God, Comey, and the Clinton Email Scandal
The Wall Street Journal had an otherwise interesting editorial the other day that discussed Hillary Clinton's rising unpopularity despite effectively securing the Democrat nomination "barring an act of God or FBI Director Jim Comey[.]" I won't quibble about God, who presumably could easily short-circuit anyone's nomination, assuming that was on the heavenly agenda. But I do have a problem with the second part of the assertion, which is commonplace among conservatives these days, even in the rarified offices of the Journal, and a little disturbing in its flippant disregard of pretty obvious realities. Neither I nor anyone else seems to know what the FBI director's intentions are in the Clinton email affair, but whether he intends to refer charges to the Justice Department or not, Hillary Clinton – barring supernatural intervention – is going to win the Democrat nomination.
The corruption, vanity, insouciance, and socio-pathology evident in the tormenting and dangerous email scandal are merely typical of Hillary Clinton. She cares not a whit for what she's done, or that the consequences continue to roil the country, so that even a relatively moderate and not entirely unfriendly media giant like the Journal plays a guessing game as to the outcome of criminal inquiries before acknowledging that Clinton will be the Democrat nominee. But to the extent the guessing game represents some degree of hopefulness that perhaps the Democratic Party's well laid plans for Obama's liberal successor come a cropper before or during the convention, it is fairly nonsensical. Whether you are on the Journal's editorial board or just a conservative who doesn't like Mrs. Clinton, hoping for her nomination to be derailed by the FBI is, first, fanciful, and second, not obviously desirable.
As AT editor Thomas Lifson pointed out before Clinton won the New York primary, the heretofore unthinkable possibility that Bernie Sanders could win the nomination and the general election then stared the country in the face. With her victory in New York, Clinton has effectively secured the nomination, but should the Almighty act, or if Comey really does have the ability to derail her nomination, is that something a conservative could reasonably desire? Not if Bernie Sanders becomes the nominee, which would almost have to be the case, given his current popularity with Democrats and the surprisingly strong campaign he's waged. The idea that the sloppy and incoherent Joe Biden would step in, or another white knight like Elizabeth Warren could step into such a scenario, is hardly viable any longer.
Sanders would probably be the nominee, and polling at this point indicates he would convincingly defeat either likely Republican nominee (Trump or Cruz) in the general election. We are – in the now highly unlikely event that Hillary lost the nomination or was forced to drop out – looking at the realistic possibility of President Sanders. While Hillary's election would continue the painful and slow dismantling of this country as we've known it, Sanders's election would be a complete and perhaps irreparable catastrophe. This is partly a case of being careful what you wish for.
While I loathe the idea of Hillary as president, I'd take her over Sanders, both as an electoral opponent for the eventual Republican nominee and, if it came to it, as chief executive.
But relax. Barring divine intervention, Hillary will win the Democrat nomination, because Jim Comey has lost his ability to control that outcome, assuming he ever had it. I've played the game of analyzing FBI tea leaves as much as anybody. It really is a fool's errand, based as it is on leaks of unknown provenance and reliability. Are there 147 agents on the case, 47, or 4? Has a grand jury been empaneled? Seems highly unlikely, but who knows for sure? Was Brian Pagliano really granted immunity, and if so, was it transactional or use immunity? Did Justice agree to allow the four Hillary aides closest to the scandal (other than Pagliano) to retain the same well-connected attorney despite obvious conflicts of interest? Nobody outside the inner circles of the FBI and Justice Department actually knows any of this.
I don't think at this point that the FBI will refer charges to Justice for reasons explained here, though I could very well be wrong. But the fact is, even if Director Comey were to do that, there is next to no chance that the Justice Department will pursue an indictment against Clinton. President Obama has vouched for Clinton and stated his opinion that national security was not endangered by her actions. All that may be improper, but it clearly communicated his preference that Justice not pursue an indictment. His designee at Justice, Loretta Lynch, will make those determinations (in theory), and given Obama's clearly stated views, she is about as likely to endorse Trump for president as she is to seek an indictment against Hillary before the Democrat convention. And along those lines, remember that the thought of Sanders getting the Democrat nomination is as distasteful to that establishment as the idea of a Trump nomination is to the Republican one.
Director Comey might have been the most powerful man in Washington last autumn, when Hillary's position was less secure and Joe Biden seemed to offer a viable Democrat alternative. That power is now gone. Comey perhaps never had it or coveted it, though more likely he has just played a safe political game to preserve his own career and, arguably, the bureaucratic interests of his agency in the likely event that another Democrat is elected president.
Though Comey has perhaps lost the king- (or queen-) making power he once held, he could still do the right thing and make a referral to Justice, even though it will go nowhere under a Democrat administration. That would vindicate the law at least in part and his supposed reputation as a "stand-up guy." Plus it just might be enough to tip the general election against Hillary. Perhaps the Almighty will intervene and make him do it, because otherwise I would not count on that happening, either.