FBI Reopens Investigation Into Hillary Clinton’s Emails As More Come To Light

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Hell hath no fury like a Clinton facing an existential political threat

And so with just eleven days until the presidential election, the week closes with the shock announcement that the FBI is reopening its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private unsecured email server now that new potentially significant emails have come to light through a separate, unrelated investigation into former congressman (and estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin) Anthony Weiner.

Cue the standard reactions you would expect from the major players. Donald Trump took to the stage at his next campaign rally and solemnly (well, with what passes for solemnity when delivered by Trump) told his supporters that there had been a critically important development in the campaign, relaying the news of the FBI’s reopened investigation to tumultuous cheers from the crowd. He went on to claim that the developing story was “bigger than Watergate“.

Meanwhile, the cable news channels, grateful for anything which disrupts the rather predictable “Clinton romping to near-certain victory” narrative which is so bad for ratings, eagerly talked up the “bombshell” development.

The only one we had yet to hear from was Hillary Clinton herself. She had precious little to say on the subject at her next campaign rally in Iowa, but we have now heard that the campaign is understandably furious at the timing of the announcement, and is pressing for immediate answers (and a swift second exoneration) from the FBI.

But what is the likely significance of this flurry of Friday activity? I think that Jonah Goldberg’s initial hot take is right on the money:

I think Comey has to have found something significant to have done this. Re-injecting himself into the presidential campaign eleven days before the election is not something he would do lightly or happily. But I have no idea what that something might be.

I agree. James Comey has a reputation to protect, one which will not be enhanced by making himself the sudden focus of the presidential election campaign this close to polling day if it turns out that there is nothing to the newly discovered email stash. Serious conversations would have gone on before Comey made the final decision to write that letter to congressional committee chairmen informing them of his decision to reopen the investigation, and that alone counts for something.

Goldberg continues:

I’m more confident, however, that if the Clinton campaign was holding back any opposition research in reserve, it is now very likely to get dropped like the payloads from a squadron of B-52 bombers. So far the Clinton camp has been very, very skillful in deploying its oppo. It doesn’t rush things and has been comfortable letting story lines develop. (Yes the Trump team is right that many of these sexual abuse stories are “orchestrated.” But “orchestrated” isn’t a synonym for “untrue”).

What would that oppo look like? I don’t know. But, unless there’s something much worse than the “groping” storyline we already know, the sexual-abuse charges are now baked in with most of the public (and among Republican apologists). Until today, that was probably fine with the Clinton camp because she’s been on course for a big win. If you’re in the clear lead, the incentive to drop more oppo is not there because there’s always the risk of blowback.

But the polls have tightened a little. More troubling for her is the fact that between the Doug Band story and now this, Clinton is likely to be in the spotlight for the next few days or longer. (By the way, how happy is Doug Band to be wiped out of the news cycle?) And the dilemma for Clinton is that whichever candidate is in the spotlight tends to suffer in the polls because the American people don’t like either of them.

And that’s why I think we can expect the Clintonites to do what they do best: change the subject from their wrongdoing to someone else’s, presumably Donald Trump’s. Maybe it won’t happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if by the time the Sunday shows are on, or by Monday morning at the latest, we’ll have at least two “bombshells” to discuss.

Most people I have spoken to seem agreed that Hillary Clinton is holding something back in reserve – an additional Trump scandal (either real or confected) different in tone and nature to the others, which could be deployed as a kind of political doomsday device if Clinton found herself behind in the polls or facing serious political difficulties going into the home stretch. Anyone who knows how the Clintons operate would probably concur that this would be absolutely in character.

The only question, to my mind, is whether Hillary Clinton panics and deploys her doomsday device now, in an attempt to change the narrative and avoid losing a whole weekend’s worth of news cycles, or if she holds her nerve and waits to see any potential wobble in the tracking polls before deciding whether or not to take action.

As Jonah Goldberg rightly points out, there are disadvantages to unleashing an opposition research-generated political doomsday device this close to the end of the election. If the scandal is “good” enough, it could succeed in driving more moderate Trump supporters away or depressing his overall voter turnout. But if it is perceived as being little different to a restatement of Donald Trump’s personal flaws which have already been “priced in” by his supporters then it will make little positive difference, while potentially tarring Clinton with having used underhanded tactics in the home stretch.

There is no margin for error in this decision, so if we do see a big revelation from Hillary Clinton it will be a good sign that her campaign is seriously worried – and perhaps that they do not have full confidence in the many polls which have shown her maintaining a consistent lead over Donald Trump.

So while on face value this has been a rare good news day for the Trump campaign – probably the best since Hillary Clinton’s “medical episode” in New York on 9/11 – rather than rejoicing and taking a premature victory lap, now might actually be the time for the Donald Trump campaign and his supporters to hunker down and prepare for the worst.

Sticking their heads above the parapet to enjoy the spectacle of Hillary Clinton flailing in response to new questions about her improper use of email may be tempting and even cathartic, but it also increases the risk of being taken by surprise in the event of the deployment of Hillary’s Revenge.

