Latest Ethics Notes On The Hillary Clinton E-Mail Scandal Ethics Train Wreck, Part I


[The first example of an Ethics Train Wreck or ETW (Ethics Alarms Definition: Ethics train wrecks are chains of unethical conduct created by a central unethical action. As the event becomes more complex and involves more participants, it becomes increasingly difficult to sort out right from wrong, and all parties who become involved with the episode in any way are at risk of engaging in unethical conduct themselves, intentionally or inadvertently.) that spawned a second ETW, or sub-train wreck to a train wreck, was the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman ETW, which has launched  several (Ferguson, Freddie Gray). I am now forced to designate the Hillary Clinton E-Mail Scandal, previously just a prominent car, perhaps even the engine, on the Hillary Clinton Presidential Candidacy Ethics Train Wreck, as an ETA itself. Since the revelation of the letter FBI director Comey sent to Congress explaining that the investigation into possible Clinton criminal wrongdoing regarding her reckless handling of official State Department communications was no longer to be considered “completed,” passengers have been leaping onto this rampaging juggernaut like there was free Halloween candy on board. I have no choice. In what I fear will be just the first of many, this post will sort out the latest developments.]

1. The word that best expresses the reaction of the Clinton campaign, its media allies and Hillary’s supporters is fury. The emotion in this context resembles the moment in every action film when the super-villain or evil mastermind who was sure that victory was his suddenly discovers that through an amazing confluence of factors, he’s going to lose after all. This comparison is not flattering to Hillary, her minions and her corrupted, but it is apt. They really believe that they deserve to get away with years of unethical and incompetent conduct and more than a year of lying about it, and go into election day with it all a distant memory, sure to be spun as just another conservative “nothingburger” …until the next time.

If there is anything worse than unethical practitioners of politics, it is smug and arrogant ones. To some extent I resent being led so forcefully to schadenfreude, but still, this crew so deserves its present pain!  They also deserve to have voters go into their booths November 8 still uncertain of just how dishonest and corrupt Hillary Clinton is, wondering if, as with Richard Nixon in 1972 (Hillary is this generation’s Nixon, except that he was more skilled, and she has the gender card to play), there are more ugly shoes to drop.

I have written this before and recently, but it bears repeating: Hillary Clinton has nobody to blame for this crisis but herself. She could have played by the rules; she could have turned everything over to State immediately, including the mysterious 30,000 “personal” emails; she could have admitted misconduct and ignorance; she could have been honest to journalists and the public. If she had done these things, the entire episode would have been negated before 2015 was out. Being angry at James Comey makes as much sense as Trump being angry at his various sexual assault accusers, and it is just as much an indication of base character.

2. The news media’s taking the cue from the Clinton campaign and reporting this as a James Comey/ FBI story is yet more proof of news media bias and its efforts to assist Clinton. Comey was cheered by Democrats (and accused of conspiring to clear Hillary by Republicans) for not recommending an indictment of Clinton when the investigation was first closed. We have since learned that his decision was very unpopular among his subordinates. The argument that the same man is now showing political bias against Clinton makes no sense.

Here is the most unethical headline yet in the “Let’s smear Comey for Hillary” division. The New York Times. this morning, on the front page, proclaims: “James Comey Role Recalls Hoover’s F.B.I., Fairly or Not.”

Who’s “recalling”? Nobody who remembers Hoover’s FBI and isn’t trying to impugn Comey unfairly would make this comparison. This is a cognitive dissonance attack, despicably seeking to link Comey to the infamously racist, extorting, power-abusing founder of the FBI.

3. Solidifying his hold on the title of The Most Repugnant Elected Official is Washington, Senator Harry Reid actually suggested that Comey may have violated the Hatch Act, a federal law that forbids a government employee from engaging in political campaign activities like  soliciting campaign donations or actively working on behalf of individual candidates, especially while on the job,  or to  “use [their] official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.” The suggestion is despicable as well as dishonest. If any official act or communication that had a likely or potential effect on a political campaign was prosecuted under the Hatch Act, almost no official acts could take place at all. Reid has proven himself through the years by turns contemptuous or ignorant of the law, but this is outrageous even for him. It is, as the Washington Post implies without exactly saying, another example of Reid’s ethics-free approach to politics.:

Back in 2012, Reid said he had been told that Mitt Romney hadn’t paid any taxes over the preceding 10 years. Reid offered no proof, and his claim turned out to be wrong. But he injected the idea into the campaign and left it up to Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, to disprove it. As recently as last month, Reid offered absolutely no apologies for his incorrect claim, suggesting that it had had the intended effect. He even called it “one of the best things I’ve ever done.”That Reid interview with The Post’s Ben Terris also included this gem:

Terris: Is there a line he wouldn’t cross when it comes to political warfare?

