Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Don't Forget About Hillary's Emails

Holman Jenkins at the WSJ offers an instructive reminder today--behind the usual subscription wall: What Barr Should Declassify--Release the secret inspector-general report on the Hillary Clinton email case.

Jenkins begins by noting that, with Bill Barr having been given extensive declassification authority, most of the calls for declass are focused on the FBI's anti-Trump activity. However, in Jenkins' view it is at least equally important to declass the remaining classified documents from OIG's investigation of the FBI's dubious intervention in the Hillary Email investigation.

Here's Jenkins setting out what is at issue--just suspend belief regarding his statement that Comey did it all on his sole initiative:

Remind yourself what happened: James Comey, on his sole initiative, held a press conference to announce that, though Mrs. Clinton had behaved improperly, she did not merit prosecution. Except it wasn’t his decision to make: It was the Justice Department’s.

In other words, Comey--the head of the FBI, a purely investigative agency with no authority to make prosecutorial decisions--was ... making a prosecutorial decision. And prosecutorial decisions are the sole province of the DoJ. Of course, no complaints came from DoJ, so one assumes--I certainly do--that Comey's performance was undertaken with the full approval and, probably, the active encouragement of then AG Loretta Lynch.

But then comes the crux, for declass purposes:

We know that Mr. Comey secretly explained his action by invoking still-classified Russian intelligence. In his memoir, he refers to a development “unknown to the American public to this day.” In fact, we know from news leaks that a Russian intercept of some kind cited a Democratic Party email that referred to an alleged conversation in which Attorney General Loretta Lynch promised to bury the Hillary Clinton investigation.

As Jenkins observes, at a minimum this tells us that DoJ's handling of the Hillary Email case involved serious political corruption. And yet, says Jenkins, Comey didn't investigate that.

[Comey] used his possession of the classified intercept as his classified justification for intervening to free Mrs. Clinton from the email matter in time for the Democratic Convention. 
The questions about this episode are many. Mr. Barr could start by releasing the classified appendix of the Justice Department’s own inspector general’s review (whose existence the media uniformly ignores). Even this would probably not tell us the back story of the Russian intercept, which likely came to the FBI from the CIA. In what sense was it authentic “intelligence”? Was it a Russian plant? What advice did Obama intelligence chiefs John Brennan and James Clapper give Mr. Comey about its provenance and significance? Most dubiously of all, how did it actually justify Mr. Comey’s intervention?

If you're asking yourself, Why, in light of everything we've learned about the FBI/CIA shenanigans (to put it mildly) during the 2016 election, should we believe Comey's story in the first place? well, Jenkins got there ahead of you:

Let me be plain: It seems possible the CIA and FBI concocted, based on questionable (at best) Russian “intelligence,” a pretext to do what they wanted to do anyway and finesse the Hillary email problem. The gallumphingly anomalous factor should only deepen your suspicion. Mr. Comey reopened the Hillary case shortly before Election Day, a step he says he took believing Mrs. Clinton would still win. Why do this except to dilute a post hoc impression that your original intervention had been designed to help Mrs. Clinton and keep Donald Trump out of the White House? 

And so Jenkins concludes with a renewed call for Barr to do a full declass:

Here’s betting the pieces of the 2016 story won’t fall into place until the FBI and CIA intervention in the Hillary email case is recognized as one of those pieces. Will Mr. Barr pursue these matters as energetically as he has intelligence-agency actions directed at the Trump campaign? He hasn’t said. Mr. Trump may be unenthusiastic about an inquiry that would incidentally highlight Mr. Comey’s bumbling contribution to his victory. And yet the full story might support his claim that his victory was partly a triumph over a hostile, incompetent and corrupt establishment. The way to start clearing the air is by releasing the classified portion of the inspector general’s report on Mr. Comey’s actions in the Hillary Clinton email case.

I will add a reminder: All this happened under the Sessions/Rosenstein/Wray leadership at DoJ/FBI. It's one among several areas of stonewalling and, IMO, outright abuse of discretion that Barr is surely pondering reopening. The whole Special Counsel inquisition, with its FBI antecedents, also falls into that category. Interesting times.


  1. Replies
    1. Wow, my daughter, who is a rising junior in high school, has wanted to be a doctor for more than ten years. She has worked very hard in school, and she will have no trouble getting into medical school when the time comes.

      This piece scares the crap out of me for her; for all of the young folks in her position. Thanks.

    2. Dreher is sometimes alarmist, but not on this. This has been the agenda for a long time and it's now out in the open.

  2. "As Jenkins observes, at a minimum this tells us that DoJ's handling of the Hillary Email case involved serious political corruption. And yet, says Jenkins, Comey didn't investigate that."

    But Andy McCabe had no compunction in launching investigations of Jeff Sessions and DJT.

  3. It's been clear since...oh, forever...that Hillary's free pass was a rank political act. It had to be by Comey, since Lynch had met only days before with Bill Clinton to talk about grandkids. Every imaginable corruption of the investigative process was employed to Hillary's benefit, and then Comey's "no reasonable prosecutor" topped it off. Somewhat unrelated, but two things remain unclear to me: (1) Comey's role in preventing Assange's appearance before Congress; and (2) Hillary's role in 2009 in stopping the FBI-Deripaska effort to free Levinson (not to mention what lay behind her sending Mueller to Moscow to hand over, in yet another tarmac meeting, a uranium sample). There is so much to uncover.

    1. Back in 2017 the NYT asked former AGs about this. Barr was the only one to comment on record. He said at that time that the case was had more merit than the Russia Hoax. Not a quote, but he said it very matter of factly, no nuancing. He's AG now, so it's in his hands. Declass would be a nice start.

    2. I find it interesting that Comey's 'no reasonable prosecutor' remark so closely resembles Mueller's sitting President can't be prosecuted' excuse for inaction/lack of committment. Their play book is incredibly shallow.

    3. Yes, from their remarks you might think that it's all a discretionary kinda thing.