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?]

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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