As Donald Trump’s allies gloat, Hillary Clinton’s allies are melting down over FBI director James Comey’s recent letter announcing that the agency was pursuing new leads in its criminal investigation into her emails. The Clinton surrogate argument goes like this: Comey’s actions were an intentional attack on Clinton driven by any one of a variety of motivations ranging from partisanship to sexism to implied loyalty to Russia.
Regardless of the chosen motivation, essential to this narrative is the fact that the FBI director's actions were inconsistent with DOJ policy, and his letter was vague without having reviewed the emails.
However, in all of the sound and fury, a few key points are too often overlooked as this discussion reaches fever pitch.
Clinton is responsible entirely for the scandal. It was her decision to exclusively use a private email server located in her home while serving as Secretary of State—an unprecedented move.
Regardless of Comey's motivation, we must remember that Clinton's judgment put her in this position in the first place.
With news breaking about the revelation from Wikileaks that Donna Brazile had given yet another debate question to Clinton before the primary debate in Flint, Michigan—this time from a woman with lead poisoning—it behooves us to remember just how the former Secretary of State secured the nomination in the first place.
Earlier this month, Jordan Chariton of The Young Turks found an email indicating that the CNN contributor and now interim chair of the DNC had fed Clinton a question about the death penalty before the March 13 townhall hosted by Roland Martin and Jake Tapper.
Brazile's favoritism is by no means an aberration. Instead it is symptomatic of a larger culture of bias in both the media and party establishment revealed by a series of email hacks. That Clinton had a near 250 superdelegate lead before any votes were cast, and that it set the narrative for the primary in the media was no accident. The leaked emails have divulged the extent of Clinton's political machine. It coordinates with bloggers, journalists, and political figures who cozying up to the campaign for access and fundraising assistance respectively.
The bottom line is, during the primary, Clinton had plenty of help against Senator Bernie Sanders.
Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone wrote a piece about a series of emails which revealed that the DNC worked with Clinton's allies to downplay a story about how the joint fundraising effort between the DNC and Clinton's campaign almost exclusively benefited the latter. This revelation threatened to undermine an attack Clinton was running against Sanders—that he was not helping down-ballot Democrats.
Other emails have shed light on the fact that the controversial primary debate schedule, set by longtime Clinton ally and DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, was indeed created with input from the Clinton campaign. In recent emails, it has been revealed that Schultz was answering to Clinton's people as early as December 2014.
The list goes on.
The now-embattled FBI director faced a historic choice. It has recently been reported by The Washington Post that previous efforts by his agency to investigate the Clinton Foundation—in a separate investigation from the email server inquiry—were stonewalled by the DOJ's public integrity unit earlier this year. While it is unclear exactly when this happened, and therefore unclear what evidence existed at the time, this is still a factor worth considering when we judge Comey's decision.
On the one hand, had he remained silent about the reopening of the investigation, and were that to come out after the election, it would have undermined the FBI's credibility—especially in the case of a Clinton victory. Such a finding would lend itself well to theories of a cover-up, scandalizing the Obama administration.
On the other hand, going public so close to the election came with a risk of influencing the outcome, while also undermining the FBI's credibility. It was undoubtedly a difficult decision for the man Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid called “fair” and “impartial,” and who most leading Democrats praised to the skies just four months ago.
As this email situation progresses, it is becoming clear that the Democratic presidential candidate is pulling out all the stops while using her allies to pressure the FBI by attacking its head. Howard Dean is just one example. Clinton's campaign has made Comey public enemy number one.
Put another way, an embattled candidate for public office who happens to be under criminal investigation by the FBI for mistakes she made is using the court of public opinion to intimidate the agency’s director. If Clinton succeeds, and the agency is in any way influenced in its investigation, she will have truly damaged American democracy, establishing different rules for public figures. The whole point of our justice system is its impartiality, and it will be utterly compromised.
Even if Comey’s actions turn out to be politically motivated—in which case he will have committed an egregious offense—Clinton’s actions are troubling.