A Suspicious Meeting in Phoenix Probably Means FBI Charges against Clinton

On Tuesday Attorney General Loretta Lynch met former President Bill Clinton at a Phoenix airport where they held a discussion that lasted at least thirty minutes. Lynch’s explanation for her meeting with Clinton was that it was entirely coincidental and they mainly discussed his two infant grandchildren. This is unconvincing if not preposterous. When Loretta Lynch opens her mouth to speak on a public policy issue, she, like her boss the president, is not likely to be telling the truth. So we can pretty confidently presume that something else topped the agenda, to wit: a forthcoming referral of criminal charges against Bill’s wife in the ongoing email scandal.

Meeting Clinton coincidentally or otherwise was risky a risky and ill-advised thing for Lynch to do unless she -- and likely Obama -- thought it absolutely necessary. Lynch is a political hack but not a fool. Merely meeting privately with the former president when she is presumably impartially overseeing the criminal investigation of his wife stinks to high heaven, and compromises her sufficiently that there are already calls for her to recuse herself from the matter. Lynch is an experienced and politically savvy prosecutor, appointed by Bill Clinton to the plum position of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, a traditional stepping stone to her current job. When it comes to managing her career and the politics of it, she is sure-handed. Lynch would not have risked the meeting, coincidental or otherwise, unless she had something important to say.

Likewise, if Bill Clinton spends more than thirty seconds a day thinking about his diapered progeny as opposed to his own more personal interests, I’d be shocked. That even the glib Clinton could spend thirty minutes on the topic defies belief.  

On the other hand, it is likely that investigation of Hillary’s email scandal is at or near completion. As it is, the investigation has lasted far longer than necessary for competent FBI investigators to make determinations as to Hillary’s criminal liability in the email matter, at a minimum with regard to her preservation of government records and handling of classified material. It is also probable that sufficient evidence has been compiled to make similar judgments about whether Clinton attempted to obstruct justice. Whether Clinton engaged in pay for play involvement by the Clinton Foundation during her tenure as secretary of state might be a more involved matter, but that the FBI should have come to conclusions on at least the other matters is highly probable.

Hillary’s closest aides have been interviewed, albeit under relatively friendly circumstances. Her former IT man (Brian Pagliano) who set up the private server in Clinton’s Chappaqua, New York home has received some form of immunity. The FBI has an interest in interviewing Clinton herself, but there’s been no acknowledgement that this has yet occurred. Certainly Clinton, now the presumptive Democratic nominee, has plenty of excuses to make herself unavailable, but the fact is she does have days without campaign events and is not above cancelling appearances. It’s even conceivable that she has been interviewed already. If she has not, there seems little reason why it could not be soon.

Two parallel investigations have no doubt put at least some professional and ethical pressure on the FBI. The State Department’s inspector general excoriated Clinton for her private email practices and violation of Department policies. The report did not implicate Clinton criminally, but that was not the purpose of the investigation, and considering it was produced by the department Clinton led, and that has bent over backward to delay probes and protect her, it is telling. The other investigation by the private group Judicial Watch is civil under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA.) Hillary’s aides have also been interviewed in that case, with Brian Pagliano, the IT guy, asserting his 5th Amendment right not to incriminate himself over 125 times during his deposition. Hillary’s right hand gal, Huma Abedin, confirmed in her testimony what was already clear from numerous emails that have slowly come to light under the investigations -- that if nothing else Hillary repeatedly lied and misled the public as to the reasons behind the establishment of the private server. There is now not a scintilla of doubt that the system was set up to avoid federal record keeping requirements and exposure to FOIA.

It is impossible to believe that an honest FBI investigation would not at a minimum find Hillary criminally responsible for violating statutes governing retention of official records and maintaining and securing classified material, at least based on gross negligence, but now with convincing evidence that her deliberate course of conduct demonstrates clear criminal intent. Hillary’s blatant lies and obfuscations through the course of the various investigations, along with the erasure of the server’s memory also present a clear case of obstruction of justice. It is hard to square Pagliano’s repeated invocation of the 5th Amendment with anything but that.

Maybe FBI Director James Comey is like Lynch, nothing but a political hack and will do nothing until after the election. But that carries its own risks. If Hillary wins, Comey and scores of agents within his agency will be working for a president they know is a national security risk and a criminal. It would require an extraordinary degree of corruption within the agency to maintain such a posture, which is possible but unlikely. If Trump were to win Comey would be toast.

I speculated previously that Comey wanted to deliver his report before Hillary got the nomination to mitigate the political impact, and that the rush to proclaim her the nominee was in part an effort to complicate his job. I am speculating now too, but still reasonably. Assuming Comey was on a timetable to deliver the report shortly before the convention, it would be ready or very nearly ready now. He would so inform Lynch and if not deliver the final report, give her a preliminary finding or the agency’s conclusions.

It is highly unlikely that Lynch will move to indict Hillary, but the political effects of an FBI referral would be serious. She could not very well consult with the target of the investigation and so did the next best thing, seeking out the ex-president, delivering the bad news, probably along with assurances that regardless of the FBI conclusions, she will not move forward.

Either that or she and Bill just bumped into each other thousands of miles from Washington and New York and interrupted their busy schedules chat about his grandkids.    

