One the most coveted cards available to a player of the classic board game, Monopoly, is the “Get Out of Jail Free” card that entitles the lucky bearer to escape the loss of money that comes from sitting in “jail” for three throws of the dice. In real life, and for the average citizen who violates federal law, the reality is quite different -- except, of course, if you happen to be Hillary Clinton and you count the president of the United States and the leadership of the Department of Justice among your cronies.
Yesterday, after what FBI Director James Comey said were many “thousands of hours of effort” by many federal investigators to determine whether to recommend prosecution of Ms. Clinton for violating federal laws relating to the mis-handling of classified, national security information over her unsecured e-mail server(s), Comey punted; or, more accurately, he laid down.
Despite finding that many of the e-mails in question had been destroyed by Team Clinton (including many by Clinton’s private lawyers in the early stages of the government’s investigation), the FBI Director decided the course of passivity was more appropriate than one that would involve the hard, but by no means insurmountable, task of holding Clinton accountable.
While Comey said his agents determined – correctly and obviously -- that some of the e-mails had been deleted “intentionally,” the Director strangely then concluded that this was okay since none were determined to have been deleted to “conceal them.” Say what? Would Comey have us believe Clinton’s handlers and lawyers deleted them for the fun of it; or by mistake; or perhaps to save capacity on a computer hard drive as part of an effort to increase the efficiency of their boss’ electronic communications?
Astonishingly, Comey then compounds the problem by noting in passing, almost blithely, that other “work-related e-mails” are “gone because [Clinton’s lawyers] deleted” them and then deliberately “cleaned their devices in such a way as to preclude complete forensic recovery.” If this bothers the Director, he doesn’t let on in his public statement.
Apparently, offenses such as destruction of evidence, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, and even RICO – which leap readily to mind on first reading the FBI Director’s statement of findings, were deemed by the Department of Justice as perhaps just too difficult, or simply not appropriate for such esteemed potential defendants as Hillary Clinton and those operating in her behalf.
FBI Director Comey asks that we accept his Bureau’s weak-kneed conclusions as affording the American people “reasonable confidence” that no one on Team Hillary engaged in any “intentional misconduct.” We are to simply share the lame conclusions that Hillary and her minions were just “careless.”
If, as the presidentially-appointed United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990, I had investigated cases of suspected criminal activity and found evidence similar to that set forth by Comey here, and declared such cases were simply evidence of “carelessness,” I suspect my tenure as the U.S. Attorney would have been far shorter than it was.
And speaking of federal prosecutions, one of the cardinal rules of serving in that job, is to maintain control of the cases being investigated by the FBI and other federal investigative agencies; and not allow the investigators to decide whether or not to move forward with a prosecution – a responsibility that must remain firmly in the hands of the prosecutor. Yet here, on Comey’s watch and that of this titular boss, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the investigator is the one deciding whether to prosecute. Comey gratuitously concludes that since in his view “no reasonable prosecutor would” bring such a case, that’s the end of the matter and Clinton gets her free pass.
While it may be true that many prosecutors with whom Comey spoke would prefer not to aggressively pursue such a case as this, many skilled and well-seasoned federal prosecutors with whom I have worked would be very comfortable prosecuting a case given the evidence that the FBI has noted publicly it had uncovered here. However, it undoubtedly suits Lynch and President Obama to have Comey make that decision for them, so they can wash their hands of it, and get back to the business of greasing the skids for Hillary Clinton to win in November and give us four more years of the same.