FBI director makes lots of enemies in announcing Hillary Emails, Part II
By Sarah Sidlow
‘Twas the week before voting, and all through the place, the pollsters were rejoicing the end of this race. And then, from nowhere, the FBI wailed: “But wait! There’s more! More Clinton emails!”
You’ve heard of the “Nightmare Before Christmas?” Well, for Democrats, last week was the “Nightmare Before Election Day.” And for those of you who are saying to yourselves, “I thought I knew about Hillary’s inbox already!” well, apparently there’s more.
Recap: Clinton’s use of a private email server, back when her email signature read “Secretary of State,” has been a central issue of the campaign. The question revolved around how Hillz handled classified information. Back on July 5, after a months-long investigation, though the FBI found classified email on Clinton’s server in a handful of instances, FBI Director James Comey decided not to recommend criminal charges against Clinton or her staff. Cue a montage of Clinton saying “I’m sorry” on the campaign trail, cheers from Democrats, and boos from Republicans.
But last week, just 11 days before Election Day, Comey not only interrupted the World Series, but the election itself, announcing the FBI would be reopening the investigation into Clinton’s email server because they had found additional emails relevant to the investigation “in connection with an unrelated case.”
That “unrelated case” had to do with former U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner, whom you may remember as the aptly named politician who got in trouble for doing one of the few things he does well: sending NSFW (not safe for work) photos and texts over, and over, and over again. Weiner’s now-estranged wife, Huma Abedin, was Clinton’s deputy chief of staff at the State Department from 2009-13. During the original inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s emails, Abedin provided investigators with access to her email accounts and to emails stored on three of her electronic devices, but the latest FBI investigation into Weiner’s emails dug up hundreds of thousands of emails between Abedin and Clinton that had not previously been seen.
Comey’s last-minute plot twist is unconventional for a number of reasons: first, prosecutors generally don’t comment on criminal inquiries unless a charge is brought (it hasn’t been); second, the department keeps an extra tight lid on ongoing matters during the last 60 days before an election to avoid appearing to interfere politically with the vote. Comey: 0 for 2. But it gets better (or worse). On Sunday, Comey made another announcement: after a few hardcore speed-reading sessions, the FBI stands by its July decision not to prosecute. Cue collective eye roll.
There were lots of takeaways to the episode—not the least of which is that Comey (a career Republican, by the way) isn’t making a lot of friends. When the FBI first announced, “case closed!” last July, those in the anti-Hillary camp were calling for his head. Last week, Hillary supporters were sharing pitchforks with Comey’s Republican critics, in perhaps the first bipartisan effort during the entire campaign.
More than 100 former federal prosecutors or Justice Department officials publicly criticized Comey.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid sent Comey a letter—after “unfriending” him on Facebook, probably—reprimanding Comey for having no problem openly discussing Hillary’s email investigation, but not being so loose-lipped about the “explosive information [Comey possesses] about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government.” Burn.
Pundits on both sides of the political spectrum have accused Comey of batting for the other team in the way he’s handled the private server mess from the beginning.
Yet, other legal analysts and many of those former JD officials have argued that while Comey did a really, really, dumb thing, there’s no evidence that it was politically charged.
Federal Bureau of Instigation
By Ben Tomkins
I could give FBI Director Jim Comey a pass for inserting himself and the FBI into the presidential election if circumstances were extremely complex, and there was some new factual thread that had been exposed about Hillary Clinton and her emails during the Weiner investigation.
I wouldn’t, but at least I could if I had to.
The problem is that I’ve seen at least three episodes of Law and Order, and as ridiculous as the show is, it’s more than enough to understand the difference between having a reasonable suspicion something is amiss in the universe and drawing conclusions that are only defensible if the English language is stretched out like a wad of taffy on a pulling machine. In his charming little note to Congress, Comey offers four tidbits about the FBI’s understanding of the new emails at that time.
1. The FBI found some emails from Hillary Clinton to her friend on an old laptop, and the mere presence of her email address means their content must be “pertinent” to the previous investigation.
2. He acknowledges that, for all he knows, they could contain anything from duckface selfies in front of a bathroom mirror to proof aliens live among us.
3. He was so barely aware they existed at the time of his announcement he didn’t know if reviewing them would take five minutes or five years (and it ended up only taking nine days).
4. He mentioned in the very first sentence of the letter that the FBI put the Clinton email thing to bed a while ago, but just in case a senator decides to take this public for some unfathomable reason in the next few days, he included the words “investigation” and “testimony” 10 times in the 150 total words for rhetorical convenience in press conferences.
As much as this Republican—who magically became unaffiliated sometime during his Congressional testimony—wants to sell the theory that his motivation was ethical transparency, I don’t think there is a donkey or elephant on the planet who believes it was appropriate. Naturally, Republicans have dined on the outrage they have manufactured, but if you listen closely, not a single one of them has suggested it was appropriate. Only convenient. I might even be inclined to give him some benefit of the doubt if he was an underling somewhere, but he’s not. Jim Comey is the head of the federal police, and if anyone on the planet should know the difference between knowing something exists and knowing something meaningful about it, it’s him.
Allow me to offer an example. A lot of people don’t know this, but Jim Comey was on the board of directors for a tiny little international bank known as HSBC as late as 2013. As it so happens, during 2012, the U.S. Senate issued a report stating HSBC was actively facilitating Iran and North Korea in laundering billions of dollars to get around international nuclear sanctions. When investigations were concluded, HSBC was slapped with a whopping $1.9 billion in fines, and part of the reason for that high number is it was discovered they were also helping launder hundreds of millions of dollars in drug cartel money through the U.S. financial system from countries like Mexico.
