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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

“Abstract And Brief”: Conservatives Argue For A GOP Platform Vague And Minimalist Enough To Accommodate Trump

For a political party known until quite recently for its virtually unanimous support for the dictates of conservative ideology, the GOP has got some shockingly large divisions on issues today, thanks to Donald Trump. His speech earlier this week on trade is an example: There is no way to identify a single inch of common ground between Trump’s attacks on globalization as the source of all evil and the views of the Republican-leaning U.S. business community (see this angry op-ed by U.S. Chamber of Commerce president Thomas Donahue). Slightly less heated but still important are Trump-GOP differences over social security and Medicare, treated by Trump as part of an inviolable social contract and by most Republicans as sacred cows that need to be slaughtered to bring federal spending under control. Immigration, of course, has created its own well-known intra-party fault lines. And there’s trouble all over the national-security landscape, beginning with Trump’s skepticism about NATO and his non-interventionist instincts, in a party where there’s a lot of lusty desire for Middle Eastern wars or maybe a nostalgic dustup with Russia.

All these divisions make the drafting and adoption of a party platform — normally a chore so routine and boring you don’t even hear about it beyond marginal arguments over the precise language of planks on abortion or guns — perilous. It would be natural for Team Trump to want to place the mogul’s personal stamp on the party’s statement of principles and proposals. And it would be tempting for those resisting Trump’s takeover of the GOP to start a platform fight at the convention.

How to avoid trouble? Well, two distinguished conservatives (one the president of Hillsdale College, the other a member of the actual platform committee) writing at the Washington Examiner have an idea: Make the platform so abstract and brief that none of the divisions even appear.

That’s not exactly how they put it, of course. Check out this lofty appeal:

On the eve of a convention that threatens disorder, Republicans should learn from the greatness of their party’s past.

The platform upon which Abraham Lincoln ran for president in 1860 was one and a half pages and 1200 words — quite a contrast to the 65 page, 33,000 word GOP platform of 2012. Written in the succinct and beautiful language of principle, it was meant to be read by all Americans, not just policy elites, and to guide great political action rather than make promises to special interests.

Might such a document today help to heal the divisions in the party as a preparation to healing those in the nation?

You betcha. The platform these gentlemen have in mind would focus strictly on the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and the need for limited instead of expanded government. It would view America and its problems from such a great distance that you can’t see those messy differences over the actual issues that will confront the next president and Congress. Hell, it would be broad enough and vague enough to accommodate Trumpism!

The Trump candidacy, although unwelcome to many in the party, has the virtue of simplicity. He says that government belongs to, must respond to, and must in all cases seek to benefit the American people.

Every politician in either party would affirm the same principle, of course, but the whole idea here is not to get bogged down in details.

The devil, of course, is in the details. But platforms should not be about details. They should be about principles and broad lines of policy. The details will be worked out in due course between the President and Congress, as is right and good. The platform supplies a direction, not a specific route.

Or perhaps the platform is just a collection of platitudes supplying the directive that the future lies ahead.

Maybe that’s all a party can do when it is nominating a presidential candidate that so many of its leading members regard with ill-disguised fear and loathing. It’s so much easier to talk about the platform from a rarefied perspective so distant from the actual country with its actual challenges and choices.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, July 1, 2016

July 2, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, Republican National Convention | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“I Don’t Know Where Donald Trump Is Coming From”: Top Trump Ally Distances Himself From Presidential Candidate

Way back in February, when most congressional Republicans were still hoping Donald Trump’s presidential campaign would collapse, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) became only the second federal lawmaker to throw his support behind the controversial candidate.

“We don’t need a policy wonk as president,” Hunter said at the time. “We need a leader as president…. I don’t think Trump wants my endorsement. And that’s one reason why I like him.”

Yesterday, the California Republican said something a little different.

“I am not a surrogate. I am a congressman. I can’t speak for anybody else but me,” Hunter told The Hill later Thursday, explaining his comments to the reporters.

