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Not Guilty, but certainly damned

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So, FBI Director James Comey does not recommend prosecution of Hillary Clinton:

In our system, the prosecutors make the decisions about whether charges are appropriate based on evidence the FBI has helped collect. Although we don’t normally make public our recommendations to the prosecutors, we frequently make recommendations and engage in productive conversations with prosecutors about what resolution may be appropriate, given the evidence. In this case, given the importance of the matter, I think unusual transparency is in order.

Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case. Prosecutors necessarily weigh a number of factors before bringing charges. There are obvious considerations, like the strength of the evidence, especially regarding intent. Responsible decisions also consider the context of a person’s actions, and how similar situations have been handled in the past.

In looking back at our investigations into mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts. All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of: clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice. We do not see those things here.

To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now.

As a result, although the Department of Justice makes final decisions on matters like this, we are expressing to Justice our view that no charges are appropriate in this case.

So, no criminal charges, but that excerpt of Comey’s statement makes plain that Hillary did bad things even if she did not do criminal things.  If you read the rest of Comey’s statement which outlines many of the FBI findings, it all seems so familiar.  As the Senate found Bill Clinton “not guilty” when impeached, so the FBI says about Hillary in this instance.  But even the Senate “not guilty” did not make Bill Clinton innocent – everybody knows Clinton is a philandering slime ball and he was later found guilty of perjury in civil court and disbarred.  So Comey made sure that just because Hillary Clinton is not criminally liable, everybody knows she is an irresponsible and unreliable government official, not to mention a misdirecting liar.  Comey’s statement may be the most damning “no charges” statement ever made.  Both Walter Shapiro and James Taranto have pieces outlining just how damning Comey’s “no charges” statement really is.

So, this ends up being about spin.  Clearly Hillary has no business being president but in this media world this investigatory outcome can be painted as if she is clean as the driven snow.  The challenge now falls to the Trump campaign and the GOP messaging machine.  Trump got in the way of the inappropriate Lynch/Clinton meeting story all weekend long.  He won the primary by dominating every news cycle, but he has got to learn that in the general election sometimes it is best to let the actual news do your work for you.

I worry about a nation where media can warp reality this badly.  It’s more about the nation than the media though.  Why are we willing to overlook facts for the sake of spin?  Why do we confuse a lack of criminality for innocence?  Is it really no longer about good and bad and instead about what you can get away with?  I recall something Jesus said in the Sermon on The Mount:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Jesus is not therein redefining the “crime” of adultery.”  He is pointing out that there are higher standards than the merely legal and that the quality of our lives are measured not by the legal standard, but by that higher one.  Maybe that accounts for the somewhat sour mood of the nation right now – we no longer hold that higher standard in high regard and we settle for the merely legal.  Bill Clinton’s impeachment is the pivot on which that change occurred and for that fact alone history may end up judging Bill Clinton a worse president than Barack Obama.  What would Hillary do?  I really do not want to know.


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