This should make for some interesting TV.
I didn’t get a chance to do much with it here yesterday thanks to the Alton Sterling thing going crazy, but on Tuesday I had a piece at the American Spectator about the FBI director’s press statement essentially letting Hillary Clinton off the hook for her e-mails. Like a lot of other folks, I found that statement…peculiar given how meticulous Comey was in detailing the deficiencies in Clinton’s conduct and how cursory and poorly-defended his conclusion that there was no prosecution to be made out of it was.
And here was my conclusion…
How to explain all this? You won’t make sense out of the legal or factual case here. We all know she’s guilty, and what’s more we know why she went to all the trouble to break the law and move classified information through an unsecured server in somebody’s bathroom closet. She did that to mask the corrupt dealings in which she was engaged surrounding the Clinton Foundation and her using it as a clearinghouse for the sale of U.S. policy to the highest bidder. Which, of course, was not discussed in Comey’s press conference despite the fact we know the FBI was looking into it.
No, if you want to understand Comey’s statements you might have to recall those messages the downed pilots at the Hanoi Hilton occasionally would record for the folks back home — and particularly the one Rear Adm. Jeremiah Denton offered up, in which his happy statements about humane treatment by the North Vietnamese were obscured by what looked like unnatural blinking. When Denton’s off-putting tics were matched with Morse code, it was obvious he was spelling out the word “torture” to the American public.
Comey’s statements can be seen as a bit like Denton’s. He laid out a perfectly defensible case for prosecuting Hillary and then gave a cursory, obviously indefensible case for leaving her alone at the end. In doing so, he set the American public ablaze with outrage and signaled to all who would listen that something fundamentally corrupt is going on in the Justice Department.
The long and short of the theory being that political pressure was put on Comey to “fall on the sword” and recommend no prosecution commence, and that pressure amounting to that (1) he wasn’t in control of whether an indictment was sought, and he was made well aware that one would never be sought, (2) the higher-ups at the Justice Department were demanding that it be Comey who delivered the news to the American people that Clinton was above the law; essentially stealing his imprimatur as a law enforcement professional and a non-partisan authority in the case, and (3) there would be some extremely negative consequences befalling Comey were he to refuse.
Because the Obama administration simply doesn’t have people in high places who aren’t compromised or leveraged to some extent. As straight a shooter as Comey might be, they have something on him – because they have something on everybody who works for them. So what you’d expect an honest man in his circumstances to do, namely to set off a nuke by demanding an indictment based on Hillary’s conduct and then daring the administration to fire him, wouldn’t quite be so simple.
The analogy I made was Al Pacino’s famous speech in And Justice For All, in which he burns down his client, a crooked judge accused of rape, in the middle of a trial after finding conclusive evidence of his guilt. If you’ve never seen the scene, it’s a keeper – though it’s not quite safe for work thanks to some colorful language…
Pacino’s character was through as a lawyer after that, obviously, and if Comey were to burn Hillary at the stake on national TV by suggesting a prosecution he’d obviously be through as FBI director – but he’d have ample career options following his ouster. Except there would surely be other negative consequences he needed to consider. What those might be, we have no idea. Does he have a relative with a drug problem? Are his taxes in order? Has he failed in his marital vows? There’s always dirt on somebody.
For whatever reason, Comey didn’t quite have the sand to go full nuclear as he would if her name was Hillary Smith. So instead, he left what looks like a trail of breadcrumbs back to her conduct and made it as obvious as possible that she’s guilty and ought to be indicted under 18 U.S.C. Section 793(f), the statute making it illegal to mishandle state secrets, without coming out and saying so.
Because he couldn’t.
But now he’s being subpoenaed to testify in front of Congress on these issues, and he’s going to get asked some pointed questions about his press statement and Clinton’s case. It’s going to be harder to made what he said Tuesday to stand up – but the interesting thing is that the whistleblower protection statutes now kick in when it comes to subpoenaed testimony – so if Comey were to go full-on nuclear today and make it known that were this up to the FBI she would absolutely face an indictment and a prosecution it would become a lot more difficult to impose negatives on him.
We’ll find out those answers today. Comey is scheduled to appear at the House Oversight Committee at 10 a.m. Eastern time.