Tuesday, November 01, 2016

US election campaign takes another dive into the unknown

The US election is almost over but, as they say, it's not over until it's over. By this point, I'm just as weary of, and disillusioned by, the whole thing as most other people, but then something like the recent resurrection of the Federal Bureau of Information (FBI)'s probe into Hillary Clinton's emails arises and you realize that this whole election thing could even get worse than its already dismal trajectory to date.
As most people know, the FBI and the US Justice Department investigated thousands of Hillary Clinton's emails earlier this summer, and concluded in July that, while Clinton's actions in using a private server for State Department business were "extremely careless", they did not actually constitute criminal wrongdoing of any kind (despite Donald Trump's vociferous claims to the contrary). FBI director James Comey himself recommended against bringing any charges to bear, and the issue seemed to be dead.
Then, appropriately enough just before Hallowe'en, the issue unexpectedly came back from the dead. Director Comey reported that more emails have been discovered, as part of the completely unrelated investigation into the minor-sexting scandal of sleazy former US congressman Anthony Weiner. Comey is suggesting that these emails, which may or may not be copies of the ones already investigated, might conceivably be connected in some way to the Clinton investigation (the one that everyone else thought was already closed). It's all a bit vague but, one way or another, it is back in the minds of voters
So, just two weeks before the presidential elections, Comey appears to have single-handedly re-opened the Clinton investigation, even though he has not actually confirmed this in so many words. And he has done so against the advice of several high-ranking Justice Department officers, in direct contravention of Justice Department policy (which instructs officials to "exercise heightened restraint near the time of a primary or general election), and possibly even in violation of the Hatch Act (which prohibits federal employees from influencing elections). Comey seems, therefore, pretty adamant on pursuing his unexpected, and rather inexplicable, path. You get the distinct impression of a man on a mission.
So, the cat is once more among the proverbial pigeons. Justice Department officials, Democrats, and even some Republicans, are crying foul and alleging political interference on the part of Director Comey. Even President Obama has issued an unprecedented public rebuke to the law enforcement agency for operating on "innuendo" and "incomplete information".
Donald Trump and his supporters are, of course, howling with righteous indignation, and claiming vindication of their constant jibes at "Crooked Hillary". And the Trump campaign may well have received a much-needed shot in the arm just when it most needed one.
The FBI's apparently deliberate interference in the election process is certainly disturbing and suspicious. I think that many sane observers are just hoping that evidence some nefarious collusion between Trump and Comey comes to light before the election. A good bribery scandal may be all that stands between a Trump presidency and a boring presidency, but time is running out. Just when you thought this election couldn't get any crazier or more contentious...

A few days later, and just two days before the election, James Comey has seen fit to exonerate Hillary Clinton after all, saying that he has found no reason to change his July conclusions. The American dollar and stock exchanges across the world rallied somewhat, after sinking precipitously following Mr. Comey's ill-advised announcement, a very concrete example of the political and economic consequences of his meddling. But the damage to Ms. Clinton's election campaign is already done, and she has precious little time left to recover it.
And even now Trump - like a petulant child, or a rogue dog, depending on your point of view - is still braying his disapproval, as he sees as his best chance to discredit his opponent slipping away. Almost predictably, he is completely dismissing Comey's latest letter to lawmakers as fiction: "Hillary Clinton is guilty. She knows it. The FBI knows it." And this after so recently praising Comey for doing "the right thing" (when, of course, it was in his interest)!
How does he get away with this stuff? Surely, this is legally slander, and slander is still a crime, is it not, free speech notwithstanding? 

No comments: