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“Trump Is Mishandling The Clinton Email Controversy”: Insisting Repeatedly That The Investigation Was Rigged

At Think Progress, Ian Millhiser helpfully explains why Hillary Clinton won’t be facing any criminal charges for her use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State. There are a lot of legal issues and precedents to discuss, but it can all be boiled down to one simple thing.

Setting aside the bare language of the law, there’s also a very important practical reason why officials in Clinton’s position are not typically indicted. The security applied to classified email systems is simply absurd. For this reason, a former CIA general counsel told the Washington Post’s David Ignatius, “’it’s common’ that people end up using unclassified systems to transmit classified information.” “’It’s inevitable, because the classified systems are often cumbersome and lots of people have access to the classified e-mails or cables.’ People who need quick guidance about a sensitive matter often pick up the phone or send a message on an open system. They shouldn’t, but they do.”

Indicting Clinton would require the Justice Department to apply a legal standard that would endanger countless officials throughout the government, and that would make it impossible for many government offices to function effectively.

That’s the bottom line.

Of course, Clinton was not exonerated. FBI Director James Comey was scathing at times in his criticism, and would not even guarantee that the former Secretary of State’s emails hadn’t been read by foreign and hostile intelligence agencies.

With respect to potential computer intrusion by hostile actors, we did not find direct evidence that Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail domain, in its various configurations since 2009, was successfully hacked. But, given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved, we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence. We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private commercial e-mail accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her personal account. We also assess that Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail domain was both known by a large number of people and readily apparent. She also used her personal e-mail extensively while outside the United States, including sending and receiving work-related e-mails in the territory of sophisticated adversaries. Given that combination of factors, we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail account.

There’s been a lot of hype about these damn emails, but Clinton deserves some criticism. She did not get a clean bill of health here, and the subject will be a legitimate issue during the campaign. That doesn’t mean that Donald Trump has handled the controversy with any deftness. By insisting repeatedly that the investigation was rigged, he undermined the case he should be making now, which is that the FBI is credible and should be taken seriously. But, instead, he’s still saying that the investigation was rigged.

That’s basically taking a weak, contentious and conspiratorial case in place of one that is backed up by the investigators. It’s particularly stupid because, now that we know that no charges will be filed, this is an entirely political controversy. And the object, for Trump, should be to get the maximum possible political mileage out of it. He could be making the case that Clinton shouldn’t be trusted to handle the nation’s national security because she did a poor job of safeguarding its secrets when she served in the Obama administration, but he’s instead saying that the FBI engaged in a coverup.

Consider that James Comey was confirmed by the Senate on July 29, 2013 as the director of the FBI for a term of ten years. If Donald Trump becomes president and serves for two full terms, his presidency will end on January 20th, 2025. In other words, Comey would be the FBI Director for all but the last 18 months of a Trump presidency. And, yet, Trump’s reaction to Comey’s statement today is to question his integrity and independence and to run down the organization that Comey heads.

It’s not hard to see that this isn’t the beginning of a good working relationship, and at least some voters will notice this and be concerned about it.

Trump will rile up some people who were already convinced that Clinton is a she-devil, but he won’t get much else out of this if he continues to shift the focus off of where it can help him make a case against his opponent.

The truth is, she should not have been indicted and most people will agree that the correct decision was made. So, focusing on the decision is actually doing her a giant favor.


By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 5, 2016

July 6, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, James Comey | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Oh, The Irony!”: Holder Suddenly Enjoys The GOP’s ‘Love’ And ‘Affection’

It was six months ago that Attorney General Eric Holder announced his retirement, though he said he would stay on until President Obama nominated, and the Senate confirmed, his successor at the Justice Department. Given the scope of Republican opposition to Holder – the phrase “unbridled disgust” comes to mind – it seemed likely GOP lawmakers would rush Holder out the door.

Little did we know at the time that Republican senators would prepare to keep the A.G. around indefinitely.

Holder spoke this morning at the Center for American Progress, where he heard a few intentional laughs about his unique professional circumstances.

“There is no place I’d rather be in my closing days as Attorney General than here with you all. Well, at least these should be my closing days.

“Given the Senate’s scheduling and delays in considering Loretta Lynch’s nomination for a vote, it’s almost as if the Republicans in Congress have discovered a new fondness for me! I’m feeling love there that I haven’t felt for some time. Where was all this affection over the last six years?”

To borrow a Homer Simpson line, it’s funny because it’s true.

Six weeks after Holder announced his departure, Obama introduced U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch as his nominee as the nation’s next Attorney General. Republicans, eager to rid themselves of Holder and impressed with Lynch’s sterling credentials and qualifications, seemed to embrace the president’s choice.