“Everybody’s asking me to explain all these things that he said,” Hunter added. “Some of these things, I don’t know what Donald Trump is thinking. … I don’t know where Donald Trump is coming from.”

The Hill’s report added that Hunter said he was confronted by “like seven reporters” after leaving the House floor yesterday. “I just said, ‘Time out. I am a congressman. I am done talking [about Trump].’”

Under the circumstances, that’s a curious message. Hunter not only endorsed Trump, the congressman is literally the co-chair of Trump’s U.S. House Leadership Committee, serving as a liaison between the presumptive nominee’s campaign and Capitol Hill.

In fact, The Hill’s report said Hunter took it upon himself to lead Trump’s outreach efforts to Congress and currently “feeds national security information to the Trump campaign.”

The Washington Post recently described Hunter as one of the six members of Congress Trump trusts most.

When this guy is telling reporters he can’t explain what Trump is thinking, doesn’t know where Trump “is coming from,” and is “done talking” about Trump, it’s evidence of a presidential candidate who’s even left his allies stumped.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 17, 2016

June 22, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Duncan Hunter, Trump Supporters | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Trump Lies The Way Other People Breathe”: The Challenges In Covering Trump’s Relentless Assault On The Truth

Donald Trump must be the biggest liar in the history of American politics, and that’s saying something.

Trump lies the way other people breathe. We’re used to politicians who stretch the truth, who waffle or dissemble, who emphasize some facts while omitting others. But I can’t think of any other political figure who so brazenly tells lie after lie, spraying audiences with such a fusillade of untruths that it is almost impossible to keep track. Perhaps he hopes the media and the nation will become numb to his constant lying. We must not.

Trump lies when citing specifics. He claimed that a “tremendous flow of Syrian refugees” has been entering the country; the total between 2012 and 2015 was around 2,000, barely a trickle. He claimed that “we have no idea” who those refugees are; they undergo up to two years of careful vetting before being admitted.

Trump lies when speaking in generalities. He claimed that President Obama has “damaged our security by restraining our intelligence-gathering and failing to support law enforcement.” Obama actually expanded domestic intelligence operations and dialed them back only because of bipartisan pressure after the Edward Snowden revelations.

Trump lies by sweeping calumny. “For some reason, the Muslim community does not report people like this,” he said of Omar Mateen, the shooter in the Orlando massacre. But according to law enforcement officials, including FBI Director James B. Comey, numerous potential plots have been foiled precisely because concerned Muslims reported seeing signs of self-radicalization.

Trump lies by smarmy insinuation. “We’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind,” he said of Obama. “There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable. There’s something going on.” He also said of Obama: “He doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anybody understands — it’s one or the other and either one is unacceptable.”

You read that right. The presumptive Republican nominee implies that the president of the United States is somehow disloyal. There is no other way to read “he gets it better than anybody understands.”

Trump claims that Hillary Clinton, the all-but-certain Democratic nominee, “wants to take away Americans’ guns and then admit the very people who want to slaughter us.” Clinton has made clear that she doesn’t want to take anyone’s guns away, nor does she want to eliminate the Second Amendment, as Trump also claims. And the idea that Clinton actually wants to admit would-be slaughterers is grotesque.

I write not to defend Obama or Clinton, who can speak for themselves — and have done so. My aim is to defend the truth.

Political discourse can be civil or rowdy, gracious or mean. But to have any meaning, it has to be grounded in fact. Trump presents a novel challenge for both the media and the voting public. There is no playbook for evaluating a candidate who so constantly says things that objectively are not true.

All of the above examples come from just five days’ worth of Trump’s lies, from Sunday to Thursday of this week. By the time you read this, surely there will have been more.

How are we in the media supposed to cover such a man? The traditional approach, which seeks fairness through nonjudgmental balance, seems inadequate. It does not seem fair to write “Trump claimed the sky is maroon while Clinton claimed it is blue” without noting that the sky is, in fact, blue. It does not seem fair to even present this as a “question” worthy of debate, as if honest people could disagree. One assertion is objectively false and one objectively true.

