Lose, lose situation for Comey
Why are both liberals and conservatives angry at FBI Director Jim Comey? That’s an easy one. It’s because Comey was faced with a “lose-lose” situation, and he lost.
First, if he recommended prosecution, he would have upended U.S. political history in a truly unique way. No candidate of a major political party has ever faced the serious prospect of prosecution for a felony.
Second, if he did not recommend prosecution, he would be ferociously criticized as having treated Hillary Clinton differently than any other American. Which is one thing that already has happened.
Charles Krauthammer, the conservative Washington Post columnist, undoubtedly gets it right when he suggests that Comey was not prepared to have the FBI or himself go down in history as the first such to upend a presidential race at this stage. But there is more to say about this, see below.
Liberals/progressives are apoplectic because they say Comey has smeared Mrs. Clinton for next to no reason. Always suspicious of classification and classified documents, they don’t think Mrs. Clinton did much wrong. They will also assert that most if not all the so-called classified stuff was classified “after the fact,” which is what she has asserted.
Even the New York Times, which is hardly a mainstream much less conservative publication, suggests (Wednesday, July 6) that Comey’s report, if it were against nearly anyone other than Mrs. Clinton, would be sure political death. The Times called this good news and bad news for Mrs. Clinton. Good that she wasn’t actually indicted, or recommended for such. Bad that what Comey actually said was pretty bad.
Of course, conservatives thought all along that she should be indicted. However, almost no matter what the FBI found, that was unlikely. Indictments originate in the Department of Justice, not the FBI or law enforcement. Even if Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch had allowed a grand jury to go forward, it always seemed unlikely that President Obama would allow his party’s presidential candidate to be prosecuted.
Comey also made one other salient comment. That was that no prudent prosecutor would want to pursue this case. In this, he may be right for a couple reasons. First, you have to know that Mrs. Clinton would be lawyered-up to the maximum. She has or would have the best defense counsel in Washington, D.C.
Second, Mrs. Clinton was sure to argue that she never intended to violate classification laws. Some pundits even assert, although this is disputed, that the law requires intent. What Comey called it was “extremely careless.”
And third, any indictment would seem to have to come in the District of Columbia federal courts. That means convincing a D.C. jury of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Is Mrs. Clinton being treated differently than anyone else? Take the case of Gen. David Petraeus, arguably the best American military leader of our generation. Petraeus had even followed his distinguished military career with being director of Central Intelligence – head of the CIA.
But he gave some notebooks containing classified material – apparently less damaging to the United States that what Mrs. Clinton left unprotected – and was convicted under the law. And this even to a woman, Paula Broadwell, who was an Army Reserve major with a security clearance. Some of Mrs. Clinton’s recipients had no security clearance at all.
However, access to classified material depends on two things, not one. The first is the clearance. The other is called “need to know.” Mrs. Broadwell was writing a biography and had no need to know.
It remains unknown whether all this is too damaging for Mrs. Clinton to win in November. For all his bluster, Donald J. Trump may not be the best Republican candidate to exploit the situation.
But that Mrs. Clinton has poor judgment is beyond argument, not to mention the fact that – once again – Bill and Hillary Clinton hold themselves to a different standard than most other Americans.
Reid Beveridge has covered politics in Texas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Delaware and Washington, D.C. He is now retired at Broadkill Beach. Beveridgere@prodigy.net.