It was easy to imagine at the time that the new year would begin with a new Republican-led Congress and a new Attorney General. Instead, for reasons that even they can’t fully explain, GOP lawmakers have found a way to keep Holder in the same position they ostensibly want him to leave.

Remember, Senate Democrats could have tried to rush Lynch through the confirmation process during the lame-duck session late last year – before Dems lost their majority status – but Republicans implored Democrats not to. The power should rest with the incoming majority, GOP senators said.

The outgoing Democratic majority obliged, expecting Republicans to be at least somewhat responsible. After all, there were no substantive objections to Lynch and the GOP was desperate to see Holder go. Republicans had a built-in incentive to act reasonably.

And yet, here we are. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his team have subjected Lynch to the longest delay of any A.G. nominee in history – for reasons they haven’t even tried to explain – and this week, McConnell even broke his word about bringing Lynch’s nomination to the floor for a vote this week.

The irony is under-appreciated: Republicans wanted Holder to step down, and he did. Republicans wanted Obama to nominate an uncontroversial successor, and he did. Republicans wanted Democrats not to vote on Lynch in the lame-duck session, and they obliged.

Months later, the Senate’s GOP majority can’t quite bring itself to do what Republicans say they want to do. In fact, as far as McConnell & Co. are concerned, they hope to defeat Lynch – again, for reasons they’ve struggled to articulate – raising the prospect of Republicans keeping Holder at his current post until January 2017.

Can you really blame the Attorney General for asking facetiously, “Where was all this affection over the last six years?”


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 18, 2015

March 20, 2015 Posted by | Eric Holder, Loretta Lynch, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Darren Wilson Walks”: No Indictment For Michael Brown’s Killer

Officer Darren Wilson will not face charges for the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The news came on Monday evening, when prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced that a twelve-member Grand Jury had declined to deliver an indictment.

The news brought to a close three months of deliberation, but not the controversy over what happened that dayor the national conversation over race and law enforcement that Brown’s killing started.

The August 9 shooting of Brown, who was black, by Wilson, who is white, set off protests and violent confrontations with police that lasted weeks. Behind those protests were long-standing grievances against Ferguson police and its political establishment. Residents of Ferguson, roughly two-thirds of whom are black, said they were routinely mistreated by members of the police department, which is overwhelmingly white. Among the evidence they cited: Statistics showing that African-Americans constituted a disproportionate share of traffic stops (86 percent) last year.

But exactly what happened on the streets of Ferguson that August day has never been clear. Everybody agrees that Wilson stopped Brown and a friend in the middle of the streetand that some kind of altercation followed. But there are different stories about when exactly Wilson shot Brown and under what circumstances. A key question has been whether Wilson felt that Brown posed a threat, to either the officer or to others.

The Grand Jury considered five separate charges, ranging from involuntary manslaughter (which is basically killing because of recklessness, and carries a maximum sentence of seven years) all the way up to first degree murder (which is basically killing with premeditation, and carries a maximum penalty of life). McCulloch, in a prepared statement, said that the Grand Jury became convinced by reams of evidenceincluding physical evidence and eyewitness testimonythat Wilson had reasonable grounds for shooting.

He added that eyewitness testimony was sometimes contradictory, and that some people changed their stories once confronted with physical evidence that undermined it. McCulloch also chastised media for reporting incomplete or incorrect evidence while the Grand Jury was deliberating.

McCulloch expressed sympathy for the Brown family and recognized that some would not accept the verdict. “I join with Michael Brown’s family,” McCulloch said, “in urging everybody to continue the demonstrations, continue the discussions, and address the problems in constructive rather than destructive way.”

By the time McCulloch made his announcement, most observers expected the Grand Jury to decide as it did. As Yishai Schwartz has explained in these pages, the law in Missouri and other states makes it difficult to convict police officers of murder, at least when the officers claim they acted in self-defense. As Gabriel Chin, a professor at the University of California-Davis, told the New Republic

The Ferguson grand jury’s decision not to indict was no surprise.  “A grand jury will indict a ham sandwich,” the saying goes, but that never applied to police.  Of course, society requires police to carry guns and orders them to use them when necessary; therefore, they get the benefit of the doubt in close cases.  I can’t recall an on-duty police officer being charged for homicide without clear and strong evidence of criminality; ambiguous, unclear, even suspicious circumstances are insufficient.

