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Behind the Headlines

We are being bombarded by “news” about the horserace that is the presidential election, and are pretty much sick of it. Unfortunately, this means that we are ignoring the real stories behind the headlines. I mention this because we are missing a potentially generous serving of irony.

For example, the headlines are blaring the news that Donald Trump managed to raise $51 million during the month of June, compared to the paltry $3.2 million he raised in May. But I haven’t seen any news pointing out that Trump has completely flip-flopped on his promise to self-fund his campaign so that he will not be beholden to special interests. You know, special interests like fellow casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who has promised to donate $100 million to Trump’s campaign. We already know that Trump will do almost anything for money. Who donated all this money to Trump, and what will he give them in return?

Another example is the announcement by FBI Director James Comey that Hillary Clinton did not break any laws by using a private email server. But then Comey did something unprecedented — he proceeded to attack Clinton for being “extremely careless”, stupid, and arrogant. As Electoral Vote puts it:

That is not the way the FBI is supposed to work. If someone is innocent, then the FBI is not supposed to besmirch that person’s reputation. If the target is guilty, then he or she should be indicted; otherwise, the investigation should be closed with a simple statement that no charges will be brought. Until now, this was always the way the FBI worked.

But Comey, who was originally appointed by George W Bush, didn’t stop there. He also said that

the FBI uncovered no “direct evidence” that foreign powers had hacked Clinton’s email server. Did he have indirect evidence? Any evidence at all? If not, how is that different from his saying: “In another investigation, we have uncovered no ‘direct evidence’ that Donald Trump paid millions of dollars in bribes to the mafia for labor peace at his construction sites.” If there is no evidence, the FBI is not supposed to even bring up the subject.

As a former director of the Justice Department public affairs office pointed out, Comey ignored the rule of law and blatantly politicized what was supposed to be a non-partisan investigation. It is not up to the FBI to decide guilt or innocence, that is reserved by our constitution for the courts. When the FBI decides it does not have enough evidence to bring charges, “it has the responsibility to not besmirch someone’s reputation by lobbing accusations publicly instead.”

He recklessly speculated that Clinton’s email system could have been hacked, even while admitting he had no evidence that it was. This conjecture, which has been the subject of much debate and heated allegations, puts Clinton in the impossible position of having to prove a negative in response.

Why did Comey do this?

Comey argued that his statement was appropriate because this case was a matter of unusual public interest. But the department investigates cases involving extreme public interest all the time — suspected terrorist acts, alleged civil rights violations by police and possible crimes by financial institutions, for example. It is for precisely these situations that the rules exist, so that the department cannot speak outside the bounds of court when it does not bring charges.

One might claim that Clinton should not receive special treatment from the government, but that works both ways. The rule of law also means that she should not get worse treatment than anyone else, either. Instead Comey took himself outside the rule of law, becoming not just the police, but also prosecutor, judge, and jury. That is a very dangerous precedent in a country that prides itself on guaranteeing that people are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law (and not in the fickle court of public opinion).

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16 Comments

  1. Hassan wrote:

    If not mistaken, (heard on some news program), this is the first time since J. Edgar Hoover era, that FBI guy was made to do this. If it was not for planned meeting between Loretta and Bill to get Lorretta off the hook to do the announcement, Comey would not be doing this.

    https://theintercept.com/2016/07/05/washington-has-been-obsessed-with-punishing-secrecy-violations-until-hillary-clinton/

    There are many other articles/stories Glen Greenwald points to. I can summarize my feelings (more details later) by following:

    1. I do not see any reason (knowing her history) that she will ever knowingly compromise national security. For me the classified things were always accidental.

    2. Again knowing her history (and her clear actions by intentionally setting up servers etc), she just wanted to avoid FOIA. She just wanted as much as control on her email as she could without making things public.

    The second point can be corruption (favoring donors of Clinton foundation, but she can do that without even setting email server, she can have numerous ways). But perhaps she was not smart enough (as Comey said yesterday).

    Here are few videos to enjoy as well:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ja4p95eqmVk (Hillary is dumb and inept)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTJwmC_5aTU (Comey should have recommended indictment)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbkS26PX4rc (is Lying without oath still punishable?)

    Friday, July 8, 2016 at 4:14 am | Permalink
  2. ThatGuy wrote:

    I’ll wait until the campaign filings to believe Trump hauled in that much. Wouldn’t be the first time his campaign has, er, bent the truth.

    With regard to Comey, I don’t think it was all that out of line. He confirmed what we pretty much already knew: Clinton should not have been using a private email server and wasn’t being straight with the public with her comments on the issue, however, her use of the email servers didn’t rise to the level of criminality.

    I also don’t see an issue with his comments on the possibility of her having been hacked. I don’t think many Americans know that you can be hacked without evidence of the attack having happened, so pointing out that there’s a very real possibility that she was hacked (her associates were), even if the FBI couldn’t say for sure. He also made the fair point that the private server was probably not any more or less secure than the government servers themselves.

