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“The Unrelenting Hostility Of Washington’s Courtier Press”: The Media’s Crusade Of Scandals Against Hillary Clinton

It’s always been my conviction that if Hillary Clinton could be appointed president, she’d do a bang-up job. Getting elected, however, might prove more difficult. Michelle Goldberg does an excellent job defining the problem in a Slate article about why so many people say they hate her.

“There’s a reason actors do screen tests,” Goldberg writes. “Not everyone’s charm translates to film and video. For as long as Hillary Clinton has been in public life, people who’ve met in her person have marveled at how much more likable she is in the flesh than she is on television.”

As a friendly acquaintance since 1980, I’d second that. My wife, who worked with her on the board of Arkansas Children’s Hospital, will hear nothing against her. We recently read a Facebook posting from a friend in Eureka Springs. Neither a big-shot nor a political activist, Crescent was profoundly touched that after her husband died in a bicycle crash, one of her first callers was New York’s newly-elected Senator. Hillary had left Arkansas for good, but not its people.

But no, her personal warmth doesn’t always come across on TV. She’s anything but a natural actress. However, like most pundits, Goldberg glosses over the issue that’s plagued Hillary since Bill Clinton’s first term: the unrelenting hostility of Washington’s courtier press.

People say they don’t trust the media, and then they credit the imaginary scandals this cohort has peddled for 25 years. The exact causes of Clinton-hatred among the press clique remain obscure. Was it Bill Clinton’s humble Arkansas origins? Humbling the Bush family? Failing to pay homage to society hostess Sally Quinn? Nobody knows.

Todd S. Purdum has recently offered a classic in the genre: a compulsively disingenuous Politico piece entitled “Why Can’t Hillary Stop Fudging the Truth?” It begins by describing a “brief, but revelatory” exchange between Clinton and Charlie Rose.

Asked about her damn emails, Hillary tried to broaden Rose’s focus.

“Well, I would hope that you like many others would also look at what he said when he testified before Congress,” she said, “because when he did, he clarified much of what he had said in his press conference.”

If you’re like most Americans, you don’t know that when Comey testified, he was forced to walk back his assertion that the FBI found three (out of 30,000) documents marked “classified” among her emails.

Were they properly marked? Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) asked.

“No,” Comey answered.

So wouldn’t the absence of such markings “tell her immediately that those three documents were not classified?”

“That would be a reasonable inference,” Comey said.

In other words, contrary to the FBI director’s grandstanding press conference and a million Republicans chanting “Hillary lied,” there were zero documents marked classified on her server. Not one.

So was Comey dissembling during his press conference? Or had he made an honest error? Pundits like Purdum know better than to ask. He never acknowledged Comey’s walk back. No, the real issue was Hillary’s “sloppiness,” and her forgetting Comey used that exact word.

“The pattern is unmistakable,” Purdum scolded, “from the Whitewater inquiry (when she resisted disclosing documents about a failed Arkansas land deal)…to the Rose Law Firm billing records (which infamously and mysteriously turned up in the White House residence after she’d said they were missing) to the Monica Lewinsky affair and the State Department emails themselves.”

A more misleading paragraph would be hard to imagine. In fact, the Clintons voluntarily delivered Whitewater documents to the independent counsel, but not to New York Times reporters whose inept, downright deceptive reporting created the bogus “scandal.”

If there had to be an investigation, they wanted a real one.

Also no, but the famous billing records didn’t turn up in the White House residence, “mysteriously” or otherwise. An aide found them in a box under her desk in the Old Executive Office Building, where she’d misplaced them. (They were Xerox copies, incidentally. Hence no motive for hiding them existed.)

Once found, of course, they vindicated Hillary’s sworn testimony. See Joe Conason’s and my book “The Hunting of the President” for details.

As to the “Monica Lewinsky affair,” is there anybody in America that doesn’t know Bill Clinton played slap and tickle with a young thing at the office and lied about it?

How is that his wife’s fault?

Anyone who’s followed Hillary Clinton’s political career has seen this happen time and again. Ballyhooed charges of wrongdoing and/or perjury that collapse in the light of evidence, only to have newly imagined allegations follow almost at once.

Can you say Benghazi?

Some years ago, I got to ask the late televangelist Jerry Falwell on camera which of the Ten Commandments was the worse sin, adultery or false witness? Falwell had peddled the “Clinton Chronicles,” hysterical videos charging the president with drug smuggling and murder.

To his credit, Falwell said they were equally bad.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, July 27, 2016

July 28, 2016 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, Hillary Clinton, Media, Press | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“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

“Terrorists And Their Privacy”: Do Tech Company Profits Trump National Security?

One inevitable sequel to a terrorist attack is seeing the ugly mugs of creeps-turned-monsters thrust before us over a multitude of news cycles. Another is a debate over cellphone encryption.

Encryption is a means of turning information into secret code. Terrorists communicate through encrypted devices to hide their plans and protect the identities of their co-conspirators. For obvious reasons, law enforcement wants to know what’s being said and to whom.

