Out of the Blue: Hillary … ugh … and mails, emails, emails (opinion)
November 4, 2016
Ugh. The Never-Hillarys went nuts when news came last Friday that FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to Congress stating that there were emails potentially related to the issue of HRC's private email server.
Trump, with emboldened firebrand, used the opportunity to say this constituted the single biggest political scandal since Watergate, which drew hoots and hollers from his Iowa crowd and inspired bloggers and armchair politicos of all stripes to invent derogatory claims about Clinton's crooked and abhorrent practices as a public servant.
For those of us standing with her, though, this news forces us to play defense, to focus attention on the intricacies of the issues at hand, not simply breathing fire at the mention of "Hillary" and "emails" in the same sentence. It's incumbent on liberal folks to probe details, to assess information logically to divine what actually is going on here.
We know this: Hillary Clinton did not want to give up her Blackberry email account when she entered the executive branch as Secretary of State. Over time, she came to realize there was a security risk involved with this, and that certain items within her private email system were indeed classified.
She apologized for this mistake, and the FBI declared that Clinton did not portray any criminal intent in her actions regarding the email server and its contents.
Now, in an investigation into the disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner, the FBI has discovered a set of unvetted emails belonging to Weiner's estranged wife, Huma Abedin, a top aide to Mrs. Clinton.
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Apparently there were hundreds of thousands of them to sift through on Weiner's computer, and Mr. Comey wrote in his letter to Congress that while his team hasn't yet examined them, they "appear to be pertinent" to the investigation into Hillary's server that wrapped up in July 2016.
Again, her detractors want to cheer the gallows and insist that Hillary be disqualified from becoming president, but upon peeling back the layers of this issue, it's clear that Comey is standing on shaky ground.
First to consider — Attorney General Loretta Lynch recommended that Comey, a Republican appointee of President Obama, shouldn't send the letter, that he should follow the department's "longstanding practice of not commenting on ongoing investigations, and not taking any action that could influence the outcome of an election" (from Jane Mayer's New Yorker piece), but Comey released it anyway.
This act, as it turns out, may have violated the Hatch Act, which greatly restricts the ability of most federal employees from engaging in political campaign activities, for using "official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election."
It also doesn't help that Comey realized that his team learned of the existence of these emails a month ago but waited until last Friday to alert Congress of them (which implies he was waiting for a sweet-spot moment to drop the bomb).
Harry Reid, the departing senator, replied publicly to Comey's letter: "Your highly selective approach to publicizing information, along with your timing, was intended for the success or failure of a partisan candidate or political group."
Reid had crossed the aisle and survived the Republican filibuster of Comey's nomination because he felt Comey was a principled public servant. As a send-off, Reid writes: "With the deepest regret, I now see that I was wrong."
Hillary's response to this sticky new conundrum was to insist that Comey release everything he has in his arsenal, to bring to light that there are no improperly handled emails from Clinton's team that merit drudging this whole thing up again.
Nobody knows exactly how damning this newest batch of dirty laundry might be (we must steel ourselves to the possibility that photos of Anthony's Weiner might be the tip of a groady iceberg), but Comey's Chicken Little "Hey, I have emails!" is a vacuous, uninformed mantra that stupidly (and unfortunately) appeals to the very base of Trump's campaign.
So, Democrats, we groan again. We're back to this issue (again). Yes, Mrs. Clinton made mistakes with her email server, but to hear Trump call that error worse than Watergate is downright ignorant.
Don't believe me? Do what Democrats do — ask some follow-up questions. If Trump is correct, the FBI's inquiry into Hillary Clinton's emails, which was roundly dismissed nearly six months ago, was a nastier scandal than the reveal of atrocities in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. Worse than the false evidence for weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein's regime. Worse than the 2000 Florida recount scandal. Worse than Iran-Contra in the '80s.
Say it with me: Ugh.
Mike Restaino is a writer and filmmaker based out of Incline Village. He is also a Vice Chair of the North Tahoe Democrats. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.