When friends ask me about the 2016 presidential campaign, my answer is always the same: It is a matter of “if,” not “when,” exploding bombshells from the Clinton email investigation quickly transform the current political landscape. One could argue that the future integrity of our nation rests on how the Justice Department resolves the case.
The political bombs will begin to explode when the outcome of the FBI investigations are announced or leaked. Finally, there will be concrete answers to questions that have dogged Clinton’s presidential campaign for over a year. First, did her use of a private email server violate laws or jeopardize national security? Second, did the Clinton Foundation benefit financially from her tenure as secretary of state? Third, was there a connection between soliciting foundation donations and the need for a private email server?
Ultimately, further Justice Department action, or inaction, will either strengthen or crack the foundation of law on which the integrity of our nation was built, thrived for over two centuries, and still rests today. The most favorable outcome of the Clinton case would show all Americans (and the world) how the United States is a nation of laws where all citizens are treated equally. Conversely, the worst possible scenario would prove that the rich and powerful are judged by a different set of standards, especially in the case of a presidential candidate running for the incumbent president’s “third term.”
In an election cycle during which trust in government is at an all-time low, the wrapping up of the Clinton investigations, whatever form it takes, will be a historic turning point, comparable to Watergate.
Given that Hillary Clinton has all but officially won the Democratic party’s presidential nomination, one would think that FBI Director James Comey would be under tremendous pressure to conclude the investigations well before the political conventions in July. However, earlier this month, in a statement that was widely reported, he said that “the urgency” was to do the probe “well and promptly, and ‘well’ comes first.”
Well … what the heck is going on? This is a highly divisive presidential election, and every passing day increases the likelihood that the Clinton investigations will be judged through a political lens rather than by the rule of law.
Here is a little smoke signal indicating the negative consequences if it is revealed that presidential politics trumped the law:
Last week it was reported that a distinguished group of former FBI agents sent Comey a letter warning about political pressure influencing the Clinton case. The retired agents were involved in ABSCAM, the famous FBI sting operation that led to the successful prosecution of politicians caught in corruption. The former agents are familiar with political pressure and well positioned to offer Comey advice.
The future not only of the FBI but “of the United States of America rests on the outcome of this crucial case,” the agents wrote. “Decisions must be made on facts alone. Much is at stake here — people’s trust in the Bureau for years to come, as well as the Bureau’s reputation among our allies, partners, and friends as the greatest law enforcement agency in the world.”
Their viewpoint is widely held by millions of Americans, of all political persuasions, who understand that the resolution of the Clinton case transcends her 2016 presidential campaign and would set important national, legal, and political precedents that could reverberate well into the future.
If Comey determines that Clinton broke the law, he will recommend to his boss, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, that the Justice Department seek a grand jury indictment. Lynch must grant her approval in order for Comey to proceed. Unfortunately, her boss, President Obama, has publicly defended Clinton and tried to influence the Justice Department against seeking an indictment.
“I continue to believe that she has not jeopardized America’s national security,” Obama said recently on Fox News Sunday. However, Obama added, “what I’ve also said is that — and she has acknowledged — that there’s a carelessness, in terms of managing e-mails, that she has owned, and she recognizes.” This leaves one to wonder whether “carelessness” will become a new defense to be invoked when an elected official, intelligence-community member, government bureaucrat, contractor, or someone in the military is accused of mishandling classified information.
Obama neglected to add that Clinton’s “carelessness” included 22 emails with the highest level of classification found on her private server. Worse, as the New York Post reported, these e-mails “revealed names of CIA officers serving overseas and foreigners who are on the spy agency’s payroll – potentially endangering their lives.” Moreover, and with lasting consequences, President Obama in defending Clinton has set the bar very high for determining whether classified information “jeopardizes America’s national security.”
A potential bombshell is whether Comey and possibly others will resign if the FBI recommends, but Lynch rejects, a grand jury indictment. Lynch would be acting in effect as Obama’s proxy. If she fails to follow the agency’s recommendation and Comey resigns in protest, he could become an overnight American hero.
Imagine the brouhaha if he went public with a strong case that he had against the Clintons and that the Obama administration rejected. But even if Comey kept quiet, his resignation would speak volumes. Then other veteran FBI and Justice Department officials who worked on the Clinton case would be likely to blow the whistle.
Some have speculated that if Hillary Clinton were indicted, Obama could pardon her from further prosecution. But if she is indicted and the case goes to trial, it would demonstrate that our legal system rests on a firm foundation of equal justice under the law, from which not even the richest and most powerful are exempt. What a message that would send to all Americans and the entire world. Sadly, it is more probable that, even if laws were broken, political pressure will rule the day and the Clinton case will be resolved in her favor, creating deep cracks in our national foundation.
Cross-posted at National Review Online