Did F.B.I. Director James Comey’s public statements about the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s e-mail cost Clinton the election?
On 19 October 2017, Hillary Clinton debated Donald Trump for the final time. In the immediate aftermath of the debate, polls showed Clinton with as much as a 12 point lead over Trump. However, by the morning of 28 October 2016, before Comey’s surprise announcement about re-opening the investigation in light of newly-discovered e-mails, national polls showed Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by only 6 percent.
Then came Comey’s statement of 28 October 2016. Polls showed a sharp drop in support for Clinton. However, some confusion arose and persists. The results of a number of polls taken before the Comey announcement of 28 October 2016 were not published until after the announcement. These showed an even sharper drop in support for Clinton than more widely noticed polls revealed. “In retrospect, there is virtually no evidence to support the view that Mrs. Clinton really had a six-point lead by Oct. 28,…” Because the findings of the polls were published after the announcement, commentators lumped these results with other polls conducted after Comey made his announcement. This made it appear that Comey’s announcement had a greater effect on Clinton’s mushy support than was the case.
Obviously this analysis targets only Comey’s second intervention in the election. The first came with his public announcement that no criminal charges would be pursued against Mrs. Clinton over her use of a private e-mail server. He went on to excoriate her careless handling of security issues. Doubtless this incident did Clinton far more harm than did the October announcement. However, one early account of the Clinton campaign by friendly observers indicts the campaign from first to last as fatally flawed by incompetence and arrogance. This carnival created the situation in which Comey’s statements could have such effect.
In any event, James Comey now has time to work on his memoirs.
 Nate Cohn, “An Election Review: There’s Reason to Be Skeptical of a Comey Effect,” NYT, 9 May 2017.
 See Michiko Kakutani, “Charting Hillary Clinton’s Course for the Iceberg,” NYT, 18 April 2017; and Barton Swaim, “Hillary the Unready,” WSJ, 18 April 2017.