Rich Girard / Flickr comey speaking...
Rich Girard / Flickr

Republicans have come up with a whole new way to be outraged over Hillary Clinton’s being found not guilty of any crimes related to her, what else, emails. And they think they’ve come up with a club that can used against both Clinton and former FBI Director James Comey.

Former FBI Director James Comey drafted a statement exonerating former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for running her government emails through a private email server before completing the investigation, according to two Republican senators.

Comey did a huge favor for Republicans, and broke with FBI rules by delivering an excoriating speech in July of 2016 in which he admitted that Clinton had not actually done anything actionable, but took her to task for being “careless.” Comey’s finger-wagging July statement provided the fuel for Donald Trump’s rally speeches through the fall. Then, a week before the election, Comey delivered Republicans an inestimable gift by reopening an investigation he already admitted had gone nowhere. Comey did not actually Lock ‘Er Up™ for the high crime of simply being Hillary Clinton, as the screaming crowds of Trump followers demanded, but he delivered a blow to Clinton’s campaign that more than one analysis has suggested put Donald Trump in office.

Despite this, Republicans now want to pretend that James Comey was somehow always in Hillary’s corner; that he was actually protecting her by going well outside Justice Department rules to take shots at her actions.

The cause for the latest Comey-was-too-kind crisis? The astounding discovery that Comey wrote earlier drafts of his July statement. A perfectly ordinary procedure which is, of course, being taken in a perfectly ordinary way.

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In fact, it appears that Comey — who did not personally lead the investigation into Clinton — began circulating drafts of his statement to the investigation team as early as May for their feedback. The reason: Everything they had told him was leading to the outcome that there was going to be no criminal finding.

At the time the note first circulated, investigators still hadn’t talked with Clinton, but it seemed obvious how things were going.

The person said back in spring 2016, agents and Justice Department officials were talking about how the investigation would end and there was a belief that the evidence was going in a direction to not support bringing charges. This individual said by April 2016 the FBI had reviewed most of the evidence and didn’t find evidence suggesting that Clinton had violated federal law. The person said the FBI wanted to interview her but didn’t believe it was going to change the outcome.

Comey has pointed at the brief “tarmac meeting” between Bill Clinton and Attorney General Lorretta Lynch as the cause for taking his statement public. That meeting occurred in June. Completing the final interviews and clearing up any resulting issues around that meeting could well account for delaying Comey’s statement to July.

However, it’s clear enough that Republicans aren’t actually interested in clearing anything up. Quite the opposite.

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This isn’t something put out by a critic. This is Fox News itself admitting that the reason they keep recycling the “But her emails…” story is simply an attempt to drown the daily drum beat of evidence connecting the Trump campaign to Russia. 

Or, as the Trump White House itself would say it …

Reporter: Senators Grassley and Graham revealed today that they have evidence suggesting that former FBI Director Comey made a decision to not charge Hillary Clinton several months before the investigation wrapped up and before they interviewed Hillary Clinton. Does the president know about this, and does he believe that adds weight to his decision to fire Comey?

Huckabee-Sanders: I’m not sure if he is aware of that revelation, but if it is as accurate as they say it is I think that would certainly give cause and reason Comey was not the right person to lead the FBI. And hopefully all of your colleagues will follow suit in covering that story.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.