Tag Archives: FBI investigations

Hillary Clinton: A Pre-Election Ethics Alarms Character and Trustworthiness Review: 2009-2016

hillary-testifies

The first Ethics Alarms post about Hillary Clinton ironically enough, in 2009, awarded her an Ethics Hero. (She has two.) “I know, I know. Truth and the Clintons have never been friends,” it began. And, looking back, it was a pretty generous award: all she did was describe how an ethical decision is made, and claimed that was how she decided to accept Obama’s invitation to be Secretary of State.  It didn’t prove she actually made the decision the way she said she did, and now, with the benefit of seven years’ hindsight, I think it’s likely that she was lying about it, as usual. Still, it proves that Hillary may know how to act ethically. This distinguishes her from Donald Trump.

Before heading to the voting booth, I decided to review all of the Ethics Alarms posts about Clinton. It is, I think it’s fair to say, horrifying. You can find them all here. 

There are unethical quotes of the week and month, Ethics Dunce designations, Jumbos, where Clinton denied what was in clear view to all, and KABOOMS, where the sheer audacity of her dishonesty (or that of her corrupted allies and supporters) made my skull explode skyward. If you have a recalcitrant Hillary enabler and rationalizer in your life, you should dare him or her to read this mass indictment—not that it will change a mind already warped, of course, but because the means of denying and spinning what they read will be instructive, confirming the symptoms of incurable Clinton Corruption.In July of 2015, I responded to complaints—including one from an ethics professor— that I was not objective regarding Mrs. Clinton, that I was picking on her. The response was a manifesto, stating my standards and objectives: Continue reading

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Ethics Observations: Comey’s Second Letter On The Clinton E-mail Investigation

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FBI director James  Comey informed Congress yesterday, two days before the culmination of the Presidential campaign, that the recently re-opened inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s  irregular handling of classified e-mails uncovered no new evidence that would change July’s recommendation that she shouldn’t face criminal charges.

“Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton,”  Comey wrote in a letter to the leaders of several congressional committees.

Observations:

1. Good.

If Clinton wins the election, she should be able to start her term of office without this scandal of her own making still hanging over her head. After all, there are sure to be new scandals in due time, unless she turns over a new leaf like Richard Nixon did when he finally became President in 1968. Herblock, the Washington Post’s iconic Republican-hating cartoonist, even symbolically gave him a shave. (Herblock drew Nixon with a five-o’clock that made him look like an axe murderer.) Yes, the irony is intentional.

If Hillary loses, Comey’s late “never mind!” might stop Democrats from claiming that her inevitable coronation was prevented by a deliberate FBI plot, and allow them to further undermine trust in law enforcement. It might, but it probably won’t.

2. In fact, this process has already started. The Washington Post’s political columnist Chris Cillizza quickly filed a piece called “It’s hard to see how James Comey could have handled this last 9 days any worse.”

It should be used in classes to illustrate what “hindsight bias” means. He also makes a persuasive argument in favor of Comey’s letters—both of them—thinking he’s doing the opposite: Continue reading

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Latest Ethics Notes On The Hillary Clinton E-Mail Scandal Ethics Train Wreck, Part 3

denial

Continuing from Part 1 and 2…

9. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign circulated a draft letter critical of James Comey to former federal prosecutors, implicitly inviting them to comment publicly.  (This is an implied but unenforceable quid pro quo. These people are good...) Eric Holder, naturally, former US attorney general Michael Mukasey and poor, disgraced former Bush AG Alberto Gonzalez heeded the dog whistle, all disgracing themselves in the process.

Not one of them are privy to the evidence involved, and for these men to be using their positions and reputations to level charges and accusations at a high-placed law enforcement official based on speculation and partisan warfare is unethical. It is unfair, and  undermines the public trust. This is always something that former officials should avoid, as a near absolute. The Golden Rule also applies. These men know how hard these jobs are, and what they would have thought about  ex-officials criticizing them. Basic professional ethics principles discourage this.

Holder, of course, is a proven Clinton hack. Gonzalez might even make Comey look better by criticizing him, so thoroughly discredited is he. (My guess is that he’s desperately attempting to fashion a new pubic image.)

Mukasey’s comments may have been the worst of all. He took the opportunity of the current controversy to attack Comey again for his decision not to recommend that Clinton be indicted. (Meanwhile, CNN used his name in a misleading headline implying that he was criticizing Comey for his letter to Congress. It initially fooled me.) Speaking of the earlier Coney statement, he said,

“This wasn’t Comey’s call. It is not his function as director of the FBI to decide who gets charges and doesn’t. It’s his function to gather evidence. And he didn’t fulfill that function very well. But it’s certainly not his function to get up and pronounce on whether charges should be brought or whether a reasonable prosecutor would ever bring them.I don’t think he should have been this fix. I don’t think he should have put either himself or the bureau or the Justice Department in this fix.”

