Why I’m worried

Andrew Prokop discusses the tightening in the polls as a reason to worry.  True.  I do have to say I hate the fact that so long as Donald Trump seems to go a whole week without making truly outlandish comments (the Khan family, Access Hollywood), Republican voters seem so happy to come home to him.  Talk about short memories.

What really worries me is what Chait has to say:

The best explanation for the tightening of the race was that questions about Clinton’s ethics dominated the news environment for a brief period. We don’t know yet if James Comey’s surprise Friday announcement will reshape the race in a similar fashion. But it is entirely plausible to believe that it will. He has revived Clinton’s ethics and alleged illegality as the front-and-center question before the voters in the race’s final week. To assume Comey’s statement will have no effect, as many hopeful Clinton supporters do, is to assume the voters will respond in a way they have not responded before…

Comey’s announcement is a shocking breach of a vital, decades-old law-enforcement norm prohibiting the announcement of charges against candidates in the closing stages of the race…The logic behind the norm is very simple: Law enforcement has extraordinary leverage over public opinion, and charges, or reports of potential charges, can be tantamount to proof of guilt in the public eye — even if guilt is not proven, and even if no charges are ultimately filed…

Perhaps Comey believed that a properly measured statement would have a political impact proportional to its scale. That belief was delusional. [emphases mine] If there is any circumstance for which the precedent against late charges should apply, it is to the current race. Hillary Clinton is a morally imperfect figure, surrounded by shady figures and burdened with poor political instincts, but she is a normal public servant and no crook. The lack of proportionality applied to her real but minimal ethics failures is staggering. The email issue has completely dominated the news media’s coverage of her campaign, blotting out any attention to policy issues. Low-information voters — that is, the most persuadable undecided ones in the middle — know her primarily as the subject of ethical and legal suspicion. It is why media coverage of her pneumonia and her campaign’s failure to disclose it coincided with her lead collapsing into a near-tie. A voter following the campaign through cable news and headline snippets would rationally conclude that Trump’s lunatic portrayal of his opponent as a criminal is not far from the truth.

Comey’s announcement will probably not sway enough voters to make Trump president. But it might, and — given the stakes — that “might” ought to be a terrifying and galvanizing prospect.



Enjoyed this from Salman Rushdie on FB:

So, to recap. Trump will go on trial in November accused of racketeering, and again in December accused of child rape. He is a sexual predator, hasn’t released his tax returns, and has used his foundation’s money to pay his legal fees. He has abused the family of a war hero and… oh, but let’s talk about some emails Hillary didn’t send from someone else’s computer, that weren’t a crime anyway, because that’s how to choose a president. Come on, America. Focus.

Even more Wrong than Comey… the media

Drum goes through the latest information that really makes Comey look not good, but concludes with this:

Still, let’s stay clear on something. The behavior of Comey and the FBI is somewhere between clueless and scandalous, but the behavior of the media has been flatly outrageous. Given what we know, there is simply no reason for this to have been a 24/7 cable obsession—or to command the entire top half of the front page of the New York Times. This massive amount of attention has been in the service of literally nothing new. Once again, though, when the press hears the words “email” and “Hillary Clinton” anywhere near each other, they go completely out of their minds. [emphases mine]


Speaking of which, this NBC story lays out in detail the very straightforward logic, of which I have alluded to, that there’s almost surely nothing truly new or actionable here:

While experts caution that it is hard to weigh the impact of largely unknown evidence, they say both the history of the FBI inquiry and the nature of the new emails make it unlikely that federal authorities would reverse course to charge Clinton.

Old Email, New Email

“Given the fact that they reviewed 30,000 emails, most of which were from Hillary Clinton, it’s hard to imagine there could be new emails that are from Hillary Clinton that could result in the prosecution of her,” said Paul Butler, a former Justice Department attorney who has prosecuted politicians and federal officials for corruption…

Because the FBI has already reviewed Abedin’s work emails through other sources, some former investigators said the emails are unlikely to change the case.”There’s probably not a high likelihood that these are new,” said Peter Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C.

Zeidenberg estimated that there is a “significant chance” that any new emails would not have classified information. But if they did, he said, that fact would be unlikely to change the FBI’s publicly stated legal analysis in the case.

The FBI determined that even careless handling of classified information did not make Clinton guilty of a crime.

“Suppose there was ‘Top Secret’ information — I think it would be hugely embarrassing, politically damaging, but I still don’t think it would change the analysis of what is being done intentionally,” said Zeidenberg, who served in the Justice Department unit that prosecutes elected officials.

“I don’t see how it will change the analysis about whether she’s going to be charged with a criminal offense,” Zeidenberg said. “I think there is about zero percent likelihood of that.”

Yes!!  Which makes the media’s breathless reporting all the more irresponsible (and Comey’s actions quite irresponsible as well).

This Bloomberg story I semi-randomly came across is just a perfect example:

The bombshell [emphasis mine] that FBI Director James Comey dropped Friday on the 2016 election has accelerated a trend of Republicans moving toward Donald Trump. But early data suggest Democrats in key states are unmoved, a sign that Hillary Clinton is holding together a coalition that has kept her in the lead for most of the presidential race.

Damn.  You don’t think “bombshell” is a loaded term.  All for something which almost assuredly amounts to nothing substantively (I’m sure they’d defend themselves saying this is a political bombshell– of course, with reporting like this, how could it not be).  Second, again, literally zero new evidence Hillary has done something wrong at this point and the lede is written with a presumption that we should be suprised her supporters are not abandoning her.  Ugh!!

And, while I’m at it, James Fallows discusses the Op-Ed from two former deputy AG’s (one of whom worked for Bush) on the wrongness of Comey’s actions.

And, finally, Orin Kerr makes a very compelling case that the FBI’s search of Abedin’s emails likely violates the 4th Amendment.  Again there’s a lot we don’t know, but based on what we do, hard to see how the FBI had the right to search Abedin’s emails in any way (warrants have to be very specific in what they are looking for, as I even explain to my Intro AmGovt students).  Of course, they did now get a warrant, but that doesn’t mean an original 4th amendment violation did not exist.  Would like to learn more about this.

[And, just because… do we really need FBI investigating creepy middle-aged men for sending topless photos of themselves to teenagers.  Yes, creepy and wrong, but a good use of FBI resources?]

This is what libel actually looks like

Recently, Trump threatened to sue the NYT for libel because they printed allegations of sexual assault against him from numerous women.  As I’m pretty sure I mentioned at the time, Trump’s expansive ignorance naturally includes utter ignorance of libel law.  For a publication to be guilty of libel against a public figure the publication must act with actual malice– knowledge that what they are printing is false or reckless disregard for the truth.

Here’s a NY Post cover from this weekend:

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That “Weiner sext probe found dirt on Hill” is absolutely false.  Absolutely.  The probe found that his laptop contained emails of his wife relating to Hillary Clinton.  I’ve not seen a single leak from the FBI (and they are leaking like a sieve while investigating Hillary for not being secure enough) suggesting there was actually “dirt” in these emails.  Thus, in no way is that “dirt” on Hillary.  To suggest otherwise is casebook “reckless disregard for the truth.” And, hey, that’s actually libel.  Not that I expect or think Hillary should sue, but, a useful lesson for Donald Trump.

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