So now we have our answer: There won’t be any charges against Hillary Clinton or anyone else in the ’email server scandal’ which has played such a huge role to date in the 2016 election. It is important to understand what James Comey said. The relevant statutes are broad enough that lots of people could conceivably be charged under them. And there are occasional cases where prosecutors do use that expansive nature to charge people they really have no business charging. But, as Comey said, “no reasonable prosecutor would bring” charges in this case.
What is most notable about this news from a political and news perspective is that this outcome was entirely predictable, indeed almost inevitable, based on the facts that were publicly known about the case.
Let me say that again. There was always the chance that there were dramatically different or new facts the FBI had that had never been made public or intimated in any way. Possible but extremely unlikely. Given what we knew, criminal charges weren’t even in the realm of reasonable consideration. You could find this out with just a little bit of reporting, speaking to former federal prosecutors, legal experts, really anyone knowledgable about the relevant law and past practice.
To use just one oft-cited example: what happened here was not remotely comparable to what got David Petraeus charged with a crime under any theory of either case. Complete nonsense.
Of course, you could also find people who would say it’s possible there could be charges against Clinton or people working for her. But again, these are expansive laws. Virtually anything is ‘possible’.
There are certainly many Republicans who knew this all along but whipped the story up for political benefit. That’s politics. They’ll now keep the drum banging about a cover up or a compromised investigation. Again, that’s politics. But tens of millions of ordinary Republican voters were actually convinced not only that Clinton should be charged with something (that is a subjective judgment) but that it was likely or even certain to happen. You can say just the same for hundreds of thousands or millions of Sanders dead-enders who’ve been having yahoos writing in certain publications that will remain unmentioned that Clinton was absolutely, totally, no-question-about-it about to be indicted at any moment.
Of course, this has also been a source of middling or intense anxiety for many Hillary supporters – the wildcard of a catastrophic political bombshell upending campaign work, hopes and so much more. I cannot count the number of fair weather or diehard Clinton supporters who asked me over the last year, “How can you be so certain there aren’t going to be charges?” or “What do you know that everyone else doesn’t?” Again, I only knew what was clear if you talked to people with relevant knowledge as opposed to TV pundits or reporters who need both dazzling headlines and the need for faux balance.
All this now creates profound questions, which are basically ridiculous questions. How could this have happened? How could she not have been charged?
There are some people – including a DOJ spokesman under Holder – criticizing Comey for holding this press conference at all. But I don’t think I agree with that. Something that has caused such public clamor and controversy was worth addressing publicly and in some detail. As for Comey calling Clinton and her associates “extremely careless,” I think that’s justified. The nonsense about this being an epic crime has mainly overwhelmed the simple facts of what happened which show Clinton in a very poor light. Not a disqualifying light. But just really bad judgment on a few fronts.
All this said, this was 99.9% predictable and 100% obvious. It’s a mammoth press failure that for various reasons this reality was concealed from the public.