Judging by a intriguing report in The Wall Street Journal and several more like it in The New York Times and The Washington Post, Manhattan and Washington underground car parks are booked solid with meetings as the different fighting factions within the FBI and the US Department of Justice go to the mats, while the White House tries desperately to avoid becoming collateral damage as Weinergate crashes Emailgate in the final stretch of the US presidential election. Nobody’s happy. Everybody’s talking.
Meanwhile, some of those whom one would normally assume to rely upon if not cheer Deep-Throat sources are now reaching for smelling salts. The New Yorker’s legal affairs writer Jeffery Toobin has condemned FBI leaks as a ‘breach of propriety’. Heavens above! And the paper of Woodward and Bernstein, which broke the Watergate story that destroyed Nixon’s presidency, adopted a ‘Hush, Harriet!‘ editorial position as it implicitly admonished the director of the FBI for not remaining quiet (until after the election?):
Political tension is running high in the United States, extraordinarily so, we’d say. And so it behooves everyone in a position of official responsibility to do everything he or she possibly can to help maintain stability — while avoiding all avoidable provocations — until the bitter competition between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump runs its ugly course on Nov. 8.
Post stories dovetailing with its editorial line question the constitutionality of the search that uncovered the Abedin-Weiner emails; that Comey may have broken the law by notifying Congress; and another in which anonymous Justice Department officials say they tried to warn Comey off informing Congress because it would be “inconsistent with departmental policy”. Though apparently leaking legal advice provided in confidence to the Director of the FBI is consistent with Justice Department policy, or the AG taking a private meeting with the spouse who is a material witness and potential co-defendant of a target of an FBI investigation is also consistent with departmental policy, or giving immunity to a lawyer for that target who was also a material witness and may have been a co-defendant is consistent with… well, you get the idea: Justice Department policies appear to more like ‘informal guidelines’ to be applied flexibly, as Sir Humphrey might say.
Who knows just what to make of Director James Comey’s letter to Congress, or why these emails, apparently on a computer used by disgraced ex-Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner’s estranged wife and Clinton aide Huma Abedin, weren’t captured previously in the FBI investigation into Clinton’s use of a home brew server as Secretary of State. More on that in a minute. But I wouldn’t have thought The Washington Post of all newspapers would argue, even implicitly, that it’s the job of the FBI to “help maintain stability”—whatever that should be taken to mean—by staying schtum about information that may be relevant to a criminal investigation, even if it involves a presidential candidate. The FBI’s duty to investigate is inarguable. Director Comey’s evident concern of a continuing duty to update his Congressional testimony is not really his problem; self-evidently it’s Hillary’s.
Most revealing about the Journal article is the extent to which the Clintons have remained under legal jeopardy to this day over potential Clinton Foundation offences. Despite interference from Justice, and the conclusion of the classified email investigation, the FBI has continued its pursuit of the Arkansas grifters. Keep in mind that when pressed by the House oversight committee in July, Director Comey twice refused to say whether the Clinton Foundation had become a target as part of its classified email investigation of Clinton. So it’s hard to know to which part (or both) of the investigation Comey’s brief letter was referring—and also keep in mind that a search warrant has only now been obtained to allow agents to see the content behind the metadata that triggered the letter.
I’m guessing the Foundation is more likely to be the focus, only because the FBI has explicitly rejected applying the gross negligence standard when it considered whether or not to bring charges against Clinton and what would more classified emails show if any were found and presuming they are not duplicates—more negligence?
Meanwhile, Donald Trump says “This changes everything,” which means what I’m not sure because he had been claiming everything was “rigged” and he was really winning. But as Johnny Carson would say, this election is full of some weird, wild stuff.
And spare a thought for Putin’s errand boy Julian Assange, still working on his moon tan in the Ecuadorian London embassy’s basement, his Internet cut off—likely after the Ambassador was invited up to tea in Whitehall and had it explained to him that being a fence for Putin was inconsistent with the Vienna Convention—who’s had his long-promised ‘October surprise’ gazumped by the FBI, whom he believed were out to get him. Even paranoids can be right sometimes. #Sad. #LowEnergy
However, I doubt that this late weird, wild stuff will make a material difference next Tuesday, in a campaign in which one candidate keeps stepping on his own dickk (as LBJ liked to put it) even if the other has tripped on one. It’s too early to get a strong read on the flow-through in the polls though they have tightened somewhat.
A Trump win is paying $3.20 (down from $5.50 a week ago). I still believe Clinton will be elected the 45th president of the United States. But it will matter afterwards if there’s more here than the vague pay-to-play ‘soft’ access corruption we have seen so much of so far. Just ask your car park attendant.
Now, pass the popcorn.