Monday, May 9, 2016

Ms. Clinton Headed for Rough Seas

The conventional wisdom is that the campaign has now come down to a contest between a developmentally arrested bully and a serial fabulist who may soon be facing felony charges for having broken the law with respect to the handling of classified material when she was Secretary of State. Which of these excellent candidates will the voters of our Republic select to be our national leader for the next four to eight years?

Most Americans are probably at least dimly aware that Ms. Clinton has been under investigation by the FBI for the past year regarding her secret and apparently illegal use of a private email server upon which classified information was found and which could have been, and probably was, hacked by every intelligence service in the world.

That investigation has gotten relatively little coverage by the media, at least compared to what it would have gotten had it been a Republican candidate under FBI scrutiny, and what it has received has sometimes been misleading. In any case, the investigation may soon be coming to a close. Jazz Shaw at brings us up to speed:
At one point in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private bathroom email server, reporters were able to coax an unnamed “FBI official” into saying that Hillary Clinton was “not the target” of the investigation. It’s a line which all of her defenders, including the White House, have stuck to like glue. But now the end days of this long process appear to be upon us and that line of defense is crumbling quickly. As The Hill reports, this process is developing pretty much in keeping with the standard FBI playbook, with Clinton’s closest allies having been interviewed shortly before the former Secretary of State herself will answer questions. And the last person you talk to is pretty much always “the target.”

A former U.S. Attorney who has handled similar cases, Matthew Whitaker, was quoted as saying that investigators will be looking to see if there are any contradictions between Clinton’s answers and those of her aides and others involved with the installation and maintenance of the server. This won’t be an effort to gather new information because, “they’re only going to ask her questions that they know the answers to already.”
One notion that has been advanced frequently in the media is that Ms Clinton is not really in any legal jeopardy because she didn't intend to violate any law, but this is little more than an attempt to put wings on a pig to make it fly. According to the law intent doesn't matter:
[A]n experienced national security lawyer, Bradley Moss, ... put this line of media defense to rest.

“[T]he extent to which the person intended to remove classified documents is irrelevant,” he said in an email to The Hill. “All that matters for strict legal purposes of culpability is whether the person, by virtue of their official position, came into possession of classified information and affirmatively removed the information to an unauthorized location (i.e., the private server). Whether the person knew or suspected the information was classified is irrelevant.”
The evidence against Ms. Clinton is alleged to be overwhelming so, Jazz Shaw writes,
The only remaining question is whether or not [FBI Director] James Comey has the intestinal fortitude to pull the trigger and what the Justice Department will do with this hot potato if it lands in their lap less than two months before the Democrats name the target of this felony level national security investigation as their nominee to be the leader of the free world.
It's hard to imagine that if the case against Ms. Clinton is strong the Attorney General won't at least make it look like they're prosecuting her. If they don't indict and prosecute, anyone with any integrity in the FBI, which could be a lot of people, including the Director, will resign and Mr. Obama hardly wants that sort of scandal marring his last days in office.

The downside for the president in giving the AG the green light to prosecute is that if Clinton is fatally weakened (politically), and a Democrat does not win in November, his entire legacy could be reversed by the Republicans in a matter of months.

So, it's a tough call for Mr. Obama, assuming that his decision will be based purely on a political calculus and not on simply doing what's right, but given the choice between another major scandal and sacrificing Ms. Clinton, for whom the Obamas have little love in the first place, Ms. Clinton might find herself under indictment and Mr. Obama might decide to take his chances with Bernie Sanders carrying on his legacy.

Of course, Mr. Obama could shock the world and just follow the law regardless of the consequences for himself and the Democrat party, but after eight years of watching this administration conduct itself it's doubtful that more than a few idealists expect that that will happen.