Those pesky emails: why the FBI is right

1 Nov

Did you read today’s Guardian on FBI Director James Comey’s statement on Friday about the Clinton emails? Or yesterday’s account in the New York Times? If you relied on such sources you’ll be none the wiser on a simple point most media, including once liberal media that deem HRC at worst the lesser evil, are at pains to obscure if not ignore. As Democrat and Republican alike pour vitriol on Comey, here’s my summary of a Washington Post piece on how the man did the right thing:

In July Comey told the world the Clinton emails had been “thoroughly investigated” and he would not recommend prosecution. That boosted Clinton, who touted it as vindication of her practise of using private servers as Secretary of State, placing official correspondence beyond the reach of democratic accountability.

Her ratings went up but the FBI now finds the investigation was not thorough, nor could it have been. Thousands of emails reside on the laptop of disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner and his estranged wife, the Clinton aide and confidante, Huma Abedin. Their failure, with or without Hillary Clinton’s knowledge, to provide all relevant evidence invalidated the July statement. This is the ‘impossible situation’ Comey was in on Friday as he announced that new emails have been found. Had the FBI kept quiet about these it would have left uncorrected a misleading statement already used by Team Clinton – but now with the collusion of the Feds – for political gain.

Many are now shrieking that Comey does not know the new emails to be incriminating (true) so should have held his tongue (false). The emails will have to be sifted and this will take time. But those who call Friday’s announcement irresponsible, some even alleging a breach of federal law on politically driven abuse of office, miss the point through muddled thinking or worse. The July announcement, that a “thorough investigation” had found Clinton culpable but not on balance of probability a lawbreaker, was now unsafe in ways that impact on the election. Not to correct it in light of emails Team Clinton chose not to release would, regardless of what those emails reveal, be the real and entirely partisan subversion of democracy.

That’s my summary of the Washington Post piece. Why has so simple yet vital a point been obscured in the overwhelmingly – and uncritically – pro Clinton Guardian?

PS – hours after posting I noticed something I should have seen right away. The Washington Post author is William Barr, Attorney General under Bush Snr and now a Trump supporter. This underlines the fact the argument needs to be weighed solely on merit.

6 Replies to “Those pesky emails: why the FBI is right

  1. I still don’t get what the fuss is about a politician having their own email server. Do we believe that democratic accountability comes from knowing at some stage in the distant future those emails can be read by ‘the people’? The fact that we learned in 2006 what Churchill uttered in the 1940s or learned only this year what Thatcher was up to in Riyadh in 1985 doesn’t feel like holding the conniving men and women in power accountable.
    We share a strong suspicion that Tony Blair has overstepped the mark in the rush to attack Iraq, but don’t have the evidence stored in many official secrets to prove it yet.

    So why a witch hunt on this tangent? She’s an amateur for using that email server, but everyone else will have their own, possibly better hidden communication channels.
    Hilary Clinton is a warmonger and likely determined to convince her critics about her strength with bloodletting of another people like so many presidents have done before. In the same breath it’s important to emphasize that the lunatic alternative would do much worse. So like Brexit, our future will get dimmed again either way.

    I think the email server is a spectacle distraction like so much nowadays.

    • I can’t agree on the unimportance of the server issue, Marcus. True, it’s no guarantor of accountability but ditching the principle would be a serious move, one no party is advocating. So even if you’re right, as I think you are, about it being a sacred cow it’s one the entire Washington establishment agrees on and that makes it serious. Which brings us to the real issue. Clinton made political capital of Comey’s July statement. Subsequent information, hitherto witheld by her team, invalidates that statement. The question I and a lone voice in the Washington Post address is whether he was right, once he knew the original statement had been misleading, to act as he did on Friday. I say he was, for the reason given. Team Clinton would love this to be portrayed as a witch hunt. It isn’t.

      “The lunatic alternative would do much worse”. Actually, neither of us know that. Let me paraphrase Eric Zeusse, writing today in Off-Guardian:

      • Many liberals back Clinton over Trump because they think that while her record in office (not mere statements) is horrific, Trump’s statements and lack of record in office make him worse. I disagree on the preference of evil record to none. Besides failing to distinguish political statements from policies that show Clinton as neocon warmonger and Wall Street agent, those liberals fail to distinguish a bad record in private or business affairs from one as public official. Only the bad record as a public official should be absolutely disqualifying — and it’s Clinton, not Trump, who has a horrific record there.