    Also a fairly significant correction: Matthew Miller was not the Director of the Justice Department, he was the Director of Public Affairs Office for the Justice Department.

    Can we really argue that Clinton wasn’t careless, stupid, and especially arrogant with this practice? Any intern knows what classification markings are. In the end, Comey’s statements won’t change anyone’s mind. If you thought emails weren’t a big deal before, you still don’t. If you thought they were another indication of Clinton’s poor judgement, you still do. If you think she should be in Gitmo, that’s likely still the case. In the end, had Clinton simply used an @State.gov email address, this wouldn’t be an issue. Completely unforced error on her part.

    Friday, July 8, 2016 at 7:27 am | Permalink
  3. PatriotSGT wrote:

    I agree with Thatguy and Hassan. the Secretary lied on at least 7 different occasions with statements directly contradicting the FBI’s statement. Given that his statement occurred days after a secret meeting between Bill and Loretta, it almost feels like he was ordered to bring the investigation to an abrupt end.
    The unintended consequence of his statement is that numerous “little people” who have paid for similar offenses with jail, loss of employment, loss of clearance for life, etc. can now file appeals. The law has now changed, putting a whole security and intelligence system in jeopardy.
    Somebody please give me an alternative to either Trump or Clinton!

    Friday, July 8, 2016 at 8:43 am | Permalink
  4. Hassan wrote:

    THATGUY, when did Comey made a point that the private server was probably not any more or less secure than the government servers themselves? I know he clearly said that using gmail would have been better even:

    Friday, July 8, 2016 at 9:35 am | Permalink
  5. ThatGuy wrote:

    Oops, must have gotten that confused with commentary regarding the whole mess. In short, the feeling of some is that even government servers aren’t super secure (see OPM breach) and almost certainly targeted constantly but, as Comey said, at least they have full-time security personnel.

    Friday, July 8, 2016 at 10:34 am | Permalink
  6. Hassan wrote:

    THATGUY, if I were to work for government, I will take chances of more hackable government servers/systems rather than taking responsibility and headache of my own infrastructure, even it can be more secure. I would not want to take blame for security breach if it happens, and more importantly not come across as someone trying to hide something.

    And most people with normal intellect would go above route, and I am amazed someone who has spent life in politics and government did not see that. To be fair, she (Hillary) is as old as my parents, and I can tell you they are not tech savy. Obama, ignoring my disagreements with him, was definitely president for current and upcoming generation.

    Friday, July 8, 2016 at 11:12 am | Permalink
  7. ThatGuy wrote:

    I don’t think the takeaway from this is that Hillary was dumb in terms of intellect, I think it was more an assumption that she was more entitled to privacy than any other government employee who would be subject to FOIA and that this couldn’t come back to bite her. Sure, she may have been ignorant of the actual workings of the server or that it was a bad idea to be sending emails from a mobile while in Russia or China, but I don’t think that ignorance translates into ineptitude or stupidity generally.

    I think this speaks to the feeling people have that she is distant or impersonal or self-righteous. Whereas the sending of confidential/secret/top-secret info over unclassified systems speaks to the lack of judgement that brought us such joys as the Iraq War and the intervention in Libya. Like refusing to hold press conferences or release her Wall Street speech transcripts, these are all unforced errors on Clinton’s part, and her refusal to address them directly shows that she’s just trying to coast into the Oval Office by winning the game of “who’s not Trump.”

    Having said ALL of that, there is unfortunately still no better option, to include Green or Libertarian parties.

    Friday, July 8, 2016 at 12:08 pm | Permalink
  8. Iron Knee wrote:

    Thatguy, thanks for pointing out my typo about the public affairs office. While what I said was *technically* correct (he was a director, and was in the Justice department), it was misleading. I fixed it.

    I also question your assertion that she felt like she was more entitled to privacy than any other government employee. Considering that we already know about lots of other government employees at her level that did similar things in the name of privacy.

    And Hassan, you seem to be equating intelligence with covering your ass. And I’m annoyed by your ageist comments.

    The assertions from Republicans that what she did was comparable to what David Petraeus did are laughable and ignore the primary point of Comey’s announcement. I also laugh at the Republicans who kept praising Comey as a “straight shooter” but then completely changed their tunes after the announcement. Even Fox News thinks they are hypocrites!

    Friday, July 8, 2016 at 12:22 pm | Permalink
  9. redjon wrote:

    The DIRECTOR of the Federal Bureau of Investigation “ordered” to bring the investigation to an abrupt end? Or what? His resignation would be accepted (him fired) by the president? And he would not in turn go to the media?

    Because, basically, the FBI Director is a moral weakling with no political power whatsoever? Has not the courage of his convictions? No scruples at all?

