This whole episode isn’t nearly as positive for the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua as she’d like to think. WaPo’s Chris Cillizza, on the day of Comey’s statement, wrote:
Here’s the good news for Hillary Clinton: The FBI has recommended no charges be brought followings its investigation of the former secretary of state’s private email server.
Here’s the bad news: Just about everything else.
FBI director James Comey dismantled large portions of Clinton’s long-told story about her private server and what she sent or received on it during a stirring 15-minute press conference following which he took no questions. While Comey exonerated Clinton legally speaking, he provided huge amounts of fodder that could badly hamstring her in the court of public opinion.
Most importantly, Comey said that the FBI found 110 emails on Clinton’s server that were classified at the time they were sent or received. That stands in direct contradiction to Clinton’s repeated insistence she never sent or received any classified emails. And, it even stands in contrast to her amended statement that she never knowingly sent or received any classified information.
It’s hard to read Comey’s statement as anything other than a wholesale rebuke of the story Clinton and her campaign team have been telling ever since the existence of her private email server came to light in the spring of 2015. She did send and receive classified emails. The setup did leave her — and the classified information on the server — subject to a possible foreign hack. She and her team did delete emails as personal that contained professional information.
It’s easy, of course, to cast this is a loss for the rule of law – and for the GOP. Her Imperial Majesty’s campaign people are crowing over her “exoneration,” when in fact there has been no such thing. Granted, AG Lynch is in the back pocket of the Obama Administration, and would have ensured that no charges were filed against Her Highness regardless of the FBI’s recommendation. Granted, any common member of the hoi polloi – say, yr. obdt. back in the days when I was handling classified materials – would have been facing at least a disgraceful end to a career, and more likely criminal charges.
And yes, this is a serious piece of malfeasance on the part of the Justice Department.
Seven e-mail chains concern matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent and received. These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending e-mails about those matters and receiving e-mails from others about the same matters. There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation. In addition to this highly sensitive information, we also found information that was properly classified as Secret by the U.S. Intelligence Community at the time it was discussed on e-mail (that is, excluding the later “up-classified” e-mails).
Now, for better or worse, the GOP has now a candidate who is by no means afraid to call this like he sees it, in no uncertain terms – and this will certainly come up in the Presidential debates, particularly if (as usual) one of them focuses on foreign policy, generally regarded as a weak area for The Donald. Imagine him hitting Her Highness with the following:
“Now, you spent most of the first half of this year claiming that no classified material was sent or received on your private server; that is, until you changed your tune and said that no emails ‘marked classified’ were sent or received. Director Comey stated last July that this was certainly not the case. So, were you lying, or are you incompetent? In either case, why should the American people trust you with the most powerful office on the planet? Which is it, Mrs. Clinton? Are you a liar or an incompetent?”
Mitt Romney never would have gone there. Trump will. That may make the difference.