The political discussion of the weekend centered on FBI Director James Comey’s letter to eight Republican Congressional Committee Chairmen. Trump supporters are generally giving him an “A” for his performance while Clinton supporters are giving him an “F”. I’m going to try and be objective in my grading. Let’s explore what we know and/or have reason to believe at this point.
The letter – which violated agency policy, possibly the Hatch Act and went out against the advice of the Justice Department – went to Republican Senators Richard Burr of North Carolina, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Richard Shelby of Alabama and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin along with Republican Representatives Devin Nunes of California, Robert Goodlatte of Virginia, John Culberson of Texas and Jason Chaffetz of Utah; (a lot of close races and no superstars in that lineup.)
It spoke of e-mails that may be related to Hillary Clinton possibly found on a computer seized in an unrelated case. The couched language that seemed to imply a lot of things while actually saying nothing was the first red flag. Widely respected investigative reporter Michael Isikoff is citing three sources as saying the reason is because as of the issuance of the letter the FBI lacked the required search warrant to read the e-mails. In other words the FBI had either broken the law or the Director literally had no idea what he was talking about. Sunday afternoon it was announced that the FBI had finally acquired the warrant, which is considered a very easy warrant for an agency like the FBI to obtain.
The consensus of reporting is that the unrelated case is an FBI investigation into former Representative Anthony Weiner who is the estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Weiner is alleged to have sent sexually oriented and inappropriate messages to an underage female. The assumption is that Abedin may have used her then husband’s laptop to send one or more e-mails. Those e-mails may or may not have communicated with Hillary Clinton.
The bottom line for voters should be: Is there anything here that I should take into consideration before I vote? There is no definitive answer to that question. We literally do not know the content of the e-mail(s) nor do we know if any of them even involve Hillary Clinton. It is safe to assume that Abedin wasn’t e-mailing Donald Trump. For her part Abedin is claiming she has no idea how any of her e-mails wound up on her then husband’s computer.
This affair begs the question of why Comey would have released the letter when he did and with nothing to go on. One possible answer comes when you examine Comey’s career. Comey, while a registered Republican is a career government employee who has served at high levels under both Republican and Democratic administrations. It is reasonable to assume he would like to continue that situation. That means he needs good relationships on both sides of the aisle. With the Republicans controlling both chambers of Congress and the reasonable predictions are that they will continue to control at least the House in 2017 and 2018 he needs friends in high places that control things like appropriations and confirmations. Another less cynical theory is that Comey feared this news would leak and therefore wanted to control its release.
I find the most amusing piece of the entire puzzle to be Donald Trump’s reaction. He now thinks the system might be a bit less rigged. He has also called this situation “Bigger than Watergate.” I find that interesting on two levels. First, we literally don’t know if there is anything to this latest “revelation”. Second, Trump is citing the event that brought down the presidency of Richard Nixon when Trump has not been able to clear the low bar of Nixonian honesty and transparency. Nixon released his tax returns (while under audit) Trump has not. There is some ambiguity (I’m being kind) related to the immigration practices of Trump’s modeling agency. His wife was not born in America and there have been persistent questions as to whether she worked in the United States before her immigration status made that work legal. Months ago Trump laughed off those issues stating that his wife would release her well documented immigration and naturalization records very shortly. Like the tax returns Melania’s immigration records have not been made public and I doubt they will be with just days to go before the election.
I’m a Clinton supporter having long ago endorsed her and voted for her in early voting. That aside, I’ve got to give Director Comey an incomplete for reporting on things he can’t possible know. Until we have something definitive the only intelligent action for a voter is to disregard the latest events.
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