NEW YORK -- While President Donald J. Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey on May 9, Barack Obama should have sacked him July 5. Comey's behavior in the emailgate investigation suggests either staggering incompetence or a clumsy effort to whitewash Hillary Clinton's crimes.
During Clinton's July 2 interrogation at FBI headquarters, she was not under oath. How could the FBI possibly reach in its probe "the last step of a year-long investigation" -- as Comey described it at a July 7 House Government Oversight Committee hearing -- without a potential perjury conviction hanging over her head? Given Clinton's peanut-allergy-like aversion to the truth, not swearing her in confirmed either the FBI's grotesque ineptness or a deliberate loophole to allow her to slither free.
Former State Department chief of staff Cheryl Mills participated in this session as one of Clinton's nine attorneys, even though she is deeply implicated in many of Clinton's misdeeds. Thus, a potential witness or even co-conspirator in Clinton's possible prosecution offered legal aid as the FBI quizzed her. None of Comey's people considered this a problem?
Comey steered clear of Clinton's 3 1/2-hour interview. Given the unusual and enormous stakes, he should have faced her or, at least, supervised nearby. From an adjacent room, he could have offered guidance, monitored Clinton for inconsistencies, and instructed his staffers to ask pointed follow-up questions, etc.
Clinton's maid, Marina Santos, had regular access to her classified documents, via secured communications equipment in her Washington mansion. Santos reportedly printed records for the former secretary of state to read at home, apparently including Obama's Presidential Daily Brief. Regardless, Paul Sperry reported in the New York Post, "It also appears the FBI did not formally interview Santos as a key witness in its investigation."
The FBI agreed to destroy the laptops of Mills and Clinton campaign aide Heather Samuels. This extraordinary promise, which wasn't ultimately carried out, was part of Mills' and Samuels' immunity deals. Why on earth would the FBI agree to junk evidence in this case -- be it damning or exculpatory? Also, classified material appeared on Mills' laptop, where it should not have been.
Despite this abundant skullduggery, Comey insisted that Clinton practiced no "clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information." This is utterly irrelevant to the Espionage Act, under which federal prosecutors still should lock her up.
As Comey should know, the Federal Espionage Act -- 18 U.S. Code 793 -- merely requires evidence of "gross negligence" in order to secure convictions. Black's Law Dictionary considers "negligence" and "carelessness" synonymous.
According to Comey's July 7 testimony, Clinton and her colleagues "were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information."
Thus, Clinton and her associates were "extremely careless." Extremely careless means grossly negligent. Gross negligence is the black-letter standard for conviction under the Federal Espionage Act. Comey is neither Congress nor the Supreme Court. He did not have the authority to rewrite or reinterpret that legal standard. Yet he did so anyway and set Clinton free at his July 5 press conference.
Will anyone on Team Clinton pay any price whatsoever for her abuse of America's state secrets and the Clinton Foundation's auction house for government favors?
And, yet, where is the outrage? Where are the indictments? Why are Clinton and her shady pals not in handcuffs right now?
Crooked Hillary should have been jailed decades ago, and she still should be behind bars. Here is a key reason why she roams freely, shirks responsibility for her dreadful campaign, and recently launched Onward Together, yet another political slush fund: Comey blew it. His half-hearted probe let Clinton and her entire circle off the hook, state secrets and public integrity be damned.
For this alone, James Comey earned his pink slip, fair and square.
DEROY MURDOCK is a Fox News contributor in New York and a contributing editor with National Review Online.