Today, FBI Director James Comey announced his agency’s unwillingness to bring charges against Hillary Clinton for her illegal use of a private email server for communicating as Secretary of State. This comes as no surprise to me; I’ve been predicting it for months. Hillary could never be charged, the US legal system is not built that way - it’s designed to favor elites like the Clintons.
But I’m not the least bit upset. In a dramatic press conference today where Comey cleared Clinton of criminal charges, he also may have KO’d her chance to be president.
As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton and her aides were “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information,” Comey, noting the security culture of Clinton’s State Department was not as careful with classified information as other government organizations. At the center of the controversy: the Secretary’s own private email setup.
It wasn’t a secret Clinton was whispering off the grid. In fact, it was readily apparent. Her email system was less secure than Gmail and had no archiving features. And she used her devices in the territory of sophisticated hostile actors, thus “it is possible hostile actors gained access” to her servers, according to Comey.
In fact, the Director said the FBI criminal investigation discovered Clinton was using multiple private servers and mobile devices. They also found out Clinton had failed to turn over thousands of deleted-then-recovered work-related email messages. Worse, her lawyers never read her emails before deleting them - and they wiped her personal devices.
In flagrant violation of the law, Clinton also sent or received 110 messages classified at the time, some Top Secret – in direct contradiction to her public statements. But forget her lies for a second: She was obligated by federal law to know the nature of information and to protect classified materials. According to the deeply respected Comey, the investigation proved she did neither. Still, astonishing to many, there will be no charges.
As much as I loathe quoting Andrew McCarthy of National Review, it’s impossible to avoid it when he gets things right:
Why did Congress criminalize the mishandling of classified information through gross negligence? The answer, obviously, is to prevent harm to national security. So then the reasonable prosecutor asks: Was the statute clearly violated, and if yes, is it likely that Mrs. Clinton’s conduct caused harm to national security? If those two questions are answered in the affirmative, I believe many, if not most, reasonable prosecutors would feel obliged to bring the case.
McCarthy questions Comey’s logic in the decision and I see why. But since I never thought she’d be charged, I’m okay with the result: The Clinton clan thought they had this all wrapped up, then Comey threw a few surprise haymakers that laid the campaign out. The Washington Post says he didn’t review his remarks with anyone from the government and Clinton allies claim they were blindsided. It makes you wonder if Comey - well respected and known to bristle at politics - didn’t sharpen his words after last week’s Bill Clinton-Loretta Lynch airport rendezvous.
There is video fodder for a few different negative TV ads in the Director’s press event; the spots practically write themselves. If there’s a spark of life in the Trump campaign, Clinton should be on her heels for weeks.
In fact, the Republican National Convention committee meetings are already upon us next week. If Comey’s beat down isn’t riding atop all talking points in Cleveland, it’s malpractice.
Done right, the Republican campaign could hammer this damning outcome home for the next month, dampening Clinton’s convention bounce and setting the table for a Labor Day dead heat. Trump and the GOP have 50-plus professional communicators poised to pounce in Cleveland. Led by deeply experienced hands John Ullyot and Kirsten Kukowski, this should be their first project, starting right now.
Frankly, there's a smart school of thought that this is the best outcome possible for Donald Trump. If Clinton had really been charged, Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders might have become the Democratic nominee. If you ask me, there's a lot of reason to believe Trump has a better chance beating Clinton, bleeding and weakend by her own self inflicted wound.