The FBI had been demanding that Apple turn over an encryption key to crack the iPhone used by San Bernardino gunman Syed Rizwan Farook. Apple has refused, arguing that helping the FBI hack Farook’s iPhone would put the privacy of other iPhone users in jeopardy. That would be bad for business.

Apple’s case has always been morally and legally flawed, but now it may be moot. That’s because on the very day of the terrorist outrage in Brussels, the Justice Department announced it may now be able to get at the information in Farook’s iPhone without Apple’s input.

An unidentified third party has reportedly found a way to hack the phone. That method is being tested to ensure that it doesn’t destroy the valuable data in the process.

If it succeeds, Apple will have lost in three ways. No. 1: Consumers are no longer assured that iPhone data is invulnerable. No. 2: By forcing others to find a means of cracking an iPhone, Apple loses control over the process. And No. 3: Apple is left with having fought the bad fight.

All that goodwill Apple has amassed for its wonderful products could start draining away as Americans wonder what side it’s on. The rampage in San Bernardino took 14 lives and grievously injured 22 others. Survivors and relatives of the dead have protested Apple’s defense of a mass murderer’s cellphone data. That’s definitely bad for business.

Suppose Belgian investigators cleaning up the body parts came across an encrypted iPhone of a terrorist impressed by Apple’s promise of privacy. Would Apple refuse to help uncover accomplices in that bloodbath, as well?

Some argue that Farook’s iPhone 5c is easier to crack than the newer iPhones. Does Apple now want to bet that hacking the iPhone 6 or a later model can’t be done by a highly talented geek?

The Justice Department’s legal basis for requiring Apple to unlock an encrypted device is the 1789 All Writs Act. The law applies only if compliance is not an unreasonable burden. Apple claims invading Farook’s iPhone would be “unreasonably burdensome.”

With a search warrant based on probable cause, law enforcement may barge into your home, break into your metal file cabinets and look in your underwear drawer. (For further information, consult some “Law & Order” reruns.)

One’s cellphone is not a sacred space. Mobile phone users worried that police doing a warranted search might come across their third-grader’s math scores or a prescription for Viagra should not put such data onto their gadget in the first place.

The concern in Apple’s boardroom and elsewhere in the Silicon Valley is that governments less constrained by civil liberties than ours would demand the key to breaking the encryption. They already do, but that’s between the companies and the other countries. It’s really not the American public’s problem — unless you want to argue that tech company profits trump national security.

Apple’s position was insupportable. Now it may be irrelevant. A wise move for those in the tech industry would be to quietly work out some accommodation with law enforcement in the halls of Congress. Rest assured, they won’t want to hold such discussions in the heat of another, even more devastating terrorist attack.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, March 24, 2016

March 25, 2016 Posted by | Apple, Cell Phone Encryption, National Security, Terrorist Attacks | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Crime And No Security Breach”: Clinton Emails Continue To Be Non-Scandal, Disappointing Republicans

While we were all busy laughing about how insecure Donald Trump is about the size of his manhood, the New York Times released this story, the latest development in the case of Hillary Clinton’s emails:

A former aide to Hillary Clinton has turned over to the F.B.I. computer security logs from Mrs. Clinton’s private server, records that showed no evidence of foreign hacking, according to people close to a federal investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s emails.

The security logs bolster Mrs. Clinton’s assertion that her use of a personal email account to conduct State Department business while she was the secretary of state did not put American secrets into the hands of hackers or foreign governments.

The former aide, Bryan Pagliano, began cooperating with federal agents last fall, according to interviews with a federal law enforcement official and others close to the case. Mr. Pagliano described how he set up the server in Mrs. Clinton’s home in Chappaqua, N.Y., and according to two of the people, he provided agents the security logs.

What does this tell us? Although it’s possible there will be some future discovery, it appears that whether Clinton’s emails were vulnerable to hacking or not, they weren’t actually hacked. That’s good news! The closest thing they’ve found is some attempts at phishing scams, which means that Clinton’s email is just like every other email address on earth.

So here’s what we know at this point, put as succinctly as I can:

  1. Clinton set up a personal email account and used it for work. Even though previous Secretaries of State did the same thing, and even though thousands of people in government use personal emails for work, she still shouldn’t have done it. She may have violated department policies, but there’s no evidence she broke any laws.
  2. Clinton has said it was a mistake and apologized for it.
  3. There were concerns that her email server could have been vulnerable to hacking from a foreign power. But it does not appear to have been hacked.
  4. None of the work-related emails she sent and received were marked classified at the time. However, some 200 of them were retroactively classified. This is now the subject of a spat between the State Department and the intelligence community, which classifies many things that people elsewhere in the government think are absurd to classify.
  5. For Clinton to be charged with mishandling classified information, she would have had to knowingly passed such information to someone not authorized to have it — like David Petraeus showing classified documents to his mistress — or acted with such gross negligence that people without authorization were bound to see it. According to what we know, neither of those things happened.
  6. The FBI is investigating the matter, but has said that Clinton herself is not a target of that investigation, meaning that they don’t suspect that she committed any crime.
  7. That former aide, Bryan Pagliano, has been granted immunity by the Justice Department and is working with them as they complete their investigation, which will probably conclude this spring.

