Democrats Suffer a Comey Flashback

For veterans of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign for president, yesterday brought back painful memories.

The special counsel’s report on the handling of classified documents by President Biden instantly recalled how James Comey, then the F.B.I. director, concluded his investigation of Clinton for her handling of classified documents when she was secretary of state.

“The first text I got this morning was, ‘Were you thoroughly triggered last night?’” said Nick Merrill, a senior adviser to Clinton.

Robert Hur, the special prosecutor in Biden’s case, cleared him of criminal wrongdoing in his handling of classified documents while he was vice president. In 2016, Comey likewise recommended that no criminal charges be filed against Clinton for using her private email server to handle official correspondence as secretary of state.

But Hur and Comey — both Republicans investigating Democrats — didn’t stop there, adorning their exonerations with harsh and damaging criticisms. Comey called Clinton “extremely careless” in her actions. That fueled a flood of critical media coverage, including in The New York Times, and handed a cudgel to her opponent, Donald Trump. To this day, many Democrats blame Comey — who went on to reopen briefly, and then shut down, that investigation 11 days before Election Day — as well as the news media for her loss.

“Was it a problem?” said Joel Benenson, a senior adviser to Clinton’s campaign. “Yeah, it was a problem. We had a tough time dealing with it.”

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