Friday, November 04, 2016

The Real Scandal: FBI Cover Ups and Connections to the Trump Campaign

At numerous times I have vented my frustration with much of the mainstream media and the utter irresponsibility that motivates far too many wrongly named "journalists."  Many are little better than gossips who care more about quick sensation and anything other than serious policy issues.  This complaint extends to both the TV media where most anchors are selected based on looks rather than any requirement of  intelligence - much same way as Donald Trump picks women to marry - and to much of the print and digital media.  This year's height of irresponsible reporting has swirled around Hillary Clinton's e-mail server even as Donald Trump's possible connections to a hostile foreign dictator gets only brief, passing mention.  Now, through Rudy Giuliani's loose lips, we learn that some in the FBI have been passing information to the Trump campaign.  A piece in Vox looks at the irresponsible reporting while a piece in Huffington Post looks at FBI dalliances with Donald Trump.  Here are highlights, first from Vox:
In total, network newscasts have, remarkably, dedicated more airtime to coverage of Clinton’s emails than to all policy issues combined.
This is unfortunate because emailgate, like so many Clinton pseudo-scandals before it, is bullshit. The real scandal here is the way a story that was at best of modest significance came to dominate the US presidential election — overwhelming stories of much more importance, giving the American people a completely skewed impression of one of the two nominees, and creating space for the FBI to intervene in the election in favor of its apparently preferred candidate in a dangerous way.
When Hillary Clinton took office as secretary of state, she, like most people, already had a personal email account. Like most people who started a federal job in 2009, she was also disheartened to learn that the then-current state of federal IT departments was such that she could not connect her personal smartphone to a State Department email address. If she wanted ready access to both her email accounts, she would need to carry two smartphones.
Everyone working in government felt that this was kinda bullshit, but nobody could really do anything about it.
Clinton decided to do something about it. Namely, she told her top aides to just email her at her personal address so she could keep using whichever devices she wanted. This violated an internal State Department policy directive, known as a Foreign Affairs Manual, which stated that while it was okay to use personal digital devices to do work occasionally, “normal day-to-day operations” should be conducted on standard State Department equipment. Clinton chose to ignore this guideline and because she was the boss nobody could stop her. Career foreign service officers and other State personnel have every right to be peeved that Clinton opted out of an annoying policy rather than fixing the underlying issue, but it’s hardly a matter of overwhelming public concern.
And, indeed, it turns out Colin Powell also used a private email address for routine work.
Using a private server violates that rule, but so would using a Gmail address or simply checking your email address from your personal laptop rather than a Department-issue one.
There are two possible interpretations here. One is that Clinton hatched the private email account plan as an elaborate dodge of federal record-keeping laws, but then months before the public became aware of the server’s existence complied with requests to turn them over. The other is that the federal records rule on the book was antiquated and a bit absurd, requiring officials to turn over paper copies of emails for no good reason, and simply got ignored out of sloppiness.
After Hillary left office, the State Department told her she had to turn all her work-related emails over to them, so she tasked a legal team with determining which emails were work emails and which were not. She turned the work emails over because that’s what she was legally required to do. She deleted the others, presumably because she did not want Trey Gowdy and Jason Chaffetz to rummage through her inbox leaking whatever they happened to find amusing to area journalists.
Now, is it possible that Clinton’s legal team simply decided to entirely disregard the law and delete work-related emails?
In some sense, sure. But there’s no evidence that this happened. Generally speaking, in life we assume it would be moderately difficult to hire a well-known law firm to destroy evidence for you without someone deciding to do the right thing and squeal.
It’s precisely because nothing about the basic setup of the email account was in any way wrong that the investigation ended up focusing on the question of mishandling classified information.
Almost all of the relevant statutes require an intent to mishandle classified information in order to bring a prosecution, a standard that Clinton’s conduct clearly does not meet. Critics have thus chosen to focus on 18 USC § 793, a statute that sets a lower “gross negligence” standard.
However, as Jack Goldsmith, one of the top lawyers in George W. Bush’s administration explains, such a prosecution “would be entirely novel, and would turn in part on very tricky questions about how email exchanges fit into language written with physical removal of classified information in mind.”
This legal analysis is important because it makes it clear that even if the Weiner laptop emails aren’t simply client-side copies of the exact emails the FBI already has, there is essentially no chance it will change the ultimate verdict. The reason Clinton isn’t getting locked up is that there was no malign intent. Finding another email with classified information on it won’t change that conclusion.
Network newscasts have, remarkably, dedicated more airtime to coverage of Clinton’s emails than to all policy issues combined.  Cable news has been, if anything, worse, and many prestige outlets have joined the pileup. One malign result of obsessive email coverage is that the public is left totally unaware of the policy stakes in the election.
Clinton broke no laws according to the FBI itself. Her setup gave her no power to evade federal transparency laws beyond what anyone who has a personal email account of any kind has. Her stated explanation for her conduct is entirely believable, fits the facts perfectly, and is entirely plausible to anyone who doesn't simply start with the assumption that she's guilty of something. . . . Given Powell’s conduct, Clinton wasn't even breaking with an informal precedent. 
As for the Trump moles in the FBI, her are highlights from Huffington Post:
Rudy Giuliani said Friday that he knew the FBI planned to review more emails tied to Hillary Clinton before a public announcement about the investigation last week, confirming that the agency leaked information to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Giuliani has bragged about his close ties to the FBI for months, mentioning in interviews that “outraged FBI agents” have told him they’re frustrated by how the Clinton investigation was handled. And two days before FBI Director James Comey announced that the agency was reviewing the newly uncovered emails, Giuliani teased that Trump’s campaign had “a couple of surprises left.” 
“You’ll see, and I think it will be enormously effective,” he said in an interview with Fox News. 
All of this has led to suspicion that someone in the FBI is leaking information to Giuliani and the Trump campaign. The Daily Beast’s Wayne Barrett explored those suspicions on Thursday, detailing how Giuliani’s ties to the agency date back to his days as a U.S. attorney in the 1980s.
Giuliani insisted he had nothing to do with Comey’s decision to announce the probe prior to Election Day ― a move that both Republicans and Democrats have condemned. He also insisted his information comes from “former FBI agents.” 

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