Joe diGenova: Barr's Comey decision was the right call. But this is just the beginning

The decision not to prosecute former FBI Director James Comey over his deliberate leaks to the media isn’t a sign of weakness or lack of will, but of the professionalism and well-reasoned restraint of President Trump’s Department of Justice.

Attorney General Bill Barr’s number one goal since taking the helm at the DOJ has been to restore the impartial and professional ethos that has characterized that agency for more than 200 years.

He is working diligently to cleanse it of the stain of politically driven vindictiveness that Obama-era officials created by grossly mishandling the Clinton email investigation, and then, even more egregiously, orchestrating the series of events that led to the Russiagate witch hunt.

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Before this “investigation of the investigators” is over, there will undoubtedly be many cases of misconduct that warrant criminal prosecution. Comey’s, however, was not one of them.

What Comey did -- release private memos made in the course of his employment as FBI director to politically damage the president of the United States, who had just fired him for unrelated misconduct -- was absolutely outrageous, and totally unbecoming of the leader of this country’s premier criminal investigatory agency. It speaks volumes about Comey’s corrupt character and further illustrates why both President Trump and then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded that Comey was no longer fit to serve in that role.

Attorney General Barr made the right call. This would have been the first major charging decision of this investigation, which is not the time to go all in on a “maybe” case. To do so would create exactly the appearance of political vindictiveness and retributivist prosecution he is working so hard to dispel.

In this case, however, even that deplorable conduct did not rise to the level that was possible to prosecute criminally. The career prosecutors assigned to the case told Fox News that this “wasn’t a close call,” and I can see why. The confidential nature of the memos was too ambiguous. The intent element was too hard to prove.

Attorney General Barr made the right call. This would have been the first major charging decision of this investigation, which is not the time to go all in on a “maybe” case. To do so would create exactly the appearance of political vindictiveness and retributivist prosecution he is working so hard to dispel.

That does not mean, as some are now claiming, that the decision not to prosecute in this particular case is a vindication of Comey, a defeat for the president, or an end to the inquiry surrounding these leaks.

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The quest for truth is far more important than the pursuit of retribution against an already-disgraced FBI official whose behavior in office was unbecoming of any public official. There are many of us who want to see James Comey before a jury or in a jail cell, but like Attorney General Barr, I’m more interested in seeing a full and complete accounting of the malfeasance that took place at the DOJ during and after the 2016 presidential campaign.

The release of a pending report by Inspector General Michael Horowitz is, by all accounts, imminent. The product of more than 16 months of investigation, that report will cover far more devious schemes than Comey’s leaking -- Horowitz is finally going to reveal the truth about the dishonest handling of FISA spy-warrant applications against Trump associates.

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Horowitz, like Barr, is a true professional. His intrepid work revealed to the world the whole picture of Comey’s number two, Andy McCabe, whose own improper leaks to the media got him fired just days before he would have been eligible for a government pension. It was his extensive investigation through which we learned the full extent of FBI Agent Peter Strzok and DOJ lawyer Lisa Page’s anti-Trump text exchanges that disqualified Strzok from further participation in Special Counsel Mueller’s probe.

The investigation of the investigators is only just now coming into focus. We already know there was wrongdoing throughout the Obama DOJ, and that it continued among the holdovers from that era after the 2016 election -- and we know that it fueled the most pernicious conspiracy theory in modern American history. Some of that wrongdoing may well be prosecutable.

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If and when such cases arise, the president’s supporters will be glad that Attorney General Barr and his team exercised such restraint in the Comey case. The American people will now be assured that any prosecutions that do go forward will be well-founded, readily provable, and completely devoid of the taint of politics.

We can all now appreciate a return to integrity at the DOJ. The American people deserve nothing less.

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