Reid: I don’t know what that line would be.

Of course he doesn’t: No ethics, no ethical lines to worry about! Naturally, most of the news media and all of the left-wing sources have treated Reid’s smear with far more attention than it deserves, except to show how vile the former Senate Majority Leader is.  What Comey did could not possibly be a Hatch Act violation, and a prosecution, absent evidence that Comey was motivated solely and only by the desire to see Clinton defeated ,would be itself unethical.

CNN found a law professor, Steve Vladek, to give the most generous analysis  possible to Reid’s Machiavellian lie, and even he could come up with no more than, “Even if the FBI director’s conduct did not violate the letter of the Hatch Act, it may well have violated the spirit of the Act. ”

Well, professor, as you know (but maybe some CNN watchers don’t) violations of law in spirit rather than letter are still not violations. As his explication continued, we learn that even the professor’s spirit violation case is non-existent, since

“…the Hatch Act does not focus on the effect of the employee’s conduct, but the intent. To that end, if Comey did not intend to interfere with or affect the upcoming election through his letter to Congress, then he did not violate the letter of the Hatch Act. Of course, only Comey knows what his intent was.”

Is the professor implying that Comey lied? Comey has said specifically what his intent was. He has said that since he promised Congress to alert them if there were any new developments in the Clinton e-mail case, he felt obligated to inform them. He believed this was a new development of significance. He also had told them, under oath, that the investigation was “completed.” Now that it was again active, that information was untrue, and he felt had an obligation to correct it.  I agree with him.

That was Comey’s intent. The burden is on Reid and Prof. Vladek to show it was something else, and if they can’t, and they can’t, they should shut up.

UPDATE: I just saw that Jonathan Turley’s reaction to Reid’s accusation is essentially the same as mine. He writes in part,

With all due respect to our esteemed GW graduate (and I really do respect Sen. Reid), his allegation is in my view wildly misplaced…. I cannot see a plausible, let alone compelling, basis for such a charge against Comey….It is troubling to see Democrats (who historically favor both transparency and checks on executive powers) argue against such disclosure and cooperation with oversight committees. More importantly, the Hatch Act is simply a dog that will not hunt.

Wait: what possible justification is there for having respect for Harry Reid?

4. One-Half Ethics Hero: Barack Obama

From The Hill:

“The president doesn’t believe Director Comey is intentionally trying to influence the outcome of an election,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. “The president doesn’t believe he’s secretly strategizing to benefit one candidate or one political party.” Earnest called Comey “a man of integrity” and a “man of good character” but acknowledged that “he’s in a tough spot” when it comes to the Clinton email probe.“I’ll neither defend nor criticize what Director Comey has decided to communicate to the public about this investigation,” he added.Earnest said that the Justice Department’s “expansive” investigative authorities should be tempered by “longstanding tradition, practice, and norms that limit public discussion of facts.”

He declined, however, to say whether those norms were violated in this case.“The president believes it’s important for those norms and traditions and guidelines to be followed,” he said.

It was appropriate and unexpected for Obama to give this vote of confidence to Comey while Democrats and the Clinton campaign were calling for the FBI director’s head. However, his endorsement of “longstanding tradition, practice, and norms that limit public discussion of facts” seemed to be critical of Comey, as well as ethically troubling. What is good about a “longstanding tradition” of withholding facts from the public? I thought Obama was going to change that, and create “the most transparent Administration in history”?

More to come…

30 thoughts on “Latest Ethics Notes On The Hillary Clinton E-Mail Scandal Ethics Train Wreck, Part I

  1. They really believe that they deserve to get away with years of unethical and incompetent conduct and more than a year of lying about it, and go into election day with it all a distant memory, sure to be spun as just another conservative “nothingburger” …until the next time.

    What they deserve is a President that they op[pose but who nevertheless shares their ethos.

