The most wounded man in Washington is James Comey.
Ever since his legally incomprehensible announcement that he would not recommend criminal prosecution of Hillary Clinton, he has been the equivalent of an extra on the set of “The Walking Dead”. His reputation tarnished. His legacy forever tainted.
His own agents turned against him in disgust. Those, including lawyers, who had worked exhaustively gathering the incriminating evidence were furious that Comey had publicly laid out their case of how Clinton was grossly negligence under the Espionage Act, yet decided not to prosecute. Comey had gone from revered to reviled, all in one day.
Now, his stunning announcement that he is reopening the criminal investigation of Clinton based on newly discovered evidence is, perhaps, the chance at redemption for which he may have been searching. He has disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner to thank for a second chance.
According to confirmed reports, the FBI seized electronic devices in the possession of Weiner during the course of an investigation into his sexting with an underage girl for which he is now in legal jeopardy. Since Weiner is married to Clinton’s top aide, Huma Abedin, the FBI were legally entitled to access her emails on those same devices. Those are probably the messages that triggered a reopening of the Clinton probe.
Whatever the source of the new evidence, it may have provided the excuse or pretext that Comey so desperately needed to remedy the wrong perceived by so many. A legal “do over”, if you will. A mistake corrected. An injustice rectified.
Of course, it is altogether possible that Comey will reach the same conclusion as he did before –that prosecutors could not prove Clinton broke the law. His statement stressed he does not know the “importance” of the new emails.
But if this is Comey’s opportunity to atone, it is not good news for Hillary Clinton. The Director may now be more determined than ever to reverse his legal judgment of Clinton’s mishandling of classified materials. It’s like a first year law student getting to retake the final examination in criminal law after flunking the test. He can now change his legal analysis and arrive at a better conclusion.
After all, it was Comey himself who testified before Congress that more than 2,000 classified documents were found on Clinton’s personal server in her home –clearly an unauthorized place under the law. He described her explanations as untruthful and her conduct “extremely careless”. That would be more than sufficient for criminal charges against anyone else whose name is not Clinton.
What does all of this mean for Clinton’s chances of winning the election a scant ten days from now? At this early stage, it is impossible to know. Yes, at the moment, the electoral map favors Clinton substantially. But that could evaporate in a political instant.
On its face, the revelation seems extremely damaging to her candidacy. Perhaps fatal. Yet, it is premature to say how voters will react on November 8th when they enter the voting booths across America. Some may view the resurrected FBI probe as patently unfair, coming a little more than a week before the election. Voters may feel she is being victimized and react with sympathy. The news may energize or motivate her supporters to cast their ballots in record numbers.
For others, a reinvigorated FBI investigation will serve as proof they were right when they concluded, perhaps long ago, that Clinton is chronically corrupt. As pointed out in my recent column, a Clinton presidency would probably be engulfed in scandal and endless investigations, even in the absence of today’s news. Do Americans want to cast a vote in favor of 4 years of acrimony and intransigence?
And what happens if a President Clinton is indicted for crimes under the Espionage Act? Would she resign, as Nixon did… or temporarily step aside under the incapacity provision of the 25th Amendment until her criminal trial is concluded? How would Congress react? The entire sordid affair could devolve into an impeachment trial reminiscent of her husband, Bill Clinton.
Another national nightmare.
These are weighty decisions which voters are now suddenly forced to consider. It may not be fair or right. But, in a democracy, freedom of choice inexorably falls to the citizenry.
It brings both benefits and burdens.