This was all frowned upon. Now, I don’t know if any of this information is “significant” in determining whether or not former HBSC board member Jim Comey was aware of or participating in these little dalliances. However, because “pertinent” can be interpreted as “two events between which a single gossamer thread of happenstance can be found existing between them,” I feel comfortable writing my congressperson. Besides, it’s an election year, and he’s on the wrong side of what’s best for my candidate.
Examining the potential outcomes of his action or patience easily identifies the biggest giveaway that Comey’s personal politics interfered with his professional judgment. As it stood, the FBI had cleared Hillary Clinton and closed the investigation. Therefore, when they found a few random emails, it was in the context of her presumed innocence. For the sake of argument, even though he had no way of knowing it, let’s assume the emails were a smoking gun. If Hillary becomes president, she would be impeached and removed from office in chains. Fine. Well, not really, but impeachment exists for a reason. Watergate was an issue for Nixon during the 1972 campaign, but nobody could legally do anything until it was determined whether or not he was guilty. Regardless, if she’s impeached, who becomes president? Not Trump. It’s President Tim Kaine, and the Democrats control the Executive Branch.
However, if Comey throws kerosene on the email fire, then at least there’s a chance that Trump would be president. Without the emails, an election that isn’t nearly as close as it appears would appear exactly as not close as it should be. Comey made the choice that kept Trump in the race, plain and simple, and he should face hearings in the Senate in preparation for his removal.
Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colorado. He hates stupidity and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of an issue.
Stuck in the middle
By Don Hurst
In the summer, when FBI Director Comey refused to file charges on Secretary Clinton, the Republicans wailed at the injustice and the corruption. Now, in November, the Democrats wail at the injustice and the corruption of Comey’s announcement that the FBI reopened its investigation into Secretary Clinton. A person who can make both parties that righteously angry is not working for any of them. If Comey was in the pocket of the Republicans, he would have pressed forward with an indictment and let a jury decide the case. Also, closing the investigation two days before the election just insures both parties remain angry at him.
So, who is Comey working for?
He’s working for the American people, enforcing the law while protecting what remains of our shredded faith in government institutions. His actions indicate that he is a guy just trying his best to handle the chaos of an unprecedented election. No one in American history has had to deal with the ulcer-inducing combination of two candidates carrying so much unethical baggage and the technology to bring all their misdeeds to light.
Democrats are calling for Comey’s head for revealing the reopened investigation. But what if he hadn’t? What if he just crossed his fingers in hopes that the NYPD investigators who found the emails on Anthony Weiner’s computer and the multitude of FBI agents investigating the Clinton Foundation all kept quiet? The damage would have undermined the authority of law and even provided ammunition to those who would question the legitimacy of the election results. It would look like the FBI actively shielded Clinton.
In normal situations, it would have been easy for the FBI to downplay fears of a rigged system if the investigation had been leaked. Only the most paranoid would have believed the government manipulated events to ensure a Clinton ascendency. This is not a normal situation. The leaked facts surrounding the Democratic primaries show allies of Clinton pull the strings. Even if Hillary Clinton is not telling her supporters to cheat and stack the deck in her favor, it is true that she has benefited from the unethical actions of others.
The DNC worked behind the scenes to subvert Bernie Sanders’ run for president. Debate moderators leaked questions to the Clinton campaign. Followers of Clinton unduly influenced the primaries. Those actions make it extremely difficult to give Clinton the benefit of the doubt in the national election.
The fix seems to be in. A lack of faith in the institution of elections would destabilize our country in the coming months. Protecting the sanctity of the vote matters more than any one candidate.
Blaming Comey for this mess absolves those who are really at fault here: Team Clinton. Comey did not seek another investigation, another trip into that political minefield. The NYPD discovered the relevant emails during an investigation into alleged sexual crime against a 15-year-old girl. Responsible law enforcement officials could not ignore that sensitive emails ended up on a sexual predator’s hard drive.
Team Clinton’s secrecy and lack of transparency created this mess, not Director Comey. The FBI attempted to close the investigation months before the election—even though Clinton’s group was less than cooperative. The computer specialists in charge of Clinton’s unauthorized private server pled the Fifth. Two of her lawyers cooperated with the FBI only when the FBI granted them immunity and limited the scope of the questions. Thirty-three thousand emails were deleted. Staffers took hammers to all known devices that might have contained information. Security ran Bleach Bit software to further wipe the hard drives.
If Huma Abedin had complied with the FBI and turned over all her electronic devices, this would not be a problem now. Maybe she forgot she used the laptop that now belongs to her estranged husband. Maybe she didn’t want to give the FBI a computer her sexting husband used.
Clinton has had the power all along to make this go away. She had ample opportunity to explain herself but refused to do so at every turn. Clinton’s legal team even petitioned a federal judge to bar her from having to testify under oath in an upcoming Freedom of Information Act hearing. While refusal to testify is not proof of guilt in a court of law, it implies an absence of innocence in the court of public opinion. She could have put this whole issue to rest by conceding to the public’s demand for transparency.
The issue was never resolved, thanks to Clinton’s team. In the end, secrets come out. If you choose to keep them hidden, then you have no right to complain about the inconvenient timing when they eventually come to light.