If Hillary Clinton has something, anything else on Donald Trump, the temptation now comes hardest upon her to use it. This election campaign has either been blown wide open in Donald Trump’s favour, or is about to be slammed shut in his face.

 

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Where Is The Passion For Or Against Brexit From Our Elected Representatives?

When it comes to voting and speaking their conscience on Brexit, British MPs should do as former American congressman Anthony Weiner said…but perhaps not as he did

When the British parliament gets rowdy, it tends to be the braying backbench donkeys at Prime Minister’s Questions making the noise, usually in response to some tenuously witty put-down from David Cameron.

What you see far less in parliament are individual politicians getting angry or visibly passionate about particular issues (Mhairi Black’s vastly overrated maiden speech notwithstanding). Perhaps this is partly because of our British reserve – though this is a comity which notably does not seem to extend to social media.

The parliamentary debate following the announcement of David Cameron’s pitiful renegotiation deal with the European Union was a case in point, and the following drip-drip of MPs and ministers once considered to be dependable eurosceptics dutifully lining up behind the prime minister was especially depressing.

Even when solid arguments were made for or against Britain’s continued EU membership, much of the debate was conducted in that dry, technocratic and risk-averse style which does so much to turn people away from politics.

Thus the media expended many more column inches writing about whether David Cameron felt “betrayed” by Michael Gove’s decision to support Brexit, and what kind of punishment Boris Johnson might expect for doing the same. In the near complete absence of really passionate and full-throated arguments on either side (except in the thriving Brexit blogosphere), the Westminster media focused on the court drama and palace intrigue rather than the policy.

It needn’t be so. It is possible to show passion and wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve in a political debate, and doing so (provided that it is genuine) can actually foster greater trust between the people and politicians who are actually perceived as standing for something.

Former New York representative Anthony Weiner resigned from Congress in disgrace, but during his time in Washington he built just such a reputation as a firebrand, with floor speeches which frequently went viral and broadened the reach and appeal of politics.

One such speech – in which Rep. Weiner excoriated Republicans for hiding behind procedural rules as cover for voting against providing healthcare to 9/11 first responders – is particularly applicable to the Brexit debate as it is now being conducted in Westminster:

You vote yes if you believe yes. You vote in favour of something if you believe it’s the right thing. If you believe it’s the wrong thing, you vote no.

You would think that this would be stating the obvious, but apparently not, judging by the number of committed europhile MPs who are quick to reel off all the things they hate about the EU rather than make a full-throated defence of Brussels, and the eurosceptic turncoats who have suddenly come up with implausible-sounding pressing reasons why now is not the right time for Brexit.

Am I the only one who would like to see a bit more genuine passion (as opposed to the creepy “passion” of Ed Miliband, or David Cameron pretending to be “bloody lively”) in our politics, rather than the same old consensual blandness?

Of course, for fiery debates like this to take place in the House of Commons, certain stultifying rules would need to be relaxed (though PMQs and the reaction to SNP MPs clapping shows just how arbitrary the enforcement of these rules already is).

But more than that, to have Anthony Weiner style passion in our politics, and the Brexit debate in particular, we would need more of our elected representatives to do the following:

1. Dare to make the honest, non-technocratic or fearmongering case for or against Brexit (with the europhiles ceasing to deny their desire and preference for European political union), and

2. Place their sincerely held beliefs over and above thoughts of career advancement.

But partly because the legislature and the executive are intertwined in the British political system, career-minded MPs are not currently incentivised to build a reputation as passionate and independent-minded firebrand legislators, as to do so would immediately mark them out as “troublemakers” to be passed over for promotion.

There is, at present, no attractive or lucrative career path in Westminster politics that does not lead inexorably away from legislating and toward joining the government, and the warping effect that this has on our lawmaking process cannot be overstated.

Yet another reason for comprehensive constitutional reform in Britain, to separate the executive from the legislature so that both are better able to do their jobs.

 

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The Tragedy Of Anthony Weiner

I have refrained from commenting on the slow-motion car crash that has been Anthony Weiner’s campaign to be the next mayor of New York City, partly because it has been hard to keep up with each new lurid detail or revelation that has emerged with every passing day, but also because the story is just very profoundly sad. Here is a very gifted politician, someone who clearly and viscerally cares about New Yorkers, undone by bizarre and foolish decisions made in his personal life.

Rachel Maddow did a good, and fairly humorous, breakdown of the story on one of her recent shows:

 

It is hard to disagree with her analysis. But with the latest polling data showing Weiner slipping into fourth place, it is also disappointing, because of the various Democratic mayoral candidates, he is the only one who possesses anything approaching real charisma or political astuteness. Were it not for his personal demons and indiscretions, he would likely make a very decent mayor, and a great ambassador for the city.

But since this is now almost certainly not going to transpire, rather than laughing at the man any further, it might be good to look back at some of the political waves that he made, and the highlights from his congressional career:

 

The man is a good politician, you have to hand it to him. As regular readers will know, I am scrupulously Semi-Partisan. But nonetheless I must admit it is quite cathartic to watch a Democrat who can deliver a line and give as good as so many Republicans are able to do. Lord knows the Democratic Party needs more public figures like Anthony Weiner. Just with less sexting on the side.