    Definitely sounds like a deep governmental conspiracy… maybe tying the Hillary Clinton candidacy to the Bush White House in a dastardly scheme to make the American presidency into some sort of familial entitlement with the candidates ultimately chosen by The Illuminati?

    Friday, July 8, 2016 at 12:49 pm | Permalink
  10. ThatGuy wrote:

    Are there lots? I’ve heard that Powell and maybe Rice did it, but they also didn’t use email very much. In any event, I’d lump them all together as feeling more entitled than the vast, overwhelming majority of government employees who don’t (and shouldn’t) get the luxury of privacy with their email addresses. People at higher levels should be even more subject to FOIA than the rank and file folks, for obvious reasons.

    That list of folks now apparently includes Chris Christie, who billed himself as the one capable of prosecuting Clinton for her email misdeeds, and is now having similar issues:

    http://www.npr.org/2016/06/30/484168951/missing-from-bridgegate-investigation-chris-christies-personal-email-account

    Definitely agree with the about-face the GOP did on Comey, by my reckoning he has incredible integrity. Dana Milbank says it better than I do, though:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/on-clintons-emails-no-reasonable-person-can-disagree-with-james-comey/2016/07/05/188be862-42e6-11e6-88d0-6adee48be8bc_story.html?tid=a_inl

    But again I just keep thinking of how this whole “scandal” could have been avoided if Clinton didn’t hold her cards so unnecessarily close. Use a .gov address and the biggest smear against her this campaign season never would have been. Release her speech transcripts and (I’d hope) dispel the notion that she’s too close to Wall Street. Hold a gosh darn press conference to show that she can whether media inquiries as well as she does GOP inquiries. It’s painful watching the Dem’s duly appointed nominee campaign so miserably.

    Friday, July 8, 2016 at 12:50 pm | Permalink
  11. Hassan wrote:

    Iron Knee, if by covering your ass means not to do anything that can come negative on integrity, then it is definitely an intelligent thing to do.

    Is ageist just apply to old people? Is restricting rights under age of 21 or 18 also considered ageist? BTW not being tech savy does not equate to not smart.

    THATGUY, Powell and Rice did not set up private email server in their house or any data center.

    Friday, July 8, 2016 at 3:14 pm | Permalink
  12. PatriotST wrote:

    REDJON – The way law enforcement and the attorneys general office works at the federal level is that the various 3 letter agencies investigate and then they take that information to the local AG office. It is the AG that decides if they will prosecute. I’ve seen plenty of substantiated cases denied prosecution because the AG office simply said no. The AG for the US is appointed by the sitting president and if the boss doe not want to prosecute certain laws, the AG offices will not. Is it right? That’s up to the people to decide.
    It is entirely plausible and likely what took place, given what I know, that the AG told the FBI, they were not prosecuting. Now did Mr. Clinton and her current boss have anything to do with that is the only conspiracy.

    Friday, July 8, 2016 at 4:20 pm | Permalink
  13. PatriotST wrote:

    Thatguy -I agree with you. However it is well known that Mrs. Clinton does not hold press conferences, and when she does virtually every question is pre-approved. Only occasionally when its not a reporter (who could lose their job if they strayed off topic) do non scripted questions come out. ie. the WV coal miner about putting miners out of work.

    Friday, July 8, 2016 at 4:25 pm | Permalink
  14. ThatGuy wrote:

    That coal mining about-face fail was positively painful.

    I don’t buy the conspiracy theories. The Lynch-Clinton meeting was too incredibly stupid to be anything nefarious. Why not just call, or email (ha), or do anything less conspicuous than meet on a tarmac.

    Meanwhile Corey is too much of a straight shooter to take orders like that. He didn’t yield to Andrew Card and Alberto Gonzales and he wouldn’t put his Bureau through so much work for a foregone conclusion. The whole point of his press conference was to show that the FBI’s recommendation was independent while not letting Clinton’s carelessness and lies get swept under the rug.

    Saturday, July 9, 2016 at 8:52 am | Permalink
  15. Hassan wrote:

    THATGUY, I think Clinton-Lynch meeting may be political masterstroke. If FBI had handed over everything to Lynch, and she would be saying there is no indictment (which was genuinely not per recommendation of Comey), there would be partisan cries. So she had no way to recuse herself, but to meet Clinton, and put onus to FBI directly. Not ideal, and I hate this partisanship, but that is the unfortunate reality.

    Saturday, July 9, 2016 at 11:48 am | Permalink
  16. ThatGuy wrote:

    There were going to be partisan cries either way. Again, if you thought Clinton was guilty of something worth prosecuting, you still do. If you didn’t, you still don’t.

    Per Comey, no reasonable prosecutor would bring a charge. If you think he’s bending to pressure from above, you don’t know his history.

    Saturday, July 9, 2016 at 12:55 pm | Permalink