      Me, if I were American I’d vote Jill Stein. Not as statement of ideological purity but as part of a wider commitment to challenging a fake democracy the Clintons have made even phonier.

  2. I’m guessing that a man who has attracted the opprobrium of the whole establishment, media, political parties, etc must have got something right. But if both candidates for the presidency have the possibility illegality hanging over them, shouldn’t they call the whole thing off? I feel queasy about supporting Trump, but at least he is not gagging for war with Russia

    • I’m not supporting Trump, Sue, but agree he’s got a few things right – rightwing populists generally do, because they seize on the centre’s lies and self serving agendas as well as liberal denialism. See also my reply to Marcus – another good friend. On some things, even important ones, the best of pals will differ.

  3. Hey ho Phil, Trump or Clinton are indeed pretty awful options, but Trump’s the one whose success in the election will ‘normalise’ (to use one of the fave socio-political concepts of the moment), horrendously incivil language, attitude and behaviour so I’ll take Clinton. As Michael Moore also recently argued: you can hate her, but you can’t deny her zeal for improving women’s lot and her genuine efforts to bring about a humanitarian base-level of health care for the have-nots. The problem with the FBI thing is that it is known that senior Republicans have for months been urging to the point of bullying Comey to keep on highlighting Clinton’s servergate story in the public domain. This doesn’t discount your argument that Comey was in an impossible situation, but I think it shows that it was impossible not solely because of a clinch in propriety, but also because of fear engendered by dirty politics.

    • Hi John, thanks for this. Yours and the other two comments so far acknowledge, at least in part, that Clinton is dreadful. Where I differ from you and Marcus is in not seeing her as lesser evil. True, many and perhaps most of my friends are with you on that. (A few say, in defiance of her lacklustre record as Senator and terrible record as Secretary of State, she is a force for good.) But that leaves a handful who, like me, are not only appalled by the carnage in the Middle East and the legacies of Ukraine and Honduras, but terrified of her stance on Russia in pursuit, as we see it, of the interests of Wall Street and a waning hence dangerous US Empire. As I’ve written elsewhere:

      • For all his bluster Trump looks on this matter the more statesmanlike with his willingness to talk to Putin. Compare that with an all too likely scenario wherein Clinton tries to push through her no fly zone in Syria – which would in effect restore the status quo to before Russia entered the fray: i.e. ISIS, Al Nusrah and the ‘moderate’ head-choppers in the ascendant; Assad on the ropes. Putin will say no because, having accepted regime change and homicidal chaos in Baghdad and Tripoli, Russia drew a line in the sand on Damascus. Since Russia is a nuclear power she cannot be bullied as most countries are by the USA. So how long before a HRC who loves to talk tough takes this to the brink?

      Moving on, I do question Clinton’s “zeal for improving women’s lot”. It’s too selective for my liking and this takes us to what’s shockingly wrong with any feminism that downplays class and imperialism. Do women not bear the brunt of her warmongering overseas? Do women not suffer disproportionately from the neoliberal policies she must pursue as payback to the Big Money she courts to the point where her interests are indistinguishable from theirs? I fear the liberal worldview, the American liberal worldview in particular, is too narrowly focused in respect of HRC. Ignoring her record on overseas and class issues, it compares her statements on race and gender with those of the philistine and maverick Trump, then comes to the specious conclusion that since hers are more ‘progressive’ it’s immoral not to vote for her and thus open the door to him. The truth is, American politics are so corrupted by big capital – even by the low standards of Europe – we might seriously ask whether ‘democracy’ can still be deemed an accurate descriptor.

      Which segues neatly into the narrower point. I’d be more inclined to take seriously those allegations of senior Republicans pressurising Comey had (a) the Democrat Machine not been doing the same, with greater menace given the likelihood of a (vengeful) Clinton in the White House; (b) the GOP not thrown its weight behind the candidate most likely to serve its core interests; one Hillary Rodham Clinton.

      PS – we’re long overdue for coffee. I’ll give you a buzz.

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