This is a small detour from our exploration of Brecht’s Life of Galileo and its applicability to this year’s election. For those who missed Parts I and II, I invite you to take a few moments to look at them. Part IV, and sadly there will be a Part IV, will then make a little more sense.
Yesterday, FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to various congressional committee chairs indicating that the Bureau had found additional Clinton emails during an investigation of an “unrelated case.” Comey went on to say, “…the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant…” and as a result thought he needed to update his prior congressional testimony with this revelation.
To his FBI associates, he wrote that, “given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression.” In spite of this, he contended that, although such disclosure as was made to Congress was out of the ordinary, he felt an ethical obligation to notify the Congress.
For now I’d like to address a question posed to me by a former intern in my office. She interned with us for a period between completing her studies in Bulgaria and her examinations that would confer a law degree. Once she passed Bulgaria’s version of the “bar exam,” she came back to Boston University and earned an LL.M degree and currently is working at the United Nations. And she is a bit perplexed about this election. I’ll attempt to answer this question relative to a response I’d like to make to a Facebook post I saw this morning.
Ed Achorn, editor of the Editorial Pages at the Providence Journal posted on Facebook a link to a commentary printed in the Chicago Tribune opining that, in view of Friday’s “revelations,” Hillary Clinton should step down as her party’s nominee for President in favor of Tim Kaine. Ignoring the late Vincent “Buddy” Cianci’s admonition that nobody should argue with folks who buy ink by the barrel and paper by the roll, I’m here to argue the opposing point.
First to Ed: before we savage Clinton and dance on her political grave, a few facts. It is a fact that Comey has no idea what is in those emails. He’d have had to obtain a warrant and be a speed reader in order to know the emails’s contents by Friday morning. It could be emails the egregiously compromise national security, or it could be correspondence between two colleagues commiserating over the actions of their respective spouses. According to Comey’s letter, he was advised of the existence of these emails on Thursday, October 27, by those working on the aforementioned “unrelated” case. By Comey’s admission, he urged that the investigators review the content of these emails. And we know that by Friday morning, October 28, he sent the letter to Congress, a move that guaranteed that it would be leaked.
Based on those facts, what is there that would cause anyone other than a traditional Clinton hater or a deluded Trump supporter to call for Clinton to step down as the Democratic nominee for President? I submit to you that there is nothing from Comey’s two letters that would lead to such a conclusion. But in this era of hair-on-fire politics, it’s easy to go from numbers one to ten while by-passing numbers two through nine. As a baseball fan and scholar, Ed you more than most must appreciate that we should touch all the bases.
Not fact, but based on most reports, Comey rejected the counsel of the Attorney General to not send the letter to Congress. We can surmise because of the truncated timeline between being advised of these emails and the submission of his letter, that Comey did not run this issue by the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section. A quick read of it’s 2014 Annual Report reveals that this Section, “… handles cases that are highly sensitive..” Moreover, “Cases may be sensitive for a number of reasons. Because of its importance, a particular case may require close coordination with high-level Department officials.”
So why the rush? And please don’t misunderstand my point. I do not suggest for a moment that Comey and the FBI shouldn’t do their jobs. To the contrary, they should. Using the words of Bernie Sanders, those “damned emails” should be reviewed and analyzed. That isn’t the issue – rather, the issue in question is why Comey went outside normal FBI protocols regarding on-going criminal investigations, let alone those that are sensitive. And if we agree on nothing else, we must agree that the Clinton case is sensitive in the extreme.
Although Comey, while “outing” Clinton’s emails did not reveal the subject or target of the unrelated investigation, most reports indicate that these emails were discovered on a computer device obtained during the FBI’s investigation of Anthony Weiner’s “sexting” activities. For a good read, I suggest Newsweek’s on-line post written by Kurt Eichenwald. Here’s the link: http://www.newsweek.com/hillary-clinton-emails-fbi-comey-donald-trump-anthony-weiner-huma-abedin-514918. As an aside, the FBI, in keeping with its common practice, has never publicly revealed that it was investigating Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, for his ties to Russia. Follow this link: http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/19/politics/paul-manafort-donald-trump-ukraine/
This is a process of law more than a process of politics and as such should be regarded this way. I know that you’re a stickler for facts, Ed, so before we indict and convict Clinton on what are now imagined criminal acts perhaps we should await some facts to be revealed. And if these facts reveal any criminal act committed by Clinton, I will stand shoulder to shoulder with you in seeking justice. It’s my country too.
To my friend Maria, you asked me what I thought about this election. The above should give you an idea. For the past day, I have read and listened to all manner of misinformation, unsupported conclusions, and suggestions as noted above. Sadly, we have too many partisans who are all too eager to wrap themselves in the flag and scream justice at the top of their lungs, no matter the damage this does to the system the purport to love and protect.
Since 1964 when I participated in a “presidential” debate (I supported Lyndon Johnson, to my later regret) to the present, I have engaged directly and indirectly in the political process. I have worked on campaigns, taught government and political science courses, stood for election, along with swearing upon admission as an attorney to protect the Constitution and the rule of law, and over that time I never thought that the system would devolve and be debased as it is this year.
Our political culture is so toxic that we have United States Senators state that they will not approve any Supreme Court nominee submitted by Clinton if she’s elected President. We have still others who opine that perhaps they wouldn’t approve of any Supreme Court nominee and let the court die out through attrition. Perhaps the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and Madison’s convention notes should be required reading for all federal elected officials.
And we have the most overtly racist, misogynist, and by any measure completely uninformed, unprepared, and by education and experience the least qualified person to run for President in my lifetime. I think it’s fair to say that his moral compass, to the extent that he has one, never points to “true north.” When he speaks, though all the bluster and bombast, and through all the grandiose promises and slogans, I’m reminded of what Winston Churchill once reportedly said about his successor Clement Attlee, “there’s a lot less there than meets the eye.”
I intend to return to this issue in a later post. For now let me offer a preview; while the candidates and their campaigns, along with their partisan supporters and sycophants deserve more than a little blame for this devolution of a process that needs to be defended each day, there is more than a little blame for those citizens who sit in the cheap seats and blindly provide support and cast aspersions without doing the hard and difficult work of democracy. That will be Part IV.