Yesterday the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James B. Comey, issued a detailed official statement about the closing of the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for official business while she was Secretary of State. The FBI concluded that while Clinton (and the rest of the State Department) were “extremely careless” with the use of private email servers to send and receive messages containing classified information, no criminal prosecutions were warranted for such careless conduct. The Director wrote:
Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case. Prosecutors necessarily weigh a number of factors before bringing charges. There are obvious considerations, like the strength of the evidence, especially regarding intent. Responsible decisions also consider the context of a person’s actions, and how similar situations have been handled in the past.
In looking back at our investigations into mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts. All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of: clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice. We do not see those things here.
Fox News and the rest of the wingnut-o-sphere predictably erupted in howls of outrage because the FBI would not recommend any criminal prosecution of Clinton or others. Our own Senator Richard Shelby, who not only stands up to Obama ever’ single day but now is clearly preparing to stand up to President Hillary too, promptly sent a preachy and purely political letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch urging the Justice Department to “apply the rule of law fairly in deciding whether to bring charges in this case, as well as to fully explain the determination.”
It is pretty clear that Director Comey, who is a Republican first appointed as FBI Deputy Director by President George W. Bush, already has applied the rule of law (which includes that wonderful legal concept of precedent) and fully explained his conclusion that a decision to criminally prosecute Clinton in the absence of evidence of malicious intent (the FBI found none) would not be made by any “reasonable prosecutor.” All past prosecutions of mishandling classified information “involved some combination of clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice.” The FBI did “not see those things here.”
So basically Shelby wants the Justice Department to begin a completely unprecedented prosecution in circumstances where the GOP FBI Director (not a softy on crime) states that “no reasonable prosecutor” would commence such a prosecution.
What a dick.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, also a big crybaby because the FBI doesn’t want to throw Clinton in jail over some emails, has asked the Obama Administration to block intelligence briefings for Clinton after her inevitable nomination in Philadelphia this month, on grounds that the conduct described in Comey’s statement indicates she would endanger national security if she received such briefings. These briefings have been given to presidential and vice-presidential candidates since Harry S Truman blew his stack after finding out for the first time about the Manhattan Project after he was sworn into office after FDR’s death. Truman rightly concluded that a president should not walk into office completely ignorant of all the secret goings-on of the government, and every president since has agreed.
Ryan, though, thinks Hillary cannot be trusted, but he would trust Donald The Stubby-Fingered Tweeter Trump with vital intelligence implicating national security even though Trump is a loose cannon who retweets posts of white supremacists and thinks Saddam Hussein killed terrorists “real good.” (Actual quote I could never make up, because grammar).
Many on the left are screaming that Comey said too much in his statement, and that setting out all those facts amounted to a political hatchet job. I completely disagree with that. The public is entitled to all of the facts and now we have them. It doesn’t paint Clinton in the best light but it does not, in my view, change the fact that she is completely qualified to be president, and certainly much more qualified than the racist would-be dictator who the GOP will anoint in Cleveland this month.
Facts are a stubborn thing, and while we can debate about what conclusions we should draw from them, now at least we have them all set forth in detail in Comey’s report. That sort of work is what the FBI does.
Politics and misdirection are what Shelby and Ryan do. I’m glad they do not get to make decisions in our criminal justice system.