On Tuesday Attorney General Loretta Lynch met former President Bill Clinton at a Phoenix airport where they held a discussion that lasted at least thirty minutes. Lynch’s explanation for her meeting with Clinton was that it was entirely coincidental and they mainly discussed his two infant grandchildren. This is unconvincing if not preposterous. When Loretta Lynch opens her mouth to speak on a public policy issue, she, like her boss the president, is not likely to be telling the truth. So we can pretty confidently presume that something else topped the agenda, to wit: a forthcoming referral of criminal charges against Bill’s wife in the ongoing email scandal.

Meeting Clinton coincidentally or otherwise was risky a risky and ill-advised thing for Lynch to do unless she -- and likely Obama -- thought it absolutely necessary. Lynch is a political hack but not a fool. Merely meeting privately with the former president when she is presumably impartially overseeing the criminal investigation of his wife stinks to high heaven, and compromises her sufficiently that there are already calls for her to recuse herself from the matter. Lynch is an experienced and politically savvy prosecutor, appointed by Bill Clinton to the plum position of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, a traditional stepping stone to her current job. When it comes to managing her career and the politics of it, she is sure-handed. Lynch would not have risked the meeting, coincidental or otherwise, unless she had something important to say.

Likewise, if Bill Clinton spends more than thirty seconds a day thinking about his diapered progeny as opposed to his own more personal interests, I’d be shocked. That even the glib Clinton could spend thirty minutes on the topic defies belief.  

On the other hand, it is likely that investigation of Hillary’s email scandal is at or near completion. As it is, the investigation has lasted far longer than necessary for competent FBI investigators to make determinations as to Hillary’s criminal liability in the email matter, at a minimum with regard to her preservation of government records and handling of classified material. It is also probable that sufficient evidence has been compiled to make similar judgments about whether Clinton attempted to obstruct justice. Whether Clinton engaged in pay for play involvement by the Clinton Foundation during her tenure as secretary of state might be a more involved matter, but that the FBI should have come to conclusions on at least the other matters is highly probable.

Hillary’s closest aides have been interviewed, albeit under relatively friendly circumstances. Her former IT man (Brian Pagliano) who set up the private server in Clinton’s Chappaqua, New York home has received some form of immunity. The FBI has an interest in interviewing Clinton herself, but there’s been no acknowledgement that this has yet occurred. Certainly Clinton, now the presumptive Democratic nominee, has plenty of excuses to make herself unavailable, but the fact is she does have days without campaign events and is not above cancelling appearances. It’s even conceivable that she has been interviewed already. If she has not, there seems little reason why it could not be soon.

Two parallel investigations have no doubt put at least some professional and ethical pressure on the FBI. The State Department’s inspector general excoriated Clinton for her private email practices and violation of Department policies. The report did not implicate Clinton criminally, but that was not the purpose of the investigation, and considering it was produced by the department Clinton led, and that has bent over backward to delay probes and protect her, it is telling. The other investigation by the private group Judicial Watch is civil under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA.) Hillary’s aides have also been interviewed in that case, with Brian Pagliano, the IT guy, asserting his 5th Amendment right not to incriminate himself over 125 times during his deposition. Hillary’s right hand gal, Huma Abedin, confirmed in her testimony what was already clear from numerous emails that have slowly come to light under the investigations -- that if nothing else Hillary repeatedly lied and misled the public as to the reasons behind the establishment of the private server. There is now not a scintilla of doubt that the system was set up to avoid federal record keeping requirements and exposure to FOIA.

It is impossible to believe that an honest FBI investigation would not at a minimum find Hillary criminally responsible for violating statutes governing retention of official records and maintaining and securing classified material, at least based on gross negligence, but now with convincing evidence that her deliberate course of conduct demonstrates clear criminal intent. Hillary’s blatant lies and obfuscations through the course of the various investigations, along with the erasure of the server’s memory also present a clear case of obstruction of justice. It is hard to square Pagliano’s repeated invocation of the 5th Amendment with anything but that.

Maybe FBI Director James Comey is like Lynch, nothing but a political hack and will do nothing until after the election. But that carries its own risks. If Hillary wins, Comey and scores of agents within his agency will be working for a president they know is a national security risk and a criminal. It would require an extraordinary degree of corruption within the agency to maintain such a posture, which is possible but unlikely. If Trump were to win Comey would be toast.

I speculated previously that Comey wanted to deliver his report before Hillary got the nomination to mitigate the political impact, and that the rush to proclaim her the nominee was in part an effort to complicate his job. I am speculating now too, but still reasonably. Assuming Comey was on a timetable to deliver the report shortly before the convention, it would be ready or very nearly ready now. He would so inform Lynch and if not deliver the final report, give her a preliminary finding or the agency’s conclusions.

It is highly unlikely that Lynch will move to indict Hillary, but the political effects of an FBI referral would be serious. She could not very well consult with the target of the investigation and so did the next best thing, seeking out the ex-president, delivering the bad news, probably along with assurances that regardless of the FBI conclusions, she will not move forward.

Either that or she and Bill just bumped into each other thousands of miles from Washington and New York and interrupted their busy schedules chat about his grandkids.