Now let’s be honest. When this story broke, Republicans were desperately hoping that we would learn that some criminal wrongdoing or catastrophic security breach had taken place, so they could then use that against Clinton in her run for the White House. But that turns out not to be the case. So the next best thing from their perspective is that there’s some vaguely-defined “scandal” that the public doesn’t really understand, but that voters will hold against her if you just repeat the words “Clinton email scandal” often enough.

They may have gotten that. I’ve certainly seen plenty of voters quoted in press accounts saying some version of, “I don’t trust Clinton, ’cause you know, that email thing.” I’m sure 99 percent of them couldn’t tell you what they think Clinton actually did that’s so awful, but they know that there was something about emails, and it was, like, a scandal, right?

In recent weeks, I’ve had a couple of liberal friends and relatives ask me, with something approaching panic, “I just heard that Clinton is about to be indicted. Is that true?!?” The answer is no, but they heard that because it’s something conservatives say constantly. Tune to to talk radio or surf through conservative web sites, and before long you’ll hear someone say that the Clinton indictment is coming any day now. Donald Trump, with his characteristically tenuous relationship to reality, frequently says that she’s about to be indicted or that she won’t be permitted to run for president because she’ll be on trial. It hasn’t happened and it won’t happen, but that isn’t going to stop them from saying it.

Finally, there’s a phrase you should watch out for when you see this issue discussed: “Drip, drip, drip.” Sometimes it’ll be a Republican partisan using it, but more often it will be some pundit explaining why the issue is important. What “drip, drip drip” means is that despite the fact that there was no crime and no security breach, the media will keep discussing the story as the investigations continue, and that will cause political difficulty for Clinton. “Drip, drip, drip” is this controversy’s version of, “it’s out there,” meaning, “there isn’t anything scandalous about the substance of this matter, but here’s how we’ll justify talking about it as though it actually were something scandalous.”

I don’t say that to justify Clinton’s original decision to set up the private server. She shouldn’t have done that, not only because it was against department policy, but also because she should have been extra careful, knowing her history, to make sure she minded her Ps and Qs on everything like this. She should have known that once she started running for president there were going to be FOIA requests and lawsuits and investigations of everything she did as Secretary of State. So yes, that was an error in judgment. But it wasn’t a crime — and it appears that no bad consequences for the country came of it — so we shouldn’t treat it like it was.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, March 4, 2016

March 6, 2016 Posted by | Clinton Emails, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When The Police Are Called To A Governor’s Hotel Room…”: Your Audition For National Office Is Off To An Awkward Start

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) was already confronted with an unwelcome controversy. A month ago, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported that the FBI has spent “several months” talking to Republican officials in the state about Martinez’s campaign fundraising activities. Though the Republican governor has insisted the allegations are without merit, Martinez conceded she’d already spoken to the FBI about one of her top advisors.

And now, the governor has a new political headache to deal with. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported on Friday:

[Martinez] found herself attracting a different sort of national attention Friday after the release of a recording in which she told law enforcement dispatchers that police should not investigate disturbance complaints against her group at a Santa Fe hotel.

Martinez’s recorded dealings with police, dispatchers and hotel employees made her a wide target for criticism Friday. Her detractors and political enemies accused her of trying to bully other government employees to thwart an investigation.

As gubernatorial controversies go, this is an odd one. The governor recently held a holiday party for her staff at a hotel, but someone called the police about disturbances from Martinez’s room, where someone was allegedly throwing bottles from a balcony.

Audio recordings were released Friday that showed Martinez demanding hotel staff tell her who made the noise complaint and trying to discourage the police from following up.

By Friday night, the governor issued a statement expressing regret.  ”I want to apologize for the conduct of my staff the night of our holiday party,” Martinez wrote. “There was apparently a party in a hotel room earlier in the night that was disruptive. Someone was also throwing snowballs from a balcony. None of that should have happened and I was not aware of the extent of the behavior, until recently. And that behavior is not acceptable.

“I also want to admit that I made a mistake when I went to speak to the receptionist and asked her about the complaint. I should not have gotten involved in trying to resolve the situation, nor should I have spoken to the dispatcher on the phone. I was wrong to speak with them like that, and I apologize.”

In the larger context, it’s worth noting that Martinez is not just another GOP governor. The New Mexican recently became the chair of the Republican Governors Association, and as we discussed a month ago, she’s also frequently mentioned as a possible VP candidate for her party in 2016. When Marco Rubio was asked about possible running mates, he specifically mentioned Martinez by name six weeks ago.

But at this point, I think it’s safe to say her audition for national office is off to an awkward start.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 21, 2015

December 24, 2015 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Republican Governors Association, Susana Martinez | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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