It goes against all journalistic instinct to write in a news article, as The Post did Monday, that Trump’s national security address was “a speech laden with falsehoods and exaggeration.” But I don’t think we’re doing our job if we simply report assertions of fact without evaluating whether they are factual.

Trump’s lies also present a challenge for voters. The normal assumption is that politicians will bend the truth to fit their ideology — not that they will invent fake “truth” out of whole cloth. Trump is not just an unorthodox candidate. He is an inveterate liar — maybe pathological, maybe purposeful. He doesn’t distort facts, he makes them up.

Trump has a right to his anger, his xenophobia and his bigotry. He also has a right to lie — but we all have a duty to call him on it.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, June 16, 2016

June 21, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Journalists, Voters | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Problematic Unhinged Rhetoric”: John McCain; President Obama Is ‘Directly Responsible’ For Orlando

When Donald Trump said yesterday that President Obama was “directly responsible” for the deadliest mass-shooting in American history, it was the latest evidence of a candidate who’s abandoned any sense of propriety or decency.

Wait, did I say Donald Trump? I meant John McCain.

Republican Sen. John McCain on Thursday blamed President Barack Obama for the deadly shooting in Orlando that killed 49 club goers.

He said the president is “directly responsible for it because” of his “utter failures” in Iraq.

“Barack Obama is directly responsible for it because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, al Qaeda went to Syria and became ISIS and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama’s failures, utter failures by pulling everybody out of Iraq thinking that conflicts end just because we leave,” McCain told reporters on Capitol Hill, according to audio obtained by NBC News.

The senator added, “So the responsibility for it lies with President Barack Obama and his failed policies.”

It wasn’t long before McCain realized this kind of unhinged rhetoric might be problematic, so the senator soon after issued a follow-up statement saying he “misspoke.”

That’s probably not the right word. When someone says “Iraq” when they meant “Iran,” that’s misspeaking. When the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee delivers a 65-word rant blaming the president for a mass murder, that’s more than a slip of the tongue.

McCain added, by way of a “clarification,” that he was blaming the president’s “national security decisions” for the rise of ISIS, “not the president himself.”

How gracious of him.

The clumsy walk-back notwithstanding, what’s wrong with McCain’s argument? Everything.

Right off the bat, let’s not forget that the lunatic responsible for the Orlando massacre was not a member of ISIS. He may have been inspired in some way by the terrorists, and he may have pledged some kind of allegiance to them, but there’s no evidence at all that ISIS was somehow involved in planning and/or executing this attack.

It may be politically convenient to blame a foreign foe for an American buying guns in America and then killing Americans on American soil, but giving ISIS more credit than it deserves is a mistake.

Second, McCain’s broader point is hard to take seriously. Here’s the senator’s logic: Obama withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq in 2010, which eventually and indirectly led to the creation of ISIS, which eventually led lunatics to identify with ISIS, which eventually led to the Orlando mass-shooting.

Even putting aside the bizarre leaps of logic necessarily to adopt such a thesis, McCain is overlooking the fact that (a) he celebrated Obama’s troop withdrawal in 2010; (b) the troop withdrawal was the result of a U.S./Iraq Status of Forces Agreement negotiated by the Bush/Cheney administration; and (c) by the senator’s own reasoning, given his enthusiastic support for the war in Iraq, McCain would have to hold himself “directly responsible” for the Orlando slayings, too.

Look, I’m aware of the broader circumstances. McCain is facing a tough re-election fight in Arizona, including a competitive Republican primary. He has an incentive to say ridiculous and irresponsible things about the president, and perhaps even try to exploit a tragedy for partisan ends.

But if these are the final months of McCain’s lengthy congressional career, is this really how he wants to go out? Using the kind of rhetoric more closely associated with Trump than an ostensible Republican statesman?

Postscript: Earlier this month, a college in Pennsylvania awarded McCain a “civility” prize. Perhaps college administrators can ask for it back?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 17, 2016

June 18, 2016 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, Iraq War, John McCain, Orlando Shootings | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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