James Comey has been subjected to personal attacks by both Republicans and Democrats.
Back in July, he laid out the evidence that showed Hillary Clinton had broken the law. In his next breath, he said he would not recommend she be charged. This perplexed, frustrated and outraged Trump supporters, and puzzled many others too.
On Friday, Comey informed Congress and the rest of the world that the FBI had reopened the investigation in the light of new evidence. This dumbfounded and outraged Clinton supporters, and puzzled many others too.
Yet, notwithstanding all the puzzlement, there is a simple explanation: Comey is a public servant.
In July, Comey knew that Clinton had broken the law. He felt the crimes were insufficient to justify the FBI investigation influencing the presidential election. He also felt that the electorate should know the facts so they could make an informed choice. Hence, the disconnect between the evidence he cited and the conclusion he reached. He was passing the decision to the American people.
Then the Wiener case threw up new evidence, lots of it. And as a public servant, Comey felt constrained to wave a red flag, to alert the American public that something was badly wrong, that Hillary Clinton was more than just careless with state secrets. So he wrote to Congress.
Do I think he did the right thing? No. The role of a law enforcement officer is to uphold the law, not to pass the buck (however democratic the motivation) to the people. If he had done the right thing in July, he would never have been faced with last week's dilemma. Moreover, if he had recommended charges in July, the DOJ would have decided not to prosecute (recall Obama had long prejudged that Clinton had done no wrong) and thus passed the buck to the electorate.
But hindsight is easy.