The FBI announced that the presidential candidate will not be charged and we’re left wondering what would have happened had the affair not involved the sole Democratic candidate in the running for the presidency.
The press conference held yesterday by FBI Director James Comey was the epitome of American-ness: the star-crossed flag, the relatively relaxed tone of voice, the neat hairdo. There was almost nothing to hint that the dramatic statement by the head of the federal investigative agency, who convened his audience on particularly short notice, was going to deal with the case of one of the most powerful women in the world and somebody who quite soon might be elected as the first ever female president of the United States of America.
The content of the announcement on the other hand did hint that we weren’t talking about any ordinary person dragged in off the street, but rather about a personality for whom the regular rules don’t apply. Comey emphasized that Clinton and her staff sent classified memoranda over an insecure and unauthorized email server, acted with an “extreme lack of caution” and did not disclose all the memoranda to the FBI as they were asked to do. He also pointed out that there is no way of verifying whether or not foreign hackers infiltrated the former secretary of state’s email account — and from his words, it was possible to infer which American secrets might have fallen into unsanctioned hands, and which might have been exploited for personal gain. The Kremlin, to name one.
And after all that, the polished director of one of the most effective intelligence services in the world, a Republican Party man himself, went on to explain that he is not recommending charges against Clinton. Why? Because no reasonable prosecutor would do so, he said in answer to his own question. He quickly reminded everyone that it is not he who makes the final call but the Justice Department; still it was clear that the penny had dropped: the deeds were serious, the consequences — who knows? — and nobody in the U.S. will be brought to justice for the actions concerning Clinton’s email. Clinton was cleared of wrongdoing and won’t face charges.
If there was any need for further proof, Comey went ahead and explained it himself. Any other person who commits similar acts, he underlined, will by no means be excused of all wrongdoing, and will almost certainly face charges. Anyone looking for recent historical examples of another way in which the U.S. handles such acts of exposing classified information is invited to take a look at what the retired U.S. Army general and former head of the CIA, David Petraeus, is up to nowadays.
Incidentally, the establishment did everything in its power to keep itself clean of any suspicion that the decision made here was based on anything other than the absolute purest of considerations. During the press conference, Comey even asked to make it clear that nobody from within federal administration — Democratic, like Clinton — interfered in the investigation, and stressed that it had been undertaken in a spirit of total professionalism. The White House also hurriedly published a statement declaring that the decision was a professional one, and that President Barack Obama, who yesterday held a joint press conference with Clinton in which he launched his support for her in the presidential race, was not party to any contact with the FBI on the subject. He also promised that he had not discussed the matter with Clinton personally.
Those announcements would have sounded familiar to any conspiracy-loving American ears out there who heard the same thing from Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Lynch, a senior bureaucrat, was forced this week to come out in front of the cameras and promise that whatever decision would be made in the Clinton email scandal would have nothing to do with the meeting she held with Hillary’s husband, Bill, just last weekend. She also stated that she would accept the recommendations of the FBI in their entirety.
But when the Democratic Party faces the possibility of a political deadlock, when nobody can realistically come in and replace Clinton in the presidential race, can one really trust such announcements from the leaders of the Democratic administration? After all, nobody in the White House seriously wanted to see Bernie Sanders running for president, and the time left until the party’s convention at which a nominee would need to be chosen to run in Clinton’s place is especially scant. Moreover, the chances for such a last-minute candidate to beat Donald Trump would not be as high as those of the former first lady, and it might be prudent not to complicate matters within the political arena at this particular moment.
So when that’s the case, is it any wonder that the Republicans are pointing an accusing finger at the judiciary and claiming bias? Meanwhile, Trump said that “this was an unfair decision” and that the judiciary was duping the nation. But of course nobody really expected him to say anything else. But take into account that even someone like House Speaker Paul Ryan, a man built of different stuff, is not satisfied with Comey’s decision: “No one should be above the law,” he declared, as if noting that this move by the FBI might well be setting a problematic precedent.