Clinton Email Nonsense: If “No Charges Are Appropriate In This Case,” Why Did Comey Blast Clinton Anyway?

FBI Director James Comey didn’t quite give Republicans what they wanted. But he went out of his way to give them the next best thing.

Let’s start with a simple admission. Yes, Hillary Clinton brought much of this on herself. Her almost fanatical insistence on her privacy, and her justified suspicions that right-wingers out there would do her harm by obtaining personal information through FOIA requests, led her, just before she went to work for the government as Secretary of State, to establish her own email server, which, she even admits, turned out to be a colossal mistake.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s move on to just why the FBI was involved in this nonsense in the first place, according to Director Comey:

The investigation began as a referral from the Intelligence Community Inspector General in connection with Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail server during her time as Secretary of State. The referral focused on whether classified information was transmitted on that personal system.

Our investigation looked at whether there is evidence classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on that personal system, in violation of a federal statute making it a felony to mishandle classified information either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way, or a second statute making it a misdemeanor to knowingly remove classified information from appropriate systems or storage facilities.

Notice that the FBI’s job in this case was to see whether or not what Hillary Clinton did, related to her use of a private email server, actually violated a federal law. It was really that simple: did she or didn’t she break the law? Comey and his agency found that she did not. Okay, what he said was,

Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case…As a result, although the Department of Justice makes final decisions on matters like this, we are expressing to Justice our view that no charges are appropriate in this case.

Why wouldn’t a “reasonable prosecutor” bring the case? Because, as many lawyers have been saying all along, the case would fail. Remember that there had to be malicious intent or gross negligence. After months and months of looking, Comey couldn’t find either, but that didn’t stop the Bush-era Republican from publicly scolding Mrs. Clinton:

Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.

“Extremely careless”? Extremely? The word “careless” needed that particular modifier? Careless wasn’t good enough by itself? Somewhat careless wasn’t tough enough? That kind of Fox -like criticism hurled at Mrs. Clinton—and that’s really whom this whole thing was about; let’s don’t kid ourselves—is criticism that an FBI Director, who has worked for a Republican administration, ought not to have made in an election year, when the person he labeled “extremely careless” will be the Democratic Party nominee. It might have helped shed light on this controversy if Comey had bothered to mention just how screwed up our system for classifying information is, but he limited his criticisms to Mrs. Clinton, including this unnecessary critique:

While not the focus of our investigation, we also developed evidence that the security culture of the State Department in general, and with respect to use of unclassified e-mail systems in particular, was generally lacking in the kind of care for classified information found elsewhere in the government.

Now, if it was “not the focus” of the FBI’s investigation, one has to wonder why Comey found it necessary to essentially badmouth Clinton’s management of the State Department, james comey.jpgat least in terms of how the agency handled classified information. Comey’s unsolicited criticism seemed full of purpose, whatever his purpose was. It obviously helps Donald Trump’s campaign, even if Trump isn’t smart enough to figure that out by himself.

On MSNBC, just after Comey’s announcement, Andrea Mitchell had on as her first Republican guest none other than Ben Carson. Huh? Ben Carson? Really? Was Sarah Palin busy? Needless to say, Carson was—when he was awake—fairly incoherent, but he did manage to say that Clinton’s “judgment” is the real issue, not the legalities. Ahhh, yes. Her judgment. That happens to be a Bernie Sanders special, which Trump has borrowed and devilishly embellished for the remainder of this campaign. The she-has-poor-judgment critique is bolstered considerably by Comey’s out-of-bounds commentary today.

Speaker Paul Ryan, reacting with Trump-like hysteria, said in response to Comey:

Declining to prosecute Secretary Clinton for recklessly mishandling and transmitting national security information will set a terrible precedent. The findings of this investigation also make clear that Secretary Clinton misled the American people when she was confronted with her criminal actions. While we need more information about how the Bureau came to this recommendation, the American people will reject this troubling pattern of dishonesty and poor judgment.

It remains to be seen what the American people will reject since we haven’t had an election yet. But what we can see is that for Hillary Clinton, even when she manages to clear one hurdle, another one is quickly put in front of her. Far from being “above the law,” as Paul Ryan and others have suggested today and in the past, she is in some ways below it. Even when the FBI director basically cleared her of legal liability, the Speaker of the House talked openly about “her criminal actions.” And the FBI director himself offered up, for whatever reason, a double-dose of criticism that happens to harmonize with “crooked Hillary” Tweets from the GOP nominee, a man who is demonstrably and dangerously dishonest, not to mention a walking, tweeting example of poor judgment.

