As I watch FBI Director James Comey respond to members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, even as I attempt to correct for my fear and loathing of Hillary Rodham Clinton, the “nothing to see here” approach of the Democratic members of the committee is shocking. Or at least it would be shocking if it were not for the fact that the woman they are compelled to defend is a corrupt self-dealing mendacious reprobate who makes each of them look competent, trustworthy, and sagacious by comparison.
In nearly every case where a Republican asked Director Comey whether Hillary Clinton violated a statute regarding the care and handling of classified information, the answer was yes. When asked whether Clinton’s private e-mail server violated State Department policy, the answer was yes (based on Comey’s reading of State’s IG report, not his own investigation). When asked whether someone in her position should have known better, the answer was yes.
It is clear that approximately every public statement Clinton made about her use of a private email server was a lie (but Comey confined his legal conclusions to Hillary’s private statements made to the FBI last weekend).
Director Comey, formerly the Deputy Attorney General of the United States in the George W. Bush administration, reiterated that a government employee who treated classified information the way that Clinton did would likely face disciplinary actions such as loss of security clearance and termination of employment. Indeed, late on Thursday the State Department announced that it is reopening the investigation into the mishandling of classified information by Clinton and her closest aides. Those aides, particularly Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin, though no longer government employees, may face sanctions and their ability to get security clearances in a potential Clinton administration is now very much in doubt.
It is also worth noting that during the hearing committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) told Comey to expect a Congressional referral requesting that he investigate whether Clinton lied to Congress while under oath. This followed Comey’s saying he had never looked into it because he had never received such a referral. No doubt the Democratic response, in an explosion of irony, will be squawks about wasting taxpayers’ money.
The “fact pattern” of the Clinton email fiasco, as laid out by Comey in his remarkable Tuesday press conference and reiterated in hours of testimony on Thursday, justifies a criminal referral by the FBI to the Justice Department. But Comey, both Tuesday and Thursday, argued that there had never been a prosecution under the two relevant statutes without additional aggravating factors such as intentional obstruction of an investigation (such as the lies told to the FBI by General Petraeus; again Comey did not consider lies told by Clinton to the public or to Congress), exposure of large quantities of classified information, or disloyalty to the United States.
That may be true although the military has punished its members harshly for crimes that seem less egregious, especially given Hillary’s level of responsibility and her specific instructions to underlings not to use private email accounts because of security concerns. But Comey’s more fundamental argument that Clinton did not demonstrate intent to violate the law ignores the plain language of the statute which requires only gross negligence — synonymous in this case with the recklessness and carelessness that Comey had already found her culpable of — to be guilty of a crime. As former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy points out, this law is not unique in not requiring criminal intent; it is possible to be found guilty of manslaughter without having intended to kill anyone — gross negligence is enough.
Comey’s is the same form of argument which has some comparing his rationalization to that of Chief Justice John Roberts, who tortured logic and rewrote the law in order to find Obamacare constitutional; perhaps each did not want to be responsible for a much larger political crisis. In Comey’s case: Should he be responsible for removing from contention the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party?
Comey’s tremendous error was not his refusal to send a criminal referral of Hillary Clinton to the Department of Justice; it was his statement that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring charges given the facts of the case. That simply cannot be true.
When it was any Democrat’s opportunity to waste five minutes of Comey’s time, the questions and comments were very similar to each other. Paraphrasing: “How long have you been FBI director?” “Thank you for being so non-partisan.” “Is it still correct that you did not coordinate the investigation with any part of the administration?” And, believe it or not, “Do you think that white supremacist groups are increasing their recruiting abilities because of Donald Trump’s retweets?”
Democrats frequently described the hearing as “political theater,” a maddening characterization when discussing the illegal behavior of a woman who makes a habit of lying to the public about her actions — even when those actions lead to the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi — yet who has the gall to believe she should lead this nation.
But such are the low standards of our politics these days, particularly among Democrats.
