Your enemies never hurt you the way your friends do. There couldn’t be a better example of this adage than the position Hillary Clinton finds herself in today. She is in a public war with FBI Director James B. Comey, compliments of her own friends.
The blame for Clinton’s current precarious situation starts with Clinton herself: her paranoid instincts, her matter-of-fact self-dealing and her complete disregard for rules and obligations. Blame can also be squarely laid at the feet of President Obama. While the liberals are all spun up about Comey talking about an investigation, he is not the one who started the discussion. Incredibly and needlessly, Obama declared Clinton innocent — more than once — long before the FBI’s investigation was complete. This gratuitous intervention by the president obligated Comey to personally quash the notion he was following the president’s lead. He had to protect the integrity of the FBI. And finally, it is appropriate to single out former president Bill Clinton and Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch. They had their “chance” very cozy private meeting on board a parked government airplane during the height of the FBI investigation. Not long after, Clinton campaign sources leaked that Hillary Clinton would consider keeping Lynch as attorney general in her administration. Since then, the attorney general has done nothing to dispel the idea that she would love to stick around during a Clinton presidency.
So Comey is boxed in; he is surrounded by Clinton partisans. Does he get on board or act independently in defiance of his creators? He is faced with a president who doesn’t seem to care about the facts and whose mind is made up and an attorney general who is compromised at best and completely in the tank for Clinton at worst. What’s Comey supposed to do?
Meanwhile, there are steady rumors floating around that the FBI doesn’t trust the Justice Department. The FBI views itself as a crimefighter, and many rank-and-file agents think of their political bosses at DOJ as social tinkerers who are obsessed with the Black Lives Matter movement, transgender bathroom breaks and the like; that they really don’t “get” law enforcement. Given all this, there was no way Comey could have let the original investigation end with a benign written statement saying there were no grounds for an indictment or prosecution. One former agent told me that Comey was facing somewhat of an insurrection if he let the investigation be swept under the rug. So he had to publicly explain the bureau’s work and defend the independence and credibility of America’s premier law enforcement organization.
Now that new information has come to light, Comey is compelled to speak in public to explain this development. There is likely no way he could trust that the Obama Justice Department would properly pursue the new lead if news of it weren’t forced into the public. Does anyone think the Obama Justice Department would have been diligent in pursuing this lead if it had stayed under wraps?
So, the question is whether or not this new revelation finishes Clinton. The answer is “it depends” — but it sure doesn’t help. And as proof that the gods may be angry with Clinton, it turns out the emails were found not on a computer belonging to some anonymous bureaucrat but on a device the infamous Anthony Weiner shared with his now-estranged wife, longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin. More Clinton emails: useless. More Clinton emails tied to Weiner: priceless. It actually couldn’t get any worse for the Clinton campaign.
Anyway, I’ve always said that if the election is about Donald Trump, he will lose, and if the election is about Hillary Clinton, she will lose. Well, the election is now about Clinton in a big way — unless Trump can’t stand not being at the center of attention and somehow interrupts Clinton’s sinking campaign. With his track record in this campaign cycle, his inability to stay out of the spotlight makes it probable.
All that said, a lot of Republicans are asking me if this means more Republicans and Republican leaders will vote for Trump. The answer is yes. This is just a bridge too far for many center-right American voters. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence’s message that Republican voters need to “come home” is resonating. The latest Clinton scandal has given the nudge to Republican-leaners and independents, who needed some proof that their instincts were correct and that nothing could be worse than Clinton. If Trump doesn’t blow it in the next eight days, a lot of new voters may coalesce around him, and that could make the difference on Nov. 8. As a friend of mine and a longtime pillar of the Tampa legal community (and someone who has voted for both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates) said to me after the news broke Friday: “I am voting for Trump primarily because I think Hillary is likely to cause more damage than he. Secondarily, I am voting for him because I don’t want to see her rewarded for years of corruption and self-dealing.”
This race just got a lot closer, and the uncertainty that has gripped campaign 2016 in the past 48 hours doesn’t lend itself to a quick conclusion. It is somewhere between pathetic and funny listening to Clinton and her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), try to hide behind proper procedures and protocols for Justice Department announcements, but right now, that’s all they’ve got. Team Clinton will have no choice but to attack Comey, declare that this was just a brief misunderstanding, say it’s all over and there’s nothing to see and that anyone who dwells on it is a racist, bigot or whatever. The Clinton camp may have to pretend to jettison Abedin, but what they are really hoping is that Trump will overreach and save them, just like he has been doing since July.