Why Clinton’s email defence may also prove to be Trump’s decisive attack

mesnip81016Like most observers, I’ve had 24 hours now to sit and think about the ramifications of Director Comey’s decision to look again at the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of emails beyond the official State Department server. (If you’re not entirely au fait with that story, go here)

Although several titles this morning are asserting that Comey has ‘reopened’ the case, this isn’t strictly true: he merely said earlier this month that he did not envisage an indictment against Clinton. The case had remained open….and as a result of that (allegedly) emails involving the husband (Anthony Weiner) of her leading campaign guru Huma Abedin have opened new lines of enquiry. (Weiner’s propensity for sexting makes Stephen Crabb look like a Trappist monk)

But even as I write, events are developing against a background from yesterday of universal astonishment that Comey had made the enquiries public. To try and nutshell this,

  • Only an idiot, a rabid Trump supporter or a genuinely dedicated cop, as the director of the FBI, would do this with just ten days to go in a Presidential election
  • As Comey – although a lifelong Republican – clearly isn’t either of the first two, one is left with the awkward assumption that the new information is so explosive, it has to be made public before either candidate is sworn in. Hillary has at the moment a 91% mathematical chance of being that candidate…and the emails scandal is about her, not The Donald
  • Equally damning is the desperate reaction of pro-Clinton media and blogsites, and the complaint brought by Clinton supporters via the DoJ: the latter includes the words, “It is an obvious attack from a lifelong Republican who used to serve in the Bush White House, just to undermine her campaign”. One prominent Democrat site actually claims that the investigation “has nothing to do with Clinton, her emails or her server”: this is not only unknown, it is extremely unlikely
  • Adding confusion to damnation, both the Murdoch comics Fox News and the New York Post have come down heavily on the side of the “this is a major development” camp. Murdoch is a major contributor to, and supporter of, the Clinton campaign – see this earlier Slogpost

I’d love to have inside track on this, but I don’t: the one truly well-connected New York Democrat source I have admits to being “completely blind-sided” by the last-minute Comey drama.

So logical, informed speculation will have to suffice.

One thing to be clear about is that the Department of Justice is headed by Loretta Lynch, a political appointment nominated by President Obama. It is in the DoJ that the Clintons have clout and sway. It was Bill Clinton that put in the fix to crush the emails investigation, via a direct approach to Lynch.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the junior partner here. But we should note that a former DoJ senior staffer David Rivkin told CNBC yesterday that “It clearly is something that requires the [FBI] to take additional investigatory steps. It’s not something that is sort of self-contained and can be just looked at and put to the side. So I think it’s extremely serious”. Also note that Comey sent the news to Congress, not to the DoJ.

Comey – Republican or not – was an Obama appointment, and has an enviable record of integrity: until yesterday, Trump had been vigorously critical of the FBI boss. So one has to assume the Director thought Lynch was compromised by Clinton influence.

Last but not least, Donald Trump is claiming “I called this months ago” and coming out with phrases like “the FBI has realised its mistake, and so at last justice will be done – this is bigger than Watergate”. Fine, he would say that…or maybe he knows more than most people realise. With so little time to go, without a put-up he’ll be soundly beaten if all he does is shut-up.

The very thing the pro-Clinton camp is using to dub the revelation “a political move” is the very thing that could explode in their faces. The New York Times – a newspaper in which I have zero faith – wrote….

the emails came from a device owned by former Congress member Anthony Weiner and his wife, top Clinton aide Huma Abedin

….that is, not from a Clinton or State Dept server. It’s a superficial defence: if Weiner – not a man known for his discretion – has casually mentioned a smoking gun on the same server as a top Clinton aide – then all bets are off.

Stay tuned.

Connected at The Slog: the empirical vs the propaganda