The FBI sees Clin­ton through the look­ing-glass

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Ruben Navarette Jr.

— Likely speak­ing for mil­lions of Amer­i­cans, Mitt Rom­ney said re­cently that he won’t vote for ei­ther Don­ald Trump or Hil­lary Clin­ton.

“It’s a mat­ter of per­sonal con­science,” Rom­ney told CBS News’ John Dick­er­son. “I can’t vote for ei­ther of those two peo­ple.”

I’m with Mitt. The two ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties have failed Amer­ica by not pro­duc­ing — through their re­spec­tive and highly du­bi­ous nom­i­nat­ing pro­cesses — can­di­dates of unas­sail­able in­tegrity, sound tem­per­a­ment and good judg­ment.

Most Repub­li­cans are fall-

SAN DIEGO

ing in line be­hind some­one who is un­se­ri­ous, un­lik­able and un­hinged. Democrats of­fer a nom­i­nee who is un­trust­wor­thy, un­re­li­able and un­truth­ful.

Trump’s flaws be­come clear when­ever he opens his mouth. Clin­ton’s have resur­faced in the scan­dal in­volv­ing her mis­han­dling of sen­si­tive and clas­si­fied emails on a pri­vate server.

That was the sub­ject of an un­usual press brief­ing Tues­day by FBI Direc­tor James Comey.

My fa­vorite part was when Comey es­sen­tially said there was noth­ing that the for­mer sec­re­tary of state did with her pri­vate email server that mer­its pun­ish­ment be­cause “we did not find clear ev­i­dence that Sec­re­tary Clin­ton or her col­leagues in­tended to vi­o­late laws gov­ern­ing the han­dling of clas­si­fied in­for- ma­tion.”

Comey also said that the bureau “found no ev­i­dence that any of the ad­di­tional work-re­lated emails were in­ten­tion­ally deleted in an ef­fort to con­ceal them.”

But then, near the end of his re­marks, Comey piv­oted and made clear that, “in sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances, a per­son who en­gaged in this ac­tiv­ity” might end up get­ting pun­ished.

Welcome to the FBI in Won­der­land. Don’t try to make sense of it. That will only drive you mad.

Ku­dos to Clin­ton. She beat the rap. Know­ingly or not, in­ten­tion­ally or not, she ap­pears to have done ex­actly what the fed­eral statute says you can’t do with­out com­mit­ting a felony. And yet, ac­cord­ing to Comey, it is un­likely that a pros­e­cu­tor would bring such a case to trial.

Es­pe­cially a ca­reer pros­e­cu­tor who, serv­ing as at­tor­ney gen­eral, would prob­a­bly like to con­tinue on in that ca­pac­ity be­yond this year, which is highly un­likely if Don­ald Trump is elected pres­i­dent.

The FBI direc­tor put it this way: “Although there is ev­i­dence of po­ten­tial vi­o­la­tions of the statutes re­gard­ing the han­dling of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion, our judg­ment is that no rea­son­able pros­e­cu­tor would bring such a case.”

Just a minute. Since when does an in­ves­ti­gat­ing agency try to put it­self in the shoes of pros­e­cu­tors be­fore rec­om­mend­ing whether charges should be filed against an in­di­vid­ual? That’s not how the sys­tem works. Ev­ery­one is sup­posed to do his job, and not do any­one else’s. It should be the case that law en­force­ment — in this case, the FBI — de­ter­mines whether or not a per­son should be charged by eval­u­at­ing the facts of a case not by read­ing the minds of pros­e­cu­tors.

Fi­nally, Comey said, af­ter ex­am­in­ing past in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the mis­han­dling of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion, the bureau couldn’t “find a case that would sup­port bring­ing crim­i­nal charges on th­ese facts.”

Again, the FBI is work­ing over­time. It goes the ex­tra mile to look back not just on pre­vi­ous in­ves­ti­ga­tions (which is fine) but also on pre­vi­ous pros­e­cu­tions (which is not fine).

Comey con­cluded that the case against Clin­ton did not fit the pat­tern of pre­vi­ous cases that went to court. For in­stance, other cases, in­volved “clearly in­ten­tional and will­ful mis­han­dling of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion.”

Hold on. Here, it seems Comey for­got what he said at the be­gin­ning of the brief­ing when he made clear that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion ex­am­ined whether Clin­ton’s han­dling of email on her pri­vate server was “in vi­o­la­tion of a fed­eral statute mak­ing it a felony to mis­han­dle clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion ei­ther in­ten­tion­ally or in a grossly neg­li­gent way.”

So the mis­han­dling of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion doesn’t have to be in­ten­tional to be a felony. Yet, in search­ing for a stan­dard, the direc­tor set­tled on pre­vi­ous cases where it was in­ten­tional. That’s crazy.

Like I said, this is the FBI in Won­der­land. Tea any­one?

Ruben Navarette Jr. is a syn­di­cated colum­nist from the Washington Post. His email is reuben@ruben­navarette.com.

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