The elephant in the room has nothing to do with Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, or Hillary Clinton's "firewall" as the nominating process moves to southern states where African Americans sway the Democratic party. It is quite likely that sometime between the Iowa caucuses on February 1, and the final Washington DC primary on June 14, that the Director of the FBI will recommend that the leading Democratic Party candidate be indicted for violating official secrets laws, and possibly for official corruption. It is less likely, but possible, that the Attorney General will bring the indictment. In the sweep of history, this would exceed anything that has ever happened in American presidential elections, whether the Attorney General and the President try to protect Hillary or not.
The Hillary camp and the State Department have done all that they can to drag out the process, insisting that the court order to review and release the Secretary's e-mails be done in batches over a period of months, with most coming late in the dark of the night on Fridays. The last batch, now overdue, contains some of the most troublesome, requiring coordination with the CIA and the Pentagon before their release. To date, some 1300 have contained classified information, including several disclosing information from satellite photography and at least one directive to remove a classification notice and send it through other channels. From what is now public, former Attorney General Edward Mukasey has concluded "it is nearly impossible to draw any conclusion other than that she knew enough to support a conviction at the least for mishandling classified information."
So, who will make this decision?
- FBI Director James Comey was appointed to a 10 year term by President Obama in 2013 and approved by the Senate on a 93 to 1 vote, succeeding Robert Mueller. Most notably, he was Deputy Attorney General in the George W Bush administration before a stint of money-making in the private sector. Highlights of his time in Justice were his refusal under extreme pressure to certify that central aspects of the NSA's surveillance program were legal, and his testimony that the firing of seven deputy Attorneys General by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales were political rather than for performance reasons. At the time of his appointment Comey was described by President Obama as "fiercely independent". One can hope.
- Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who succeeded Eric Holder in 2015, was approved by the Senate on a largely party line 56 to 43 vote. Much of her prior experience was as the Deputy Attorney General for the Eastern district of New York; her approval took an unusually long 166 days, and included criticism for handling of a HSBC Bank case and support for government seizure of a person's assets without a judicial decision. For the last several decades this position has been politicized - one can assume that the response to an FBI recommendation will belong to the President.
And what are the considerations, beyond the facts and the law?
- Tens of thousands of members of the intelligence community will be devastated if the rules for protecting classified information do not apply to senior officials. Counterintelligence investigations work backward from known information to determine its potential sources - CIA informants are at risk; recruitment is made much more difficult.
- In this era of foreign intelligence hacking of the Pentagon, the Office of Personnel Management, and numerous corporations it is highly likely that at least Russia and China had an insiders view as the Secretary of State discussed evolving American policy in the Middle East, in Eastern Europe, and in the Far East. Intervention in Libya; the war in Syria; negotiations with Iran; the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal; the "reset" with Russia. The key interests, pressure points, and internal administration thought processes were all in plain view.
- Among the gems from Hillary's e-mails is a series of with Sidney Blumenthal, a long time acquaintance and Clinton Foundation consultant with business interests in Libya, who had been blackballed by the Obama White House. One line of inquiry for the FBI is the connection between the Clinton Foundation and decisions made by the Secretary.
- There is a visible parallel with General Petreus who was removed as CIA director for giving classified information to his mistress in 2011, and is now in danger of belatedly losing one star and a piece of his pension. Perhaps the resurfacing of Petreus is a harbinger.
Two historic incidents offer conflicting perspectives on the Tea Party's view that it is all an inside game, and that the rules that apply to the common folks do not apply to the Establishment:
- Early 20th Century Boston mayor, governor, and member of Congress James Michael Curley demonstrated that indictments and felony convictions were not a bar to election for Democratic machine politicians. (Hope for Hillary.)
- In the 1973 "Saturday Night Massacre", President Nixon fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox and accepted the resignations of Attorney General Elliott Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus who refused to participate in the Watergate cover-up. (Hope for Comey's courage.)
This week's video is a collage by the Democrats' Plan B - the outsider mirror image of Trump.
bill bowen - 1/29/2016