08 July 2016


This has been a hard few days for FBI Director Comey.  An honorable man, a dedicated FBI agent, and a loyal citizen, he has been placed in an excruciatingly difficult position by people who could have done their jobs instead of hiding behind him.

Background (for those who were vacationing on Jupiter this week):

For nearly a quarter of a century, no American politician or bureaucrat has held closer to the opinion that the laws that apply to most Americans do not apply to her.  As First Lady, she attempted to fire employees in the White House Travel Office in order to give that function to a company owned by personal friends.  When her actions became known, the fired employees were reinstated and her cronies lost the contract she had arranged for them.  As part of the many investigations of the ethics (or lack thereof) of the Clintons, in 2000, Independent Counsel Robert Ray issued his final report on Travelgate. He sought no charges against her, saying that while some of Clinton's statements were factually false, there was insufficient evidence that these statements were either knowingly false or that she understood that her statements led to the firings.

Her tumultuous life in the White House, I would suggest, served to make her the most paranoid national politician since Richard Nixon.  It will be interesting to see how that plays out. Certainly, it should be remembered that the legal transgressions that drove President Nixon from the White House were relatively minor—except for the cover up. One wonders whether Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin are going to be as willing to fall on their swords for Senator Clinton as were Bob Haldeman and John Erlichman.

Horace Rumpole, Esquire, a wonderful fictional English barrister, was a master of the epigram.  One of my two favorites is: “Murder is nothing more than simple assault carried to its logical, but most unfortunate, extremes.”

The the latest contretemps, over the mishandling of classified material by then-Secretary of State Clinton, is a logical extension of “Travelgate.”  Mrs Clinton wanted something done her way.  The law stood in her path so she simply ignored the law.  And to do so, she cherry-picked legal advice.  (My other favorite Rumpolism applies here:  “Lawyers and tarts; the world’s two oldest professions.  We both aim to please.”)

And it came to pass that during sworn testimony before the House of Representatives that, contrary to all sorts of record keeping laws-implementing the Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Act which Democrats had pushed through to ensure that “bad people” like President Nixon would have to preserve pesky records that might help, someday, tarnish or even end their presidencies.  But Mrs C is an attorney, and by some accounts, a good one. 

What if, she thought, I could keep all the records of my time as Secretary of state somewhere those pesky archivists didn’t know about.  Then, I could make sure only the history that I want people to know ever comes out.  And it worked.  Oh, some ethical employees of the State Department questioned the scheme, but the praetorians simply called them in and set things straight:  Forget that you asked and do not ever ask that question again!

Except, just as Butterfield revealed the tapes, someone revealed the “home brew” server.
Enter the FBI.

By this time, Mrs C was, at least in her own eyes, the anointed successor to President Obama.  Not going to let a little matter of law and ethics screw that up!  So, in relatively short order:

1.  The FBI began to look at those records that Mrs C had decided it ought to see. 
Not much there……… except the guy who set up the system did something unexpected.  Bryan Pagliano, an information technology specialist who helped set up Clinton's private email server, demanded immunity before he would submit to a deposition in a civil Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against Mrs C.  Now, I truly believe in innocent until proven guilty and no coerced self-incrimination, and all of that.  But nothing—NOTHING—sets a cops and a prosecutor’s heart thumping like an evidently non-descript mooch who wants immunity. 

2.  The FBI dug in.  They began to find things.  When she said that no classified material ever found its way onto her servers, she was right , except 113 classified items WERE there and another 2000 that should have been classified, weren’t.

3.  Now the President has a problem.  He is nearing the end of a failed presidency.  He wants Mrs C to have his “third term.”  But here we have the FBI finding information about Mrs C that if it was about anyone else who handles classified material would be a career-ender.  And might get that person a stylish new orange jumpsuit. 

You see, the FBI tends to take their “Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity” motto almost as seriously as West Point’s “Duty. Honor. Country.”  Or “Semper Fidelis” for Marines (a lot of whom find their way around Lunga Reservoir from The Basic School to the FBI Academy).  Or “Beat Army” for the Middies.  What’s a President to do?

