You see it from time to time in the newspapers. Some odious public figure will find themselves in court on a criminal charge, or will bring a libel charge against a publication that has come out and said what everyone else has known for years. Due to some technicality, which has nothing to do with whether the charges or allegations are true or not, they win the case. And this, of course, is how the justice system should work: technicalities are important. Only said odious public figure then stands on the steps of the courthouse bragging that they are now fully vindicated and his or her supporters state that they “always believed they were innocent” and the charges were fabricated by their political opponents.
This is pretty much what Hillary Clinton did last July regarding the FBI’s decision not to prosecute her over the handling of classified information. There are dozens of different interpretations of FBI Director James Comey’s remarks, and they are so contradictory and the situation so unusual that they could mean pretty much anything. My own interpretation, which I am sure everyone in Washington D.C. is waiting for with bated breath, is that Hillary committed felonies which would have seen anybody other than a Clinton thrown in jail for the rest of their days but, under intense political pressure, James Comey decided to let it slide. I think he hoped that the court of public opinion would ensure justice would be done in a roundabout way on election day.
If Hillary Clinton wasn’t so cocksure and arrogant, and didn’t have such a tin-ear, she would have mumbled something about “lessons being learned” and avoided mentioning it again at all costs. This is what most politicians do when they’ve had a close shave and relied upon their political connections to keep them out of jail. But the very next time the emails were mentioned by a public who was extremely dissatisfied with the FBI’s decision, she broke into that braying laugh of hers and said “Oh, why do you keep going on about this? The FBI has cleared me of all wrongdoing, didn’t you get the memo?” Her supporters probably thought they were helping by following her lead in repeating the idea that the FBI had effectively said she’d done nothing wrong and hence accusers were partisan hacks, but in hindsight this might have been a colossal blunder.
My guess is that the initial decision not to prosecute Clinton would have made huge swathes of the FBI absolutely livid with anger. The last eight years of Barack Obama’s African-style presidency has seen the politicisation of the IRS, CIA, and the Pentagon: would David Petraeus have been prosecuted if he was full-square behind Obama and the Democrats? I doubt it. There are many in the FBI who would have been appalled that a case had not been brought against Hillary over the email server and the Clinton Foundation sooner, and I expect the decision not to prosecute in July for the former was a very tough sell internally. At all levels there will be FBI personnel who are Republican-leaning individuals and have seen people who’ve made careless mistakes have their lives destroyed in the name of justice in the United States. These personnel can only go home and look their kids in the eye if they genuinely believe their actions have made the country a better place and that the same ruthlessness is applied to all citizens regardless of how powerful they are. Deep down they probably know it isn’t true, but they will be able to believe it just enough if the lie is not blatantly exposed on national television.
When the FBI employees saw Clinton dismissively laughing about the accusations and invoking something the FBI director did not say to claim she was vindicated, I imagine the anger was close to boiling point. Hence when they stumbled across more incriminating emails when they were investigating her pal Anthony Wiener over sexual misconduct charges, they would have taken them to Comey with the not-so-subtle threat that this gets dealt with properly or he’ll face an internal revolt which could bring the entire agency to its knees. I think that Comey had very little choice but to come forward with this, timing and election be damned, if he wanted to escape from his office with his life. Perhaps I exaggerate. But I am sure that well over half the FBI would be absolutely seething with anger at this point, and in no mood to accept more favourable treatment of a woman who has shown them so much utter contempt.
I don’t know what will become of this, probably Clinton and her cronies will laugh this off just as they have every other scandal which has come their way over the years. Those who intended to vote for her would do so even if she drowned a kitten in Times Square, and those who were going to vote for Trump will merely see they made the right choice. The Undecideds, both of them, could vote either way provided they wake from their respective comas by 8th November.
But what I think this will do, should Clinton win regardless, is make governing America an awful lot more difficult. There will be something akin to a civil war going on in the FBI if the organisation is shown to be unable to prosecute blatant criminal activity among the political classes, and I would be amazed if such conflicts – escalating to outright insubordination and disobedience – don’t play out in the Pentagon and CIA as well (the IRS will continue to do the bidding of any Democratic president, of course).
What an almighty mess.