This morning, FBI Director James Comey held a press conference in which he declared that the FBI was to recommend that the Department of Justice did not pursue criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her handling of classified information via her personal email system.
There is nothing particularly surprising about that on it’s own. Very few people actually expected Clinton to be indicted. What was surprising is the fact that Comey laid out a detailed explanation of the evidence that they did have of her wrongdoing. The following is a snippet:
Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.
For example, seven e-mail chains concern matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent and received. These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending e-mails about those matters and receiving e-mails from others about the same matters. There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation. In addition to this highly sensitive information, we also found information that was properly classified as Secret by the U.S. Intelligence Community at the time it was discussed on e-mail (that is, excluding the later “up-classified” e-mails).
None of these e-mails should have been on any kind of unclassified system, but their presence is especially concerning because all of these e-mails were housed on unclassified personal servers not even supported by full-time security staff, like those found at Departments and Agencies of the U.S. Government—or even with a commercial service like Gmail.
To be sure, the use of the term ‘extremely careless’ is a synonym for ‘gross negligence,’ which in fact is a felony crime when applied to the handling of classified information, as per 18 U.S. Code § 793, section f. Indeed, the mere fact that Clinton had set up a private email server to house what is essentially government property is a violation of that code.
Long story short, the director of the FBI admitted point blank that Hillary Clinton committed a felony, however it was not going to recommend any sort of indictment to the DOJ.
The Clinton campaign predictably was relieved by it, and moved quickly to intimate that that the matter was now put to bed.
I wouldn’t be so hasty. In fact, I believe that Trump has been handed a gift here.
In being so explicit, the FBI has essentially destroyed many of the outs the Clinton campaign, and indeed the media who undoubtedly leans her way, would try to employ. Had Comey come out and given some sort of boilerplate statement full of legalese, any Clinton surrogate could merely point to the fact that an investigation had been done, and there was no evidence of wrongdoing.
By saying there was evidence of wrongdoing but no charges forthcoming, the FBI has basically confirmed to the American public that one of Trump’s main talking points – that the system is corrupt and rigged – is absolutely true. Furthermore, Hillary Clinton is the poster child for that corruption and she is running for president, thereby leaving Trump as the more honest candidate by default.
Trump already had plenty of staying power thanks to his status as the ‘outsider’ versus the ‘establishment’ representative that Clinton is. To the extent that there are any fence sitters who didn’t buy the claim that there was a group of insiders colluding against the public from within the chamber halls of Washington DC, they have now been shown an incontrovertible, in your face example of the system at work. One set of rules for the insiders, another for the rest of us. Crooked Hillary indeed.
To focus more on the election, Comey’s report rubbishes the main Clinton campaign rationale for voting for her over Trump. According to that view, Clinton’s experience, steady hand, competence, and extensive understanding of global politics built up over 20 years was vastly superior to Trump. The rationale was that we needed someone who knows what he or she is doing to guide us through the treacherous waters of modern geopolitics.
The simple rebuttal to that now is that were Hillary Clinton to apply for a job in the government today, she would be barred from access to sensitive information of any kind, owing to the ‘carelessness’ she displayed with classified material in the past. Comey said as much, saying:
To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now.
In short, part of the penalty for doing what Clinton did would be ‘security or administrative sanctions.’ In other words, termination or a loss of security clearance. Given that Clinton is now running for an office which holds the ultimate security clearance, Comey is essentially saying that any other person would be disqualified from seeking any position involving sensitive information, let alone the presidency. But Hillary Clinton isn’t any other person. One rule for the establishment, another for the rest of us.
Once again, Comey stated that:
There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation.
According to Comey, Hillary Clinton did not act in the way a reasonable person should have in that position. This is important because it speaks to Clinton’s competence and professionalism.
If she is indeed the most qualified, wisest, most experienced person to run, as is the argument posed by her supporters, how is it that she failed in such a fundamental aspect of her job as Secretary of State? This episode has shown that Clinton is either stunningly incompetent, or stunningly corrupt. Pick one.
As time goes on, expect the Clinton campaign, and indeed the media, to shut down those who would bring this criticism. There would be an attempt to marginalize it by saying it was old news, or a tired Republican conspiracy, or something of that nature.
And to a certain extent, they will have a point. At a certain point, the average voter will tire of hearing about emails and will perhaps start to tune out when the argument is made.
It’s potency lies in the fact that it is a destroyer of Clinton’s main argument – that she is the cool, experienced head, the adult in the room as it were. Trump must focus on the point that competent, experienced leaders don’t put the safety of Americans at risk via negligence.
Cool heads don’t try and destroy evidence after the fact, as Clinton has done deleting emails. Honest players don’t set up servers specifically to house government property outside the purview of government eyes, and lie about it repeatedly afterwards.
And speaking of lying – Comey’s admission casts further doubt on everything Clinton had said before in regards to this issue. Breitbart ran a piece deconstructing how what Comey relayed this morning was different than what Clinton had been telling the public about the saga:
1. FALSE: Hillary Clinton never sent any classified information, or emails containing information marked “classified.”
2. FALSE: Hillary Clinton turned over all work-related emails to the State Department.
3. FALSE: Hillary Clinton was allowed to use a private e-mail server.
4. FALSE: Hillary Clinton’s server was not hacked by foreign adversaries.
5. FALSE: Hillary Clinton had only used a single mobile device for email.
Does this mean that Clinton may have perjured herself in the various hearings she engaged in on this matter, and others? Who else in the Obama Administration knew of Clinton’s setup and said nothing about it? Did Obama himself know? If so, there would be grounds for further legal action. The web of disaster for Obama and the Democratic party threatens to be vast if a domino such as this fell.
As such it is entirely possible that Comey, feeling ‘pressure’ had to stall and eventually shut it down so as to not turn the wrath of the entire DC machine on his head. It further goes to the view that our government is hopelessly corrupt, and their only interest is in themselves, rather than the American people. Episodes such as this should make it clear as day that an outsider is needed, to clean up the vast mess that is American politics.
The failures of the post WWII status quo are starting to pile up higher and higher. It is up to the public to act accordingly.