forgive me for rendering the fruits of their hard work unrecognizable and drawing a conclusion that is unsupported by mounds of incriminating evidence they uncovered. Fortunately, our agents know that there is a political component to their work and that it is necessary at times to gloss over inconvenient facts. Like us, they understand that certain powerful politicians must be afforded a wide degree of latitude in the application of the law. In other words, hard evidence alone is insufficient when dealing with the politicians who run our government. The concept of equal justice under the law is malleable in this regard. Hence, I trust that FBI agents, in their professional wisdom, will abide the delicate elasticity we are applying to the Clinton matter.
Peter Strzok: They are fully aware that there is a political dimension to their job and are trained accordingly. The good news is that Clinton appears to be a shoo-in to win the election. As the campaign heats up, your exoneration of her will quickly fade into the background. When she takes office next January, this whole affair will become a distant memory. Hopefully, she will remember the service we rendered to get her into the Oval Office.
James Comey: Let’s not be too hasty. It is possible that this upstart, Donald Trump, could pull off an upset, although it is very unlikely.
Peter Strzok: For the sake of our country, let’s hope that doesn’t happen. The guy is a certified loose cannon. If, by some outside chance, the nut job wins the election, we will have to stop him before he destroys the nation.
James Comey: We’ll deal with that ugly gorilla, if and when he arrives at our doorstep. Right now, I need to focus on my presentation tomorrow. Thanks for helping me out with this delicate matter. Enjoy what remains of the holiday and stay safe.
Peter Strzok: Thank you, boss. All the best with your presentation tomorrow.
Peter Strzok exits the room and the Hoover Building, leaving Comey alone to ponder his exoneration speech.
As the fly on the wall buzzes off, he’s confused. He remembers flying past images of a blindfolded lady holding a scale. He is puzzled how the conversation he just heard squares with the motto “Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity” emblazoned on the FBI seal. Even though he is a lowly insect, he knows something isn’t right.