Stern Questions Comey’s Press Conference

In yesterday’s Berkshire Eagle, NAFUSA Past President Don Stern questioned the comments made by FBI Director James Comey during his announcement that the FBI was not recommending prosecution of Hillary Clinton . See Donald K. Stern: Comey went beyond FBI’s role.

Stern opines that it is not appropriate for a federal law enforcement to publicly announce its view of the evidence before a prosecution decision is made. And “if a decision is made to not prosecute, not at all.” It is the Department of Justice, Stern points out, that decides whether to prosecute a case in the federal system. Nevertheless, Stern sees “a good reason to vary from the norm” when the Attorney General had announced that she would rely on the recommendation of the FBI in making the ultimate decision.

But Stern takes exception to Comey’s laying out facts in the Clinton investigation. It may be “customary when an arrest is made that the federal authorities detail the facts,” Stern points out, but “laying out some facts, to say nothing of the level of detail in Comey’s statement, is what happens when a person is charged. Not when there are no criminal charges brought.”

Stern saves his strongest criticism for Comey’s comments about Clinton’s conduct.

But, he went well beyond that and ventured into unprecedented and dangerous waters. Comey offered his personal opinion that Clinton’s actions were “extremely careless” and talked about possible intrusions by “hostile actors” even if there was no evidence to that effect.


I find his comments well beyond the proper role of the FBI. It is one thing to talk generally about an issue (“We need to make our computers more secure and pay more attention to hacking”), but to do so in the context of a case against an individual not charged is remarkable. The public’s right to know does not extend, under any circumstances, this far.

Stern made clear he holds Comey in high regard; he just has a problem with his comments in this particular press conference.