Wrong (1): it was Comey’s call, because Loretta Lynch told the public that Justice would accept the recommendation of the FBI regarding Clinton’s possible prosecution. Did Mukasey follow the story? I guess not.

Wrong (2): Comey’s extensive public statement in July was necessary to ensure transparency and trust after Loretta Lynch stupidly allowed Bill Clinton to appear to be brokering a deal with her. Presumably Mukasey wouldn’t have done that.

Wrong (3): So Comey did notput either himself or the bureau or the Justice Department in this fix.” Obama put them in this fix, by allowing his Secretary of State to skirt security policies. Holder put them in this fix, by operating such a blatantly partisan and political Justice Department that public trust in a fair investigation of the presumptive Democratic Party presidential candidate was impossible. Lynch put them in this fix, by not resigning.

To his credit, Mukasey did dismiss Harry Reid’s and Richard Painter’s Hatch Act nonsense with appropriate disdain, saying, “That’s baloney. I mean, you know, it’s sort of an amusing talking point for three and a half seconds, but it’s not serious.”

10. The issue is not whether Donald Trump is as corrupt and dishonest as Hilary Clinton, or even more so. In trying to shift focus to Trump to allow Clinton, as usual, to wiggle out of the well-earned consequences of her own wrongdoing by distraction, confusion, and diversion, Clinton’s corrupted allies are throwing every accusation and innuendo at Trump that they can concoct or dig up. It-Doesn’t-Matter. Trump is horrible, the bottom of the barrel, UNDER the barrel, at the bottom of a long, narrow pit under the barrel. Understood. That still doesn’t make Hillary less corrupt, less untrustworthy, and less dishonest. Nor less ruthless, cynical, manipulative, venal and totalitarian.

Continue reading

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Latest Ethics Notes On The Hillary Clinton E-Mail Scandal Ethics Train Wreck, Part 2

Continuing from Part 1…

I swear, I didn't pick this photo to make James Carville look crazy or nasty. This is really what he looked like today...

I swear, I didn’t pick this photo to make James Carville look crazy or nasty. This is really what he looked like today…

5. The uproar over Clinton’s private server use and possible security breaches being investigated further with FBI inquiries into the newly uncovered Huma Abedin e-mails seems oddly out of proportion to its substance, at this point. The violent reaction of Democrats and Clinton’s campaign is more suspicious than the information itself. The immediate default to accusations of political and professional misconduct is itself unfair and unethical, and reminds those who are open to being reminded of the Clinton habit of bullying and threatening adversaries, including honorable ones. Just as Trump cannot seem to help himself from lashing out disproportionately at every affront real or imagined, the current over-reaction is itself disturbing. There are too many bullies and thugs in the Clinton camp.

6. Next to Harry Reid, the most publicized accuser of Comey has been Richard Painter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota and the chief ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush White House from 2005 to 2007. He has filed a Hatch Act complaint against Comey with the federal Office of Special Counsel and Office of Government Ethics. As with Reid’s accusation, his is unjustified. Unlike Reid, Painter is intelligent, informed and honorable, and I can only speculate why he has jumped the rails like this. Painter argued in a New York Times op-ed on Sunday that Comey’s intent can be inferred from the absence of a good reason for sending the letter.

Huh? He had a good reason, and as a lawyer and ethics expert, it should be obvious. He didn’t want to be accused of lying to Congress, or to believe that he was lying to Congress. That’s an excellent reason. There are others. “Absent extraordinary circumstances that might justify it, a public communication about a pending F.B.I. investigation involving a candidate that is made on the eve of an election is . . . very likely to be a violation of the Hatch Act and a misuse of an official position,” Painter claims. Okay, but there were extraordinary circumstances. Public distrust of law enforcement institutions is at a dangerous, all-time high. Every decision is attacked as corrupt or politically motivated by one party or the other. The particularly volatile  situation of a Presidential candidate being investigated by the FBI was greatly exacerbated by the Attorney General allowing herself to be pulled into an inappropriate and improper meeting with the husband of the candidate under investigation shortly before a decision whether to prosecute was due–I’d call that an “extraordinary circumstance.” Comey has been trying to restore the integrity of the Justice Department, which Holder and Lynch, along with President Obama, has allowed to be seriously soiled. He may or may not have made the right choice, but for Painter to file a complaint alleging intentional political bias based on his actions alone is irresponsible. Writes Jonathan Turley, also a law professor of note, and one who does a better job avoid partisan bias than Painter does:

“Comey was between the horns of a dilemma. He could be accused of acts of commission in making the disclosure or omission in withholding the disclosure in an election year. Quite frankly, I found Painter’s justification for his filing remarkably speculative. He admits that he has no evidence to suggest that Comey wants to influence the election or favors either candidate. Intent is key under the Hatch investigations.  You can disagree with the timing of Comey’s disclosure, but that is not a matter for the Hatch Act or even an ethical charge in my view.”

“Or even an ethical charge.” Bingo. And those are harsh words from the usually excessively mild Turley.