But critics have worried that McCullochwho has close ties to the police department and whose father, a former officer, was killed by an African-Americanwould not pursue charges as vigorously as he could. McCulloch presented the Grand Jury with a wide array of evidence, without pushing them in one direction or the other. He also had Wilson testify in person. These choices were in some ways true to the original idea of a Grand Jury, which is supposed to be an investigative body. But they are relatively uncommon these days, since prosecutors more commonly use Grand Jury proceedings to build a case for indictmentsleaving ultimate decisions of guilt and innocence to a trial. According to Chin,

If the prosecutor had wanted to bring charges, he could have proceeded by filing an information charging the officer with an offense, which would have resulted in a preliminary hearing before a judge who would have determined whether probable cause existed.  To proceed by grand jury rather than information and preliminary hearing meant that the prosecutor believed charges were unwarranted, but that he wanted the grand jury to at least share responsibility for the decision.  Under the circumstances, there is every reason to think that the prosecutor presented all relevant facts; early on, the prosecutor said he expected the testimony and other evidence to be released; if the presentation was biased or half-hearted then there will be consequences.

The prosecutor did err in his statement when he said “The duty of the grand jury is to separate fact from fiction.”  The grand jury is obliged to determine whether there is probable cause, not what the actual truth is.

National polls have found a sharp racial divide on the case, with non-whites much more likely to favor indictment. It would have taken the votes of nine grand jurors to make Wilson stand trial and just three of the jurors are African-American. But it’s not clear whether voting broke down along racial lines and, at this point, nobody but the jurors know what evidence was made availableand how convincing it might have been. McCulloch has said he plans to make the evidence public, for the sake of transparencymaybe as soon as tonight.

This is not the end of the legal saga. Wilson is subject to a federal investigation, to see whether he violated Brown’s civil rights. Most experts think he’s unlikely to be charged, as that’s even harder to prove than the direct criminal charges.

But the Ferguson police department is also under investigation, from the Justice Department, and that investigation could very well end in some kind of “consent decree” under which the police changed policies under close federal supervision. It’s happened that way in other jurisdictions where police have come under attack for mistreating racial minoritiesand, as Rebecca Leber has noted, many experts think such arrangements have produced better policing and improved community relations.


By: Johnathan Cohn, The New Republic, November 24, 2014

November 25, 2014 Posted by | Darren Wilson, Ferguson Missouri, Michael Brown | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Obligations To Justice”: Eric Holder And Robert F. Kennedy’s Legacy

When he announced his leave-taking last week, Attorney General Eric Holder spoke of Robert F. Kennedy as his inspiration for believing that the Justice Department “can — and must — always be a force for that which is right.”

There are many reasons our nation’s first African American attorney general might see Kennedy as his guide, but this one may be the most important: If ever a public figure was exempt from Holder’s much contested depiction of our country as a “nation of cowards” on race, it was RFK, a man who was in constant struggle with his demons and his conscience.

Few white men were as searing as Kennedy in describing how the world looked to a young black man in the late 1960s. “He is told that the Negro is making progress,” Kennedy wrote, following the racial etiquette of his time. “But what does that mean to him? He cannot experience the progress of others, nor should we seriously expect him to feel grateful because he is no longer a slave, or because he can vote or eat at some lunch counters.”

“How overwhelming must be the frustration of this young man — this young American,” Kennedy continued, “who, desperately wanting to believe and half believing, finds himself locked in the slums, his education second-rate, unable to get a job, confronted by the open prejudice and subtle hostilities of a white world, and seemingly powerless to change his condition or shape his future.”

Yet Kennedy was never one to let individuals escape responsibility for their own fates. So he also spoke of others who would tell this young black man “to work his way up, as other minorities have done; and so he must. For he knows, and we know, that only by his efforts and his own labor will the Negro come to full equality.”

Holder and his friend President Obama have lived both halves of Kennedy’s parable. Like social reformers in every time, they strived to balance their own determination to succeed with their obligations to justice. Doing this is never easy. It can’t be.

Kennedy was not alone among Americans in being tormented by how much racism has scarred our national story. That’s why I was one of many who bristled back in 2009 when Holder called us all cowards. For all our flaws, few nations have faced up to a history of racial subjugation as regularly and comprehensively as we have. And Holder and Obama have both testified to our progress.

Yet rereading Kennedy is to understand why Holder spoke as he did. That the young man Kennedy described is still so present and recognizable tells us that complacency remains a subtle but corrosive sin. One of Holder’s finest hours as attorney general was his visit to Ferguson, Mo., after the killing of Michael Brown. Many young black men still fear they will be shot, a sign that the “open prejudice and subtle hostilities of a white world” have not gone away. We have moved forward, yet we still must overcome.

Holder leaves two big legacies in this area from which his successors must not turn away. In the face of a regressive Supreme Court decision gutting the Voting Rights Act, he has found other ways to press against renewed efforts to disenfranchise minority voters. And it is a beacon of hope that sentencing reform and over-incarceration, central Holder concerns, are matters now engaging conservatives, libertarians and liberals alike.