    If only the Republicans nominated someone like that…

  2. I almost hate to say it, but Comey seems to be a guy who’s actually trying to do the right thing. Not necessarily succeeding on all counts, but at least thinking about it seriously.

    And if you actually read the letter he wrote, it’s little more than an administrative note. Email is a communication between people, so I’m sure lots of computers in the world have messages from Secretary Clinton and her people. Weiner’s computer just happens to be in FBI custody for unrelated reasons, but it does mean that the FBI will be looking at more Clinton emails, so…he felt he had to notify Congress. It’s not really much of a story.

    (It could be. In this election, it could go anywhere. But not yet.)

      • Because admiration often leads to heartbreak. I want to believe that some public servants (and captains of industry and entertainment celebrities and military officers and…) are admirable and honest, brave and true, kind and generous. So I see someone doing what appears to be the right thing rather than the easy and self-serving thing, and I want to believe…and then they do something disappointing. It makes me cautious.

          • Yeah, heroism is a short-term thing. Like Jack’s ethics heroes: He’s mostly talking about heroism of the moment — making the right decision or doing the right thing in one specific instance. It’s not a long-term judgement of their character. Confusing the two is what gets me in trouble.

        • I get that. While I’m admiring Comey for his work in this instance, I simply pinch myself and remember this is the guy that wants to legislate backdoors into every electronic device for snooping purposes.

  3. I think that the comparison between Nixon and Hillary is a little unfair. Nixon for one did not give the orders for the Watergate break in. Liddy and McGruder planned the operation and carried it out. Nixon also was very popular as shown in his landslide victory in November, 1972. Also, Nixon never did anything to jeopardize National security, as Hillary has done. Not to say that he was a great guy: However, I believe that his paranoia motivate most of his behavior and he was highly involved in the cover up.

    • BUT…

      He did sabotage Vietnam peace talks to advance his Presidential campaign in 1968

      Saying he didn’t order the break-in is like saying Obama didn’t order the IRS to sabotage tea party groups. In both cases, action followed the perception of desires from the top in an unethical culture.

      • It was a Machivellian move I agree, but considering what the North Vietmanese did to the South Vietmanese connected to Americans and in the ARVN after the fall of Saigon it was justified. I seriously doubt that LBJs peace accord would have made things easier on the South Vietnamese and that North Vietnam would have broke their promise and invaded.


    Five months ago Comey was the ultimate ethical Republican, so much so the other side was this close to making him an honorary Democrat. Today this is what they are saying. If it were not for double standards that party would have no standards at all. I have said repeatedly that this was an election without honor, and I hold to that, but at this point it is an election of active dishonor.

    It is an honorable thing to reexamine a conclusion when new information comes to light, or so the Democrats told us every time someone changed a view from conservative to liberal, or abandoned a tenet of his childhood faith, or went from soldier to anti-war activist.

    However, now that someone who SHOULD reexamine his conclusions when new evidence comes to light (because the job of law enforcement is to go where the evidence leads, not to back a political candidate) has done so at a politically inopportune time and for the wrong candidate, and suddenly he’s a dishonest slug and a political hack who wants to lead this nation back to the era before civil rights and should be booted out onto the street to earn his meals digging up dirt on unfaithful husbands or guarding someone else’s money.

    Mind you, these are the same people who were dancing with glee at the possibility of a “Fitzmas” delivering all kinds of goodies that would destroy GWB’s administration ten years ago, then who collapsed in disappointment when all they got was the ruination of Scooter Libby for not being 100% forthcoming. These were the same people who were perfectly OK with Dan Rather and Mary Mapes running with an unchecked story abut GWB’s days in the Texas ANG that would hopefully put John Kerry in the White House, and who were crestfallen when it was discovered to be a tissue of lies too far in advance of the election to tip the scales. These were the same people who smirked and shrugged when Lawrence Walsh unsealed an indictment of Caspar Weinberger four days before Election Day in 1992 that broke George H.W. Bush’s momentum and probably cost him reelection (and later grumbled when Bush preemptively pardoned Weinberger as one of his last official acts, thereby flushing Walsh’s months of work).

    I daresay there are still even a few of the same people still active who spewed invective at Gerald Ford when he pardoned Nixon to “close and seal this book” (his words) on Watergate, to enable the country to heal and move on rather than tear itself apart, and made damn sure he was a one-term president, now known otherwise for falling down a lot.