None of this is as new as it may seem to younger voters. Do you remember Marion Barry? Barry was the mayor of Washington, D.C. He was arrested by the FBI after being videotaped smoking crack cocaine (but at least it was with a prostitute). He served six months in prison and was at the next opportunity re-elected mayor. Yes, D.C. was a bastion of what is these days euphemistically called an “urban environment,” white-liberal-speak for a city with a large low-income and minority population and therefore, inexplicably, held to a lower standard of political propriety. (Perhaps that is why urban places which persistently elect Democrats like Kwame Kilpatrick and Chaka Fattah remain so “urban.”)
But Barry’s bad behavior was a warm-up act for this generation of Democrats. As I noted last week, Bill Clinton was known to be unable to keep it in his pants and Barack Obama was known to associate with terrorists and haters of America and cheerleaders for Joseph Stalin. And those are just the winners. Among the losers, Al Gore used his connections to scam for himself and his friends tens of millions of dollars of government subsidies under the guise of “An Inconvenient Truth,” a self-serving lie successful on a scale that must have inspired the Clintons. And do I need to say anything at all about John “cheat on my wife while she’s dying of cancer” Edwards?
Yet Democrats keep nominating these people — people whom you would never hire to work in your own business — and too few Republicans and independents stand up against raising these degenerates to our high, higher, and highest offices. The depressing part is that I don’t hold out hope for Democrats holding their own to any standard beyond “she’s not a Republican.” Perhaps more depressing is that when it comes to Donald Trump, Republicans seem to have no better argument either.
Republican candidates in recent presidential elections have disappointed as well, but they weren’t liars and socialists and scoundrels. Trump is the worst yet, with his public appearances since Comey’s Tuesday bombshell demonstrating an utter inability to prosecute the case against Hillary Clinton, instead rambling on about the upside of Saddam Hussein and why his campaign staff shouldn’t have deleted a tweet containing a six-pointed star that liberals ridiculously tried to use as evidence of anti-Semitism from a man whose daughter recently converted to Judaism. Can’t you please just focus, Donald?!?
Other Republicans will need to make the case since Trump’s narcissism and inexperience prevent him from making it effectively. So it was good to see Speaker of the House Paul Ryan playing hardball with a Democratic candidate who should be disqualified from holding any elected (or appointed) office: On Thursday, Ryan asked James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, to “refrain from providing classified information to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the duration of her candidacy for president.” It’s a transparent, even if bold, non-starter, but if Ryan’s goal is to prevent Mrs. Clinton from again sullying the White House with her presence — and to allow his members to maintain a House majority — he has few options available to him.
This is an election that will be solely about driving up the opposition’s negatives since neither major party’s nominee has positives or qualifications worth mentioning and since Trump, surprisingly given his success at blowing Republicans out of the water, is getting much less traction against Hillary. Perhaps that’s because despite Mrs. Clinton’s obvious self-serving corruption, voters view Trump as little better. And hey, at least she can stick to a plan.
Ryan’s request, which was immediately rebuffed by the Obama administration, gets to the heart of the thing: Hillary Clinton is both incompetent and untrustworthy. Hillary and her henchmen were complicit in a well-thought-out scheme to deny the public access to the work product that we are entitled to see. Just ask the guy who took the Fifth more than a hundred times when questioned about setting up her server; or don’t bother asking.
As Congressman Trey Gowdy noted, it’s not so much that Hillary was careless with her private server; it’s that she was very careful to make sure she disobeyed both law and policy in order to hide… well, wouldn’t you like to know just what she’s hiding?
But the sad question is whether enough Americans care, or whether a combination of party loyalty, justifiable skepticism about Mr. Trump, and utter exhaustion and numbness from decades of gutter politics and hyper-partisanship will allow millions of our fellow citizens to throw up their hands and say, “Is she really that much worse than any other politician?”
As surely as Hillary lied to us about her email, about “the video” causing the Benghazi attack, about sniper fire in Bosnia, about why Goldman Sachs is willing to pay her nearly $800,000 for three speeches, the answer is “Hell, yes, she’s that much worse.”
The only remaining question is whether Donald Trump can show the American people that he is better enough to deserve our votes. On that question, without James Comey to protect him from Americans’ common sense, the jury is still out.