Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Latest Hillary Email Sensation: FBI Director Comey's Letters

The latest turn of events in the 2016 Presidential election campaign is FBI Director James Comey's letter to certain Congressmen on Friday that the FBI had come upon what appears to be a trove of emails seemingly pertinent to its investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while Secretary of State while the Bureau was conducting an investigation in an unrelated matter and would be proceeding to evaluate and review those emails. That matter involves allegations that former Congressman Anthony Weiner sexted with an underaged female. The FBI was reviewing a Weiner laptop when it apparently came upon the emails that are linked to an account in his wife's name. She is Huma Abedin, a longterm aide to Hillary Clinton.

Hillary had held a significant 4 to 5% lead or greater over Donald Trump until release of that letter which has resulted in a firestorm. It has reopened the email scandal, a major vulnerability of Clinton's, at the worst possible time - 11 days prior to the election. Comey's statement, added to in a letter he wrote to FBI agents published by the Washington Post, indicated that it wasn't clear whether these emails had any significance on the issue of mishandling confidential information, the focus of the FBI investigation that, last July, had resulted in a finding that there wasn't a sufficient basis to prosecute Clinton, accompanied by Comey's remarks that she had nonetheless acted extremely carelessly. But despite Comey's qualifications, the upshot of his letters has been to roil the electoral campaign and put Hillary on the defensive. She has demanded that Comey issue more information to clarify exactly what these emails are in an effort to limit the damage to her standing. She and her staff maintain that their release will not change the FBI's previous conclusion that there was no basis to proceed with a criminal indictment. But Trump has jumped on this latest development to reiterate his claim that Hillary has committed criminal acts and should be precluded from running for the presidency let alone defeated in the election. Hillary has clearly lost the momentum.

One of the more disturbing aspects of this latest Clinton email "scandal" is Huma Abedin's statement, according to several news sources, that she has no idea how her emails ended up on the laptop at issue that apparently belonged to her husband.

We're told that the laptop contains thousands of Abedin emails that relate to her work for Hillary Clinton but Abedin doesn't know how they got there? That's almost unbelievable.

And then there's all the convoluted news reporting. Despite indications that the FBI has yet to review the substance of Abedin's emails because it has yet to obtain a search warrant or issue a subpoena, various news organizations have published information about the emails attributed to government officials. The Los Angeles Times has reported that none of the emails was sent or received by Clinton. Newsweek reports that Abedin had a practice of forwarding emails that she had received to herself to more easily print them. But what does all that mean? Does it mean emails that had been sent to Hillary or even sent by Hillary that were received at some point in the email thread by Abedin were then forwarded by Abedin to herself at a different email address? If so, then emails sent or received by Hillary would have been included in the email threads, simply not the last or most recent email transmissions in those threads.

This is a mess and despite demands by Hillary to Comey to release greater details, it isn't clear what will be released, if anything, and when. Instead, this story will continue to churn and likely diminish Clinton's poll numbers and actual support. Trump was already closing the gap as Republicans began increasingly to return to the fold but this may cost Hillary the election.

To be sure, we haven't seen polling taken since Comey's letter to Congress and some contend that Hillary's poll numbers will not be significantly affected. Then, too, early voting has already begun and many have voted. Some have even argued that Hillary's poll numbers may increase out of sympathy by some for Comey's action or via mobilization of her base now that it is concerned she may lose. I am more skeptical and concerned. All the negative attention Trump was getting over accusations of sexual harassment and assault has been muted by this latest story, and that is not good.

The World Series may end quickly and Halloween will come and go this Monday. That will leave the final week with a clear focus on the election and the story of Hillary and her emails and new claims that she or a key associate may have mishandled classified information may well hold center stage. 

As a Hillary supporter, I find the present situation not good. Not good at all. Hillary is clearly on the defensive and I wouldn't be surprised to see Trump take a lead in the polls during the next few days. Whether Hillary can reverse the movement, whether by releasing further damaging information about Trump and putting the spotlight back on him, or otherwise blunting the impact of the news story about Abedin's emails, remains to be seen.

This had already been a bad week for Hillary. It began with news from the Administration that Obamacare premiums would be going up quite dramatically. And the daily release by Wikileaks of emails apparently stolen from the email account of John Podesta, Hillary's campaign manager, by Russian hackers, continued to provide negative press coverage, the latest relating to the management of the Clinton Foundation and enticement of wealthy sources to contribute to the Foundation as well as to Bill Clinton's personal wealth. Comey's bombshell at the end of this past week put things over the top for the Hillary campaign. Supporters such as I are dispirited and that is not good.