Did James Comey say the things he said today in order to help Trump? I doubt it. He more than likely was trying to deflect criticism away from him and his agency by going as far as he could, rhetorically, to damage Hillary Clinton, even as he said—I repeat—“no charges are appropriate in this case.” And damage her he did. Fortunately, though, we can count on Republicans to overplay their hands, just like they have with Benghazi and other “scandals” of the past. In the meantime, for her it’s on to North Carolina with President Obama, both of them hopefully campaigning about things that matter, like what would a world with a nuclear-armed President Trump look like.

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Conservative Talker: “I Dont Even Know How To Talk About This”

Sean at FiredUp!Missouri posted a couple of clips from Friday’s broadcast of Mornings with Nick Reed on KSGF Newstalk in Springfield. Nick Reed is a conservative talk show host. Get that?  Nick Reed is a wild-eyed conservative, not a wild-eyed leftist who hates Billy Long.

Reed was discussing the Billy Long Gets Even fiasco, involving the FBI and a blogger-critic of Ozark Billy.  Here is what the conservative Reed said while discussing, “Billy Long sending federal investigators to question political opponents“:

This is what an elected, conservative, so-called Republican member of Congress is doing to Americans.  Which, by the way, we don’t know how many people are on the list, it is a secret list, and the other names have not been revealed.  And as of now it sounds as if they will not be revealed unless, of course, the individuals come forth themselves.  That is, if they’re not too frightened to. A police state at hand…

Of all the places in the country—southwest Missouri?  And somebody who says they are a conservative Republican? My God!

Later Reed says,

I don’t even know how to talk about this.  I would be frightened and outraged if this were somebody from the left but I wouldn’t be all that surprised. But this is middle America. We’re in the heartland. We’ve got a guy we just elected who is supposed to be a conservative Republican doing stuff that if Obama did we’d be screaming through the rooftops.

There’s no doubt about that.  Mr. Reed would be leading the screamers, I’m sure.  But let’s give the right its due in this case.  Some of them are making much of what Ozark Billy has apparently done to not only Tea Party Republican and Long critic Clay Bowler, but anyone who writes critically of the congressman.  I have to wonder, though, if Clay Bowler were a left-wing critic of Long, would the right-wing be so upset?

Mr. Reed noted on Friday that Billy Long is “not talking.”  Long’s office did later release a statement in which it said it couldn’t comment on the Bowler case at the request of the Capitol Police. Why not? What could be the reason for silence?

Speaking of silence, my paper, the Joplin Globe, has not printed a word about the controversy, nor can I find anything on the paper’s website.  Why not?

This story broke on Thursday and has been picked up nationally by media outlets on the left and right.  I ask: Where is the Joplin Globe?

Here are the Nick Reed audio clips posted by FiredUp!Missouri:

Glenn Beck: Billy Long Must Be A Democrat

Not only did the stars of right-wing media, Drudge and Sean Hannity and Alex Jones, get wind of and make wind of the Clay Bowler-Billy Long-FBI issue, but perhaps the biggest (I mean, nuttiest) star of all did too: Glenn Beck.

On Friday’s radio show, Beck led with this:

Clay Bowler has become active in politics. Starting last year, he didn’t support Billy Long, the Democrat running for Congress in his Missouri district, so he started a website, he began attending campaign events.  He even started asking the candidate tough questions.  But when Long eventually won, Bowler and his website, Long is Wrong, went away.  So, when the FBI showed up at his door recently, saying he was perceived to be making threats to the congressman, he was shocked.

Get that?  Long is a Democrat!  A bleeping Democrat!  No wonder he trampled the Constitution!

Now, anyone can get a name or a party affiliation wrong, but it’s not surprising that Beck assumed Long was a Democrat because Long, along with Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott, were apparently worried about a Tea Party conservative blogger.  What else could Long be?  If you’re not from southwest Missouri and you’ve never heard of Ozark Billy, you just assume he’s a Democrat because Democrats routinely ignore the Constitution to do things like sic the FBI on right-wing bloggers. Right?

Even Clay Bowler found it necessary to correct Mr. Beck:

Glenn Beck led off yesterday’s show condemning Congressman Billy Long for abusing his powers and launching an FBI witch hunt of a blogger who simply disagreed with him. Beck told his large radio audience, “American citizens are being investigated for simply asking their congressmen questions.” If you listen to the audio, Beck assumes because of Long’s actions that he is a Democrat. No, Long, who has been telling the Washington DC Press Corp, he was Tea Party before Tea Party was cool, abused his federal powers to come down on a Tea Partier who criticized him and is a Republican.

