Thursday, July 7, 2016

It Begins Again: James Comey to be Drilled Before the GOP House

Now that didn't take long, did it? Benghazi ended a few days ago. Now, it's new hearings. New heights of blatant politics with allegedly very serious issues.

"When he testifies on Capitol Hill today, FBI director James Comey may end up giving both sides some political ammunition. He may provide more detail on why he saw no grounds for a criminal charge against Hillary Clinton, which could bolster her campaign’s pushback against Republicans who continue to insist that the failure to bring charges reveals administration corruption."

"But Comey may also provide Republicans with more fodder to argue that Clinton endangered national security, by amplifying his finding — made inhis statement earlier this week — that “it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail account.” Republicans will surely try to draw Comey into making this point more forcefully and expansively."

However, the Dems can go on offense as well. There are questions that Comey already has overstepped his bounds and waded too far into politics.

"Now Democrats and their allies in the legal community are beginning to respond with a new argument: In openly speculating about that possibility, Comey overstepped the boundaries of his office in a way that employed his public position to improperly give Republicans political material to damage Clinton’s presidential candidacy. Instead, they say, he should have confined himself to whether criminal charges were appropriate, and to the facts relevant to that question."

"Abbe Lowell, the veteran defense attorney and Washington insider who represented House Democrats during Bill Clinton’s impeachment, made this argument to me in an interview today."

“His own words seem to reflect that he was engaging in mere speculation,” said Lowell, a supporter of Hillary Clinton. Comey’s statement explicitly says that investigators “did not find direct evidence” that Clinton’s email domain “was successfully hacked,” but that such an outcome was “possible.”

“As somebody who has been in the government and deals with law enforcement every day,” Lowell added, “I am uncomfortable with law enforcement officials going beyond making statements or giving opinions about anything other than what is in their job, which is: Was a crime committed, and if so, was there enough evidence to bring a case? You have somebody with great credibility and stature speculating, and people are now glomming on to that.”

"Observers have noted that Comey’s speculation “leaves the door open for ongoing accusations that Clinton may have allowed sensitive information to fall” into hostile hands, and some Republicans have flatly declared that Clinton “recklessly endangered national security.”

"Lowell, who has represented clients such as a former AIPAC employee charged with passing on classified information to foreign officials and has advocated for whistleblowers charged with leaking government secrets, questioned whether Comey should have provided this political ammunition."

“As a fundamental separation-of-powers issue, I’m terribly uncomfortable with law enforcement officials telling us what they think about somebody’s conduct, which was not couched in terms of whether a law was violated and if there’s enough evidence to bring the case,” Lowell said

"This echoes similar points made by Matthew Miller, the director of public affairs for the Justice Department from 2009 to 2011. “When the department closes an investigation, it typically does so quietly, at most noting that it has investigated the matter fully and decided not to bring charges,” Miller argued. He added that the FBI and Justice are “not the final adjudicators of the appropriateness of conduct for anyone they investigate. Instead, they build cases that they present in court,” and when the government decides not to bring charges, “it has the responsibility to not besmirch someone’s reputation by lobbing accusations publicly instead.”

"Nonetheless, there is little doubt that on Capitol Hill today, Republicans will do all they can to draw Comey into talking extensively about thepossibility that Clinton’s email arrangement was hacked by foreign actors. But Lowell pointed out that in so doing, Republicans would be trying to bait the FBI director to go well beyond what a senior law enforcement official should say about a onetime investigatory target."

If prosecutors say, “today I announce that I’m not bringing a case, but I don’t like the conduct of the person I investigated,” Lowell said, it would set a “terribly, terribly unfair precedent.” Lowell added: “It opens up a very dangerous door to have law enforcement officials go beyond their charge to determine law, evidence, and the value of bringing a case.”

My theory: the GOP will overreach-as they always do. Just as the overreached with Monica Lewinsky and Benghazi, they will overreach here. Arguably they already are.

"Democratic strategist Robert Shrum predicts that Republicans will overreach once again on the emails: “I think it will go about as well as the Republicans did on Whitewater or Benghazi or anything else. I just think it’s fundamentally over.”

"I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility that Clinton, whose trust numbers are dismal, could sustain further damage. But GOP overreach now looks like a very real possibility. If so, the problem here isn’t necessarily just Trump. It’s the broader GOP willingness to play these games to “rally the base.” And it’s possible this will be priced into the broader public reaction to GOP criticism of Clinton over the emails, perhaps helping mitigate what could otherwise be more damaging."

History is more with Shrum here. I've never seen one case the GOP hasn't overplayed its hand.

You don't nominate Donald Trump because you're a healthy party with great judgment.

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