I’m not sure what’s going on with Painter, whose opinions I have followed for years. I have followed him, and even argued with him occasionally, on the excellent legal ethics blog, the Legal Ethics Forum, where he is a contributor. If he is a Republican, he’s either a disillusioned one or a strange sub-species. Most of his posts tilt leftward, and they are almost all political in nature, in sharp contrast to everyone else. He obviously has no respect for the Republicans in Congress, and is as vehemently anti-Trump as I am. Unlike me, apparently, he seems to have allowed his rational contempt for Trump lead him to a damaging bias in favor of Hillary Clinton. Ethics complaints should not be used as a political weapon. Continue reading

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

train-wreck-air

[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. Continue reading

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James Comey’s Ethical Conflict

twopaths2

We now know that James Comey’s decision to inform Congress that the Clinton e-mail investigation had been re-opened (If I hear one more Clinton spinner  tells me that no case is ever “closed,” even one that is “completed,” I am going to run naked through the Safeway, screaming dirty limericks in pig latin. Be warned.) was “against Justice Department policy,” specifically the policy of “not acting in such a way as could influence an upcoming election.” Comey understood he was violating these guidelines, sources tell us,but felt he was obligated to do so because he had promised members of Congress he would inform them of any further developments related to Clinton’s email server misuse. Thus he sent a letter to F.B.I. employees after alerting Congress of the (possible) new evidence that necessitated re-opening the investigation. In the letter,  Comey acknowledged that his actions were unprecedented, but explained that…

I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed. I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record. At the same time, however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression. In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season, there is significant risk of being misunderstood, but I wanted you to hear directly from me about it.

According to the Washington Post,  Comey was also concerned that the discovery of the emails would be leaked to the media after he briefed a team of investigators about them, causing the  F.B.I. to be accused of a coverup to benefit Clinton.

Some ethics conclusions:

1. Comey’s actions are consistent with an understanding of the Ethics Incompleteness Principle, which is often discussed on Ethics Alarms:

The human language is not sufficiently precise to define a rule that will work in every instance. There are always anomalies on the periphery of every normative system, no matter how sound or well articulated. If one responds to an anomaly by trying to amend the rule or system to accommodate it, the integrity of the rule or system is disturbed, and perhaps ruined. Yet if one stubbornly applies the rule or system without amendment to the anomaly anyway, one may reach an absurd conclusion or an unjust result. The Ethics Incompleteness Principle suggests that when a system or rule doesn’t seem to work well when applied to an unexpected or unusual situation, the wise response is to abandon the system or rule—in that one anomalous case only— and use  basic ethics principles and analysis to find the best solution. Then return to the system and rules as they were, without altering them to make the treatment of the anomalous situation “consistent.”

Assuming that the “policy” is a sensible and ethical one to begin with (though it isn’t), this was an anomalous case. The FBI, and Comey personally, were rightly under intense criticism for their handling of the investigation. Among other puzzling decisions, Clinton’s aides were given immunity for no apparent reason; Clinton’s interview was neither videoed nor under oath; and Cheryl Mills, who was directly involved in the private server fiasco, was allowed to serve as Clinton’s lawyer when she was questioned. The policy was designed to protect the Justice Department and its component from suspicions of bias and partisan complicity, and the inept handling of the investigation  had already created those suspicions. When such a policy appears likely to have the opposite effect that it was established for, the rational and ethical approach is to make an exception, which is what Comey did.

2. This was courageous. Continue reading

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Hillary, Her Minions, And Scooby-Doo

Former DNC chair Howard Dean just reinforced his prominent position among the ten most loathsome figures in modern politics with this tweet regarding James Comey’s revelation that the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of her official communications via e-mail was being re-opened:

dean-tweet

Dean’s meaning: since Russian hacks of  various e-mail accounts have provided ugly and often sinister evidence of the corrupt attitudes and practices of Hillary Clinton and her campaign, Comey’s required notification of Congress—required, mind you, by basic ethical principles and the rules of the legal profession—makes him a wrongdoer on par with those fueling Wikileaks. After all, without them, Hillary and her minions—including the outrageously complicit news media—would have succeeded in fooling all of the people all of the time. Yes, Comey, damn him, is now “on the same side” as Putin, because he is stripping away Clinton’s facade of trustworthiness.

Even before yesterday’s surprise announcement, the Democratic defense was in place that because Russia was attempting to influence the US election by revealing the filthy underside of Clinton, Inc., including, among other things…

….the inappropriate melding of Sate Department business, pay-to-play incentives, Clinton foundation fundraising and family enrichment

….discussions among aides on how to cover-up Hillary’s e-mail misadventures

….private speeches to Wall Street contradicting her public, anti-Wall street rhetoric, and most disturbing of all,

….collusion by journalists to assist the campaign

….such enlightening evidence should be ignored. This, those well-versed in the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations list will recognize, is   Rationalization #55, The Scooby Doo Deflection, or “I should have gotten away with it!,” in practice. Continue reading

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