There is no "smoking gun" proof of an unethical quid pro quo arrangement in this Wall Street Journal report, but once again, voters are getting a distinct whiff of something that stinks. The key player here is Virginia's ethically-challenged Democratic Governor Terry McAulliffe, who is the target of a separate federal investigation over alleged illegal campaign donations -- and who, as a former DNC Chairman, is extremely close with the Clintons. He co-chaired Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, and both Mr. and Mrs. Clinton were instrumental in securing his governorship. Fast forward to 2015, when McAuliffe helped recruit and generously bankroll the (ultimately failed) State Senate campaign of a woman who is married to a member of the FBI's top brass -- who would eventually join a team that oversaw the Bureau's probe into Hillary's national security-endangering email scandal. Details:
Campaign finance records show Mr. McAuliffe’s political-action committee donated $467,500 to the 2015 state Senate campaign of Dr. Jill McCabe, who is married to Andrew McCabe, now the deputy director of the FBI. The Virginia Democratic Party, over which Mr. McAuliffe exerts considerable control, donated an additional $207,788 worth of support to Dr. McCabe’s campaign in the form of mailers, according to the records. That adds up to slightly more than $675,000 to her candidacy from entities either directly under Mr. McAuliffe’s control or strongly influenced by him. The figure represents more than a third of all the campaign funds Dr. McCabe raised in the effort...The governor could recall only one meeting with Mr. McCabe—when he and other state Democrats met with the couple on March 7, 2015, to urge Dr. McCabe to run, according to the spokesman...Mr. McCabe’s supervision of the Clinton email case in 2016 wasn’t seen as a conflict or an ethics issue because his wife’s campaign was over by then and Mr. McAuliffe wasn’t part of the email probe, officials said...Dr. McCabe announced her candidacy in March 2015, the same month it was revealed that Mrs. Clinton had used a private server as secretary of state to send and receive government emails, a disclosure that prompted the FBI investigation. At the time the investigation was launched in July 2015, Mr. McCabe was running the FBI’s Washington, D.C., field office, which provided personnel and resources to the Clinton email probe.
Left-wing writer and fierce Clinton critic Michael Tracey notices something unusual about this timeline:
3/2/15: NYT breaks story on HRC's email server— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) October 24, 2016
3/7/15: McAuliffe urges wife of FBI official overseeing investigation to run for state senate
Hmm. So Hillary's email scheme was revealed by the Times, then a few days later, McAuliffe importunes an FBI honcho's wife to run for a contested Virginia Senate seat, then sees to it that she receives well over a half-a-million dollars in payments from his PAC and the Democratic Party. Months later, the candidate's husband was
"part of the executive leadership team overseeing the Clinton email investigation." It does sound suspicious. Let's run through the counter-points: Even though Hillary's rogue, unsecure server was exposed in March of 2015, the FBI didn't launch its investigation into the matter until that July. Dr. McCabe lost that fall, and Mr. McCabe wasn't promoted to Deputy Director until early 2016 (although it appears that he was connected to the investigation as early mid-2015, while the campaign was underway). The Journal also reports that as soon as his wife took the political plunge, McCabe properly "sought ethics advice from the bureau and followed it." Plus, it's not exactly surprising that a Democratic governor would maneuver to help elect Democrats to his state's legislature; McAuliffe's financial generosity to Dr. McCabe was noteworthy, but he sent even more aid to two other State Senate candidates that cycle.
That being said, I take issue with this line of justification, highlighted in the passage above: "Mr. McCabe’s supervision of the Clinton email case in 2016 wasn’t seen as a conflict or an ethics issue because his wife’s campaign was over by then and Mr. McAuliffe wasn’t part of the email probe." In the summer of 2015, as his wife was actively campaigning and being boosted by McAuliffe, McCabe was running a key FBI office that was directly involved in the Clinton matter. In early 2016, McCabe's wife was still licking her wounds from an election loss at the hands of Republicans. She ran and lost as a liberal Democrat, and her campaign was championed by an exceptionally close friend of the Clintons. Sure, McAuliffe "wasn't part of the email probe" -- he has his own probe to worry about, from which I trust (hope?) Mr. McCabe has recused himself -- but he had a very strong personal and partisan rooting interest in its outcome. The notion that as soon as Dr. McCabe's campaign ended, those partisan ties and loyalties all simple disintegrated is naive. On an issue this sensitive, both politically and from a national security perspective, everyone involved should have gone to great lengths to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
There are perfectly plausible explanations for why all of this is innocent and not at all nefarious. But there are also entirely reasonable concerns that perhaps should have raised more red flags about Mr. McCabe's involvement in the Clinton case from the very beginning. Couple this story with (a) the Attorney General's secretive tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton during the probe's final stages, (b) the bizarre and unusual grants of immunity and side deals dished out by investigators to key scandal players, and (c) James Comey's unconvincing "no intent" defense under tough questioning, and it isn't hard to understand why many Americans might draw the conclusion that Mrs. Clinton's non-indictment was, well...rigged.