January 15, 2008—September 30, 2013: The State Department has no permanent inspector general for the entire time Clinton is secretary of state.

080115HaroldGeiselpublicdomain

Acting Inspector General Harold Geisel (Credit: public domain)

Instead, an acting inspector with close ties to State Department leadership fills the role. An “inspector general” is an internal watchdog tasked with discovering mismanagement and corruption. The position goes vacant in January 2008. President Obama doesn’t nominate anyone to fill the position for more than four years, making it the longest time any department ever went without a permanent one.

Five months after Clinton leaves office, Obama nominates Steve Linick, who is confirmed as the new permanent inspector general three months later, on September 30, 2013.

In 2015, the Wall Street Journal will write, “The lack of a confirmed inspector general raises questions about oversight of the department under Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton. The department has been criticized for its failure to gather and archive the email records of Mrs. Clinton and other officials and for responses to public-record requests that lawmakers and advocacy groups say were insufficient… It isn’t clear whether Mrs. Clinton had any role in the lack of a nomination.”

The acting inspector general during Clinton’s term, Harold Geisel, is banned from taking the job permanently due to conflict of interest rules. Matthew Harris, a professor who researches inspectors general, will later comment, “It’s a convenient way to prevent oversight.” Acting inspectors general “don’t feel empowered; they don’t have the backing of their people. They’re in a position where they could be removed at any moment.”

Representative Ed Royce (R), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, will later suggest, “A permanent IG [inspector general] would have objected to [Clinton’s] efforts to circumvent congressional oversight by keeping her emails off the books.”

The White House has yet to explain why it waited so long to nominate a replacement. (The Wall Street Journal, 3/24/2015)

March 9, 2012: A Justice Department memo clarifies a policy of avoiding interference in elections.

Eric Holder (Credit: public domain)

Eric Holder (Credit: public domain)

Eric Holder, the US attorney general from 2009 until 2015, writes a memo during the 2012 US presidential race outlining Justice Department policy on how to avoid interfering in elections. It states that department employees (which includes the FBI) “must be particularly sensitive to safeguarding the department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality, and nonpartisanship.” If an employee is “faced with a question regarding the timing of charges or overt investigative steps near the time of a primary or general election,” that person should contact the department’s public integrity section “for further guidance.”

The department has had such policies for decades, and they usually are restated every presidential election, but the memo adds clarity to them. (The Washington Post, 10/29/2016) (US Department of Justice, 3/9/2012)

This department policy will be tested in 2016, when the FBI reopens an investigation into Clinton’s emails just 11 days before Clinton is on the ballot for the US presidential election.

October 29, 2016: A former Justice Department official claims that Comey’s “self-righteousness” has caused him to ignore the wishes of his superiors.

Matt Miller (Credit: Twitter)

Matt Miller served as Justice Department spokesperson when Eric Holder was attorney general. He says it is “stunning” that FBI Director James Comey decided to inform Congress about the reopening of the Clinton email investigation just 11 days before the US presidential election despite the opposition of Justice Department leadership.

Miller adds, “[James] Comey forgets that he works for the attorney general. … I think he has a lot of regard for his own integrity. And he lets that regard cross lines into self-righteousness. He has come to believe that his own ethics are so superior to anyone else’s that his judgment can replace existing rules and regulations. That is a dangerous belief for an FBI director to have.” (The Washington Post, 10/29/2016)

Miller also comments on Twitter that Comey’s July 5, 2016press conference was the original sin, and it begat the rest.”  (Politico, 10/28/2016)