    Yet these same people got all hot and bothered when it came to light that Bill Clinton was turning the White House into a whorehouse and getting hummers from a college age intern not his wife when Americans were in harms way, and then lied about it under oath. If I had a nickel for every time somebody from the other side told me that the president’s love life didn’t matter as long as he was still doing his job, or quoted me the amount of money “wasted” by Congress looking into this, or said that perjury was no big deal because the president had more important things to do and shouldn’t have had to answer these idiotic questions in the first place, I’d be financing airshows instead of just attending them.

    These are also the same people who lapped it right up when Bernie Sanders croaked that “we’re tired of hearing about your damn emails!” when if he’d wanted to win he’d have been slamming Madame Secretary on those emails. These are the same people who tried to smear Scott Walker as the father of a forgotten love child in 2012 (remember that one?) and who have been ripping Donald Trump apart for previous sexcapades. Oh, and Bill Clinton was not the only beneficiary of this ridiculous double standard – let’s not forget Ted Kennedy (D-Hell) who left Mary Jo to drown and later boasted of being “Tyrannosaurus SEX.”

    I could go on, but the point is made. The Democratic Party is a party of active dishonor, deception, and disgraceful behavior, and Hillary is a prime exemplar of it. You can vote for her because Trump is just too much, but if you cast a vote for her, you’re casting a vote for all this dishonor and helping perpetuate a culture of active dishonor.

    • Five months ago Comey was the ultimate ethical Republican, so much so the other side was this close to making him an honorary Democrat. Today this is what they are saying. If it were not for double standards that party would have no standards at all.

      You’re mostly right. And from about five months ago up until last week, Republicans were calling Comey a turncoat, a traitor and a political operative who chose not to investigate to help Hillary, so let’s not pretend the double standards are only a Democrat issue.

      That said, the way some of my fellow leftists have reacted to Comey is out of control. I think the way he has handled this situation has been abysmal, and I don’t expect the e-mails on Abedin’s device to reveal anything of import about Clinton. BUT for leading Democrats to imply and in some cases outright declare that Comey is doing this to get Trump elected, or that he is working with the Russians, or that he broke the law is absolutely nuts. And it is important that when he chose not to investigate many of these same people held Comey up as a paragon of virtue. This is tribal politics at it’s worst. I think Comey could have handled this better but he doesn’t deserve these politicized attacks.

  5. Obama is carefully “standing by” Comey only because Obama wants something from him. What do you suppose that might be? Comey’s refraining from resigning in protest, along with half the FBI, a week before the election?

  6. Two developments.

    The FBI has released a statement about their investigation of Russian links to Trump. They dismiss them… It’s only in the fine print that you read there’s no *conclusive* evidence *at this point*.

    This might, if you squint hard, be justifiable.

    They also just did a completely unexpected data dump of all their investigations from 15 years ago into HRC.

    Now THAT is a violation of the Hatch act.

    Meanwhile about the only semi-honourable conduct MSM has engaged in is not to publish and emphasise the sordid details of Trump’s upcoming trial for rape, nor to splash the fact that the week after the election, he’s on trial for criminal fraud.

    Maybe they’re saving it for later.

    While I have defended the FBI for not putting out anything re the Russian links, with the new and unprecedented releases of old material now I think the case against them is solid. It’s a hit job.

      • Not if there’s a plausible reason for the timing of it other than to affect the election.

        And this reason would be…? It is by no means normal practice to do such a data dump. I’ve been unable to find any precedent concerning any other investigation. It strains credulity beyond snapping point that the one time in 16 years this data was released, be it damning or exculpatory, was a week before the election, and by such an unusual mechanism.

  7. The FBI is sometimes involved in national security matters, which means they have confidential lines of communication. Why didn’t Comey inform congressional republicans in a manner that would require it to be kept secret? He’d avoid influencing an election and when the republicans leaked it, it would be easy to attack them for caring so much about secret information that they leak it for political gain.

    We have since learned that his decision was very unpopular among his subordinates.

    Why doesn’t he shitcan them for insubordination? Clearly they’re bringing partisanship to their jobs.

    • 1) It’s obviously not National security, and there is no way to keep members of Congress from releasing something like that.
      2) Leaking is epidemic, and the news media protects leakers, even illegal ones. Of course they should be fired, or even prosecuted. But its epidemic in DC.

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