The more FBI Director James Comey speaks out about his choices in 2016, the more we know about how difficult those decisions were to make.
To people in both parties, of course, that does nothing to dampen the outrage over how Comey dealt with these difficult circumstances. His situation between a rock and a hard place, to them, is no excuse for making the wrong call.
Republicans, like President Trump, remain bitter that Comey did not recommend charges be brought against Hillary Clinton. Democrats, including Clinton herself, believe Comey's decision to send Congress a letter notifying lawmakers that he was reopening the investigation into her emails just days before the election cost them the White House. Why, too, they wonder, did Comey feel compelled to go public with news of this investigation and not the FBI's investigation into the possibility that members of the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government?
Democrats, I believe, should spend more time focused on why they nominated a candidate who decided to store her emails on a private server in the first place, but in either case, it seems nothing short of an admission of wrongdoing will satisfy Comey's detractors. Both sides suspect he was working to advantage their opponents.
With tensions running so high, nobody seems to want to take Comey at his word and just accept that he did the best he could with the circumstances at hand.
But in his testimonies before Congress, Comey has been forthcoming, offering reasonable and sincere explanations to justify his decisions. That may sound naive, but it's hard to deny.
"I have lived my entire career by the tradition that if you can possibly avoid it, you avoid any action in the run-up to an election that might have an impact. Whether it's a dogcatcher election or President of the United States," Comey told Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Wednesday.
"I stared at speak and conceal," Comey said, referring to his options in late October. "Speak would be really bad. There's an election in 11 days. Lordy, that would be really bad." But, he continued, "Concealing ... would be catastrophic not just to the FBI but well beyond, and honestly, as between really bad and catastrophic, I said to my team we've got to walk into the world of really bad."
Comey concluded his lengthy explanation to Feinstein by defending that decision:
Look, this was terrible. It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we that we might have had some impact on the election but honestly it wouldn't change the decision. Everybody who disagrees with me has to come back to October 28 with me and stare at this and tell me what you would do — would you speak or would you conceal? And I could be wrong but we honestly made a decision between those two choices that even in hindsight and this has been one of the world's most painful experiences, I would make the same decision. I would not conceal that on October 28 from the Congress.
Isn't that… reasonable?
"Was it appropriate for you to comment on one investigation repeatedly, and not say anything about the other?" Sen. Patrick Leahy, D. Vt., asked Comey, referring to the investigations into Clinton and Trump's respective campaigns.
Comey replied: "We treated it like we did the Clinton investigation. We didn't say a word about it months into it, and the only thing we have confirmed so far about this is the same thing with the Clinton investigation, that we are investigating."
People may disagree with the decision Comey ultimately made, but can we not all accept that he was faced with two bad choices? And, given those circumstances, his judgment does not appear to have been motivated by any partisan loyalty or ulterior motivation to sabotage Clinton?
The same questions can, and should, be applied to Comey's decision not to recommend charges be brought against the former secretary of state as well. Both outcomes were dangerous, but he had to choose one. At the very least, we can all admit he has made decisions that disadvantage the fortunes of both political parties.
Of course, as a key decision-maker, and a leader who is ultimately accountable to the American people, Comey deserves all the rigorous questioning he has received, especially given the difficulty of the circumstances and the high stakes at play.
Between Clinton and Trump, two politicians with records of distortion, our impulse to question the veracity of statements made by government leaders like Comey is understandable. But the indisputable facts of the situation show us that his options were all bad, each choice destined for a future of controversy and speculation.
More likely than any of the conflicting theories about his alleged desire to take down one candidate or the other is the simple possibility that Comey is telling us the truth.
Emily Jashinsky is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.