The New York Times’ Matt Apuzzo captured the irony of Holder’s tenure with the observation that his time as attorney general “is unique in that his biggest supporters are also among his loudest critics.” Many progressives have been troubled by his record on civil liberties in the battle against terrorism, his aggressive pursuit of journalists’ e-mails and phone records in leak investigations, and his reluctance to prosecute individual Wall Street malefactors.

That these issues will long be debated is a reminder that Holder was first a lawyer and public servant, most of whose work had nothing to do with race. That he singled out Kennedy as his hero shows that none of us need be imprisoned by race. That Holder cajoled and provoked us on the need “to confront our racial past, and our racial present” is itself an achievement that transcends the color line.

Kennedy, who spoke of those who braved “the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society,” would understand the risks that Holder ran.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 29, 2014

September 30, 2014 Posted by | Eric Holder, Robert F. Kennedy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Conservative Intellectual Bankruptcy”: Where The Right’s Gun Logic Falls Apart

The “Obama administration” and “gun registry.” Put those words together in a sentence and its guaranteed to trigger conservative apoplexy. But now the Obama administration really is about to start cataloging guns, and it’s eliciting little more than approving head nods from the right. How can that be? Here’s how.

For as long as anyone can remember, the right’s fought tooth and nail against any effort to limit access to just about any kind of firearm. Handgun, AK-47, bazooka — if it fires something at killing speed, you should be able to have it.

And for just about the same timeframe, they’ve fought just as hard to prevent the federal government from trying to keep track of who owns weapons in the United States. Their position (boiled down): Everyone should have guns, and no one should know who has guns. Suggest even the most incremental steps towards regulating gun possession and, to hear the right tell it, it’s as if the redcoats are back on the march in Lexington and Concord. A more fundamental threat to our liberties can hardly be imagined.

Now the Department of Justice has announced that it’s going to catalog how many guns the federal government has in its possession and, one imagines, exactly who has them. Red alert! DEFCON 5! (Or 1, whichever is worse!) It’s a gun registry! Confiscation is right around the corner! All is lost! Right? Right?

Actually, if I’m reading my right-wing websites correctly, apparently not. In fact, they seem to think it’s a move that’s long overdue.

How, you may ask, can this be? If knowing who has guns is a bad thing, how can we be OK with the government finding out more about who has guns? Let’s think this through.

What would be the purpose of finding out more about who in the general population owns guns? To help us have a greater understanding of gun violence, and to solve gun crimes when they happen. Why do people on the right oppose a gun registry? Because they see a greater threat in the possibility that the federal government will try to restrict their use of guns or even take them away.

Now, let’s turn the analysis around. What’s the purpose of drilling down on the amount of guns in the federal government? Maybe it has to do with something as mundane as budgeting. Or perhaps its part of an effort to ensure that we are narrowly tailoring the distribution of firearms across the federal bureaucracy to those who actually need them.

If that’s the reason, the hard right should be going nuts. Why? Because it opens the door to the notion that there ought to be an analytical screen between guns and those who seek to carry them, and that there are good reasons to restrict access to guns even among law abiding, mentally competent people. Acknowledging the utility of doing that on the federal level makes it harder to argue against doing it elsewhere.

But the right doesn’t oppose. They support. And again, it has to do with their perception of threat. In this case, it’s apparently the idea that the federal government might be arming itself as part of a plan to subject the general population to the tyranny of the state. Yup. That’s what they’re afraid of.

Now, if you can get past the silliness of that notion, you might say a federal government that has the United States Army at its disposal (to say nothing of the other branches of the military) doesn’t much need to arm anyone else to take over just about anything. And if the federal government is preparing to crack down on average citizens, you might think that tanks, attack helicopters and bunker busting bombs would do the trick. But to admit that would also be admitting that arming citizens really isn’t a hedge against tyranny at all. And of course, it isn’t. But that kind of thinking — call it “logic” — doesn’t feature prominently in the right’s postulations about these kinds of things.

It would be easy to dismiss the right’s ideas about things like this if they weren’t having such an impact on public policy. The people who think the government is on the verge of tyranny are, not infrequently, the same people driving a much larger agenda in the GOP. You can see the push to mainstream their far out ideas everywhere from health care to the environment to tax policy to, yes, guns. And it means that we are increasingly memorializing into law policies that reflect a fantasyland view of America rather than the America most of us live in. That’s not good.

So I say: Bring on the gun count! If for no other reason than this seems to be one of those cases where one brand of right-wing nuttiness (Government tyranny!) is running headlong into another (Bazookas for all!). And if that helps put the brakes on either, then we’ll all be better off.


By: Anson Kaye, U. S. News and World Report, May 29, 2014

May 30, 2014 Posted by | Federal Government, Gun Control, Gun Registry | , , , , | 2 Comments

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