Simple.  I’ve got a respected Attorney General (in comparison to her predecessor).  I’ll leave it to her and her “professional, career prosecutors.  Problem solved.

4.  But Bill and Hill, they are belts and suspenders folks.  So, as it becomes clear that the prosecutors have a whole lot of damning stuff, it becomes necessary for the Attorney General and former President Clinton to ‘just sorta happen to be in Phoenix for a couple of minutes at the same time, on the same secluded patch of isolated tarmac.  Might as well amble on over to the AG’s plane to uh,…er…swap pix of the grands, yeah, that’s it… and pass the time of day.  Just a couple of minutes. 

Well, actually nearly 40. 

“Hey Mr President.  How are the grandkids?” 

“Great.  Gorgeous.  Wanna keep on being AG in a HC presidency?  Gotta run, now.”

And here we are, the 4th of July weekend coming up, perfect time for the AG to announce that the investigation is over, the FBI report has been submitted to her, and she and her pros  have decided that there is no “there” there.  But somebody finds out. 

Somebody ALWAYS finds out.  Well not about the offer—that is something that only tens of millions of jaded Americans like me, familiar with the Clintons—could imagine.  But, you see, whether it actually happened or not, ….well, “.What difference does it make?" 

Here’s the difference.  When I was a “standards of conduct officer” as a Marine Judge Advocate, and when I was teaching it, the APPEARANCE of a conflict that did not exist was worse than a real conflict.  Sooooo, now General Lynch has to go on TV and say, there was no quid pro quo, but I’m going to follow the recommendation of the FBI.

5.  Ghost of Richard Nixon enters, stage left.  When he had a pesky problem keeping secrets from an independent prosecutor, he fired the man.  Well, actually, he ordered HIS Attorney General,Richard Kliendeinst to do it.  General Kliendienst refused.  Nixon fired him, but Deputy AG William Ruckleshaus also refused and was fired.  At that point, Kliendienst and Ruckleshaus prevailed on Solicitor-General Robert Bork, who was poised to resign, to stay on and provide moral leadership to the DOJ, at the cost of firing Cox—who was toast, anyway.

But that was 10 months or so before the missing minutes became public knowledge.  In 2016, this has to be put to rest now, before the anointing.  No time.  No time. 

So here’s the quandary facing Director Comey. 

A.  If he forces General Lynch to make the announcement, it will probably be an unleavened, salt-free, glutten-free announcement.  Got the report. Read it.  Thought about it, laughed about it, forgot about it.  “No you cannot see it!  It is an advisory opinion protected from disclosure by FOIA.  Besides, if you reeeeeeeeeally want to know what happened, you should ask the FBI, but they can’t answer, cause I’m the boss and advisory opinions and FOIA………..” (Don’t want all that "careless" and "unsophisticated" stuff out for the voters to see!!!)

B.  Make the announcement that will be the result General Lynch wants.  But show the world that you and the FBI did the job—with Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity.

Even if the FBI had recommended charges, it was always going to be a prosecutor—either General Lynch or one of her lads and lassies who would do what the Pres and Bill and Hill wanted.  “I have reviewed the recommendations of the FBI, but it is always the prosecutors who have to make the final call…..no don’t write that down, say ‘Directory Come decided that there was no prosecutable crime."

So, Comey put all the cards on the table, showed who Senator Clinton really is, and was able to stay at the helm of the FBI to get them through this mess.

We owe him a debt of gratitude. 

Post Script:  Go back and re-read paragraph 3 of this blog entry.  Now, Consider Director Comey, this morning, before the House:  ““One of the things I have learned in this case is that the secretary may not have been as sophisticated as people would assume,. She did not even have a computer in her office, for example.  I see evidence of great carelessness, but I do not see evidence that secretary Clinton … knew she was doing something against the law.”

Sooooo, not smart enough to figure out an i-Phone, but let’s give her the nuclear launch codes anyway!

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