Whew! I’m glad we got that cleared up. 

Here is the Glenn Beck audio, courtesy of Mr. Bowler:

UPDATED: FBI Visits Local Blogger…Why?

I have written about Clay Bowler a few times on this blog, especially about his charge that our new representative, Billy Long, attempted to bribe Bowler at a restaurant here in Joplin during the Republican primary campaign.  In fact, last April at the Joplin Tea Party rally, I asked long about the charge, which you can see here.

During the primary last year and during the general election, Mr. Bowler—a Tea Party Republican and blogger—was highly critical of Billy Long.  Bowler wrote many, many articles that appeared on his temporary blog, Long is Wrong (which I linked to while it was still active), and on his permanent blog, Bungalow Bill’s Conservative Wisdom.

Clay Bowler and I probably don’t agree on one single thing, but we did agree on our dislike for Billy Long’s politics, albeit for different reasons.

Now it is reported that the FBI paid a visit to Mr. Bowler this week. Yes, that FBI. And apparently Mr. Bowler recorded the interview in which, according to KY3, Green County Sheriff Jim Arnott  says,

Billy Long’s staffers gave authorities Bowler’s name.

KY3 attempted to contact Congressman Long about the incident but to no avail.  Which raises an initial question: Why is it that a local television station from the largest city in the 7th District can’t get in touch with our elected representative or his staff?

But a larger question is this: Why would the FBI visit a blogger who hasn’t made any threats to Mr. Long?  Other than attend some Long campaign events—attempting to ask Long some difficult questions—and write critically about the congressman, Mr. Bowler has given no one any reason to suspect he might mean harm to Mr. Long or anyone for that matter.

Does this mean that any blogger—including The Erstwhile Conservative—who writes critically of Long is subject to a visit from the FBI?  Is that what it has come to?

Is this an attempt by Long and his staff to silence one of his biggest detractors?  Is it an attempt to silence any of us who write critically of Long? 

Mr. Long needs to explain why he or his staff contacted the FBI about Clay Bowler and if we can expect Long to ask the FBI to visit more bloggers who believe Long is Wrong for our district.

Here is the report from KY3:

Vodpod videos no longer available.  

UPDATE:  This morning, KSPR.com reported the following:

Bowler is apparently not the only person Long perceives threatening; Sheriff Arnott says he and the FBI are looking into others but wouldn’t release their identities.

Uh-oh.

From KSPR.com:

Bowler isn’t the only local person under federal investigation. Arnott confirmed to KSPR News that Bowler isn’t the only local person who’s been scrutinized in the wake oflast weekend’s shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Gifford (D-AZ) during a meet-and-greet with constituents in Tucson, Ariz.

Anyone know a good lawyer who will work for beer money?

And Salon.com picked up the story today and commented:

Clearly, if a threat is made against a member of Congress, the authorities are obliged to follow up. But if the line separating sustained political criticism from threats has not been crossed, willy-nilly visits by the FBI could have a real chilling effect on the democratic process. 

Yesterday, the Christian County Headliner News reported the following:

Local blogger Clay Bowler said newly-elected 7th District Rep. Billy Long has tried to silence him before. And, after the FBI paid him a visit at his Ozark home Jan. 12, he thinks he’s trying to do it again.

“It’s political payback,” Bowler said after visiting Christian County Sheriff Joey Kyle Jan. 13 apprising him of the FBI investigation.

The site reported that Michael Wardell, who competed against Long in the Republican primary, accompanied Bowler to the Sheriff’s Department for the FBI interview and the site quotes Wardell:

“Clay is a friend,” he said. “This almost smacks of an overreach of power.”

The website also quoted Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott, who identifies himself as a conservative Republican:

“This could be a knee-jerk reaction to the Tucson situation,” he said. “If you satisfy them you’re not a threat—they won’t be back.”

Well, it’s certainly true that if you satisfy the FBI they likely won’t come back, but why should a writer exercising his First Amendment rights—and in so doing not making any threats to Mr. Long—have to “satisfy” any law enforcement officials in the first place?

A disturbing radio interview of Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott done by KSGF has Arnott insinuating that “there is more to the story” and challenges Bowler to release the entire videotaped interview done by the FBI. Huh?  Either there is evidence against Bowler or there is not. If there is, then why the apparent clearance?  If there is not, then why suggest to the public that we don’t know the whole story? 

This is stuff which both sides of the political spectrum can agree is troubling and deserves some further, official explanation.  As of yet, no word from Billy Long.

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