OK, now THIS was news: FBI chief recommends ‘no charges’ on Clinton email


Seconds after I posted wonder why the chattering classes went ape over Hillary Clinton’s weekend interview with the FBI, actual news was made on that front.

Here’s how I characterized what FBI Director James B. Comey had to say:

We’ll continue to argue over her judgment in setting up and using the private server. We will rightly be concerned over the potential for hostile governments and private actors to have obtained access to classified material, thanks to her carelessness.

But there will almost certainly be no indictment, unless federal prosecutors completely disregard the recommendation of the FBI.

Which could happen, but which seems unlikely.

I’m guessing that those pundits who said the FBI interview was part of a terrible week for Clinton will now be touting this as a big win. And this time, they’ll be right.

63 thoughts on “OK, now THIS was news: FBI chief recommends ‘no charges’ on Clinton email

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, and for that reason, I believe the FBI did its best to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s.

      It was stupid, and I’ll argue with anyone who says it was not a bad thing to do. It speaks to her paranoia and mania for control.

      But it wasn’t criminal.

      And it most certainly wasn’t so horrendous as to make the election of Donald Trump preferable. Which is the ultimate point for us, the votes.

      Every other sane candidate who ran this year has fallen by the wayside. Hillary’s all that’s left to those of us who want to resist the madness. It’s not a pretty situation, but it’s what we’ve got…

      1. Bryan Caskey

        Whatever. Justify and rationalize it however you like. Remember when you were talking about why people don’t have faith in government to do things anymore? It’s crap like this. People see very clearly that the rule of law doesn’t really matter when you’re politically connected, and they see that the government doesn’t work as designed.

        Anyone else would be prosecuted, permanently lose their security clearance, and be looking at an all-expense paid trip to Leavenworth.

        The people who defend Hillary are doing so not because they think she’s innocent. They’re doing it because she’s the standard bearer for their ideas. They want her elected so they can enact their policy goals, and they’ll make any excuse, no matter how feeble, to justify the ends.

        It’s the same with Trump. There are tons of Republicans out there who are defending and trying to explain away Trump’s bad ideas, dumb statements, and problems because he’s the vehicle for advancing their ideas.

        Both Hillary and Trump apologists make me despair for our country because I see them as people who will look the other way simply because it’s a member of their tribe.

        And don’t conflate the issue by saying Trump’s worse than Hillary, so we shouldn’t prosecute Hillary. That’s irrelevant. They’re both corrupt, horrible, pathologically ambitious people who couldn’t find the truth with a flashlight and two hands. In a just world they both deserve to live out the rest of their days in shame and humiliation.

        In this world, one of them will be POTUS.

        You know the scene in Godfather where Michael confronts Carlo?

        That’s how I feel every time someone tells me Hillary is “innocent”. You want to vote for her over Trump? Fine. I totally get that. I understand. But don’t sit there and tell me she’s innocent because it insults my intelligence and makes me very angry. Now, who approached you first? Barzini or Tattaglia?

        1. Bob Amundson

          I understand and agree Bryan. Will you go the route of Hobson’s choice (a choice of taking what is available or nothing at all) and not vote? I would certainly understand. Right now, I see it as a dilemma, a choice between two undesirable options. That is subject to change (as are many of my opinions).

        2. Bill

          It’s sad and rather worrisome when a lawyer doesn’t understand the legal concept of intent.

          1. Bob Amundson

            It’s not just intent; the statute also mentions “gross negligence.” I agree with Bryan that what SECRETARY Clinton did was GROSSLY negligent.

            1. Bob Amundson

              There is a very fine line between “extremely careless” and “grossly negligent.” 51-49, close call. Bob the Utilitarian ( theory in normative ethics holding that the best moral action is the one that maximizes utility) is shifting back and forth.

              1. Bryan Caskey

                I hate to point out the obvious (but apparently some people around here need it), but the reason that the statute criminalizes “gross negligence” is that people never intend the bad things that happen due to gross negligence.

          2. Bryan Caskey

            Oh, I don’t understand the legal concept of intent??

            Well first, maybe you can explain to me the difference between general intent and specific intent crimes. I’ll wait while you google it.

            Did she intend to set up a private server, or did it just spontaneously grow up overnight like a mushroom after a rainstorm?
            Did she intend for information to be on this private system?
            Did she intend to use this system to the exclusion of all others?

            Then, go look at 18 USC 793 and tell me what the legal standard is. I’ll wait.

            You know what, never mind. Go home and get your shine-box.

            1. Bill

              You really need to work Westlaw a little harder, counselor, to get a better handle on the case law applicable here. That’s where the nub lies. That’s where the issue of culpable intent enters in. I realize the right wing wants to drill down on the “gross negligence” meme. But simply eyeballing statues don’t cut it.

        3. Brad Warthen Post author

          But if you whack Carlo, Tattaglia will be the don.

          And I’m sorry, but you can’t sweep away the fact that Trump is not merely worse, but exponentially worse. No, it’s almost like ones and zeros in the binary system, he’s so much worse.

          And, as you say, one of them will be president.

          Pragmatic, clear-eyed people can’t forget that for an instant.

          You say,

          The people who defend Hillary are doing so not because they think she’s innocent. They’re doing it because she’s the standard bearer for their ideas. They want her elected so they can enact their policy goals, and they’ll make any excuse, no matter how feeble, to justify the ends.

          If you’re speaking of me — a person who is not so much defending Hillary as merely relieved she will not be indicted, it certainly isn’t “because she’s the standard bearer for my ideas.” I want her elected because she’s a sane person who has a very firm grounding in policy and who I believe will pragmatically choose prudent courses in office.

          I don’t mount “excuses.” I look at this stinking, lousy situation that we’re in, and I recognize without any hesitation that she is the ONLY exit, since Jeb Bush, Joe Biden and John Kasich are no longer viable options.

          A person in my position is deeply grateful for the way Comey handled this (which was the RIGHT way, not merely an expedient way). Hillary screwed up, and he made that clear — he knocked down her excuses one by one. But you don’t indict former secretaries of state over something like this, whether they are future presidents or people who have retired from public life, such as Colin Powell or Condi Rice.

          He handled it just right. And I believe it is deeply wrong and destructive to the country to argue that she should have faced charges. The more we go on about that, the greater the danger to the nation.

          1. Bryan Caskey

            “But if you whack Carlo, Tattaglia will be the don.”

            First, I can’t imagine that Hillary would quit her campaign if she were indicted. We all know what she did – we just disagree about whether or not it’s a big deal. Her actions are valued in with what people know about Hillary, meaning that I doubt there is anyone out there who is currently planning on voting for Hillary who would change their vote based on an indictment, or even a guilty plea. So I have to disagree with your premise there. I’d be interested to see a poll of Hillary voters and ask them if an indictment would change their vote. (By the way, good call on picking Tattaglia as the Trump analog. He’s no Barzini.)

            If you’re speaking of me…

            No. I wasn’t. But you go on to make this point, which I have issue with:

            “But you don’t indict former secretaries of state over something like this, whether they are future presidents or people who have retired from public life, such as Colin Powell or Condi Rice.”

            The law can’t look at the person’s rank or status when deciding whether to bring charges or not. You have to look at the facts. Rank may have it’s privileges, but leniency in prosecution cannot be one of them. I think you’re going off in the wrong direction with this line of thought.

            It doesn’t matter anymore anyway, and no one will change their mind on this or any number of issues. Again, I’m not surprised that she won’t be charged. I just didn’t expect the FBI to come out and say: Yeah, she did all this stuff. No big deal, though. I figured the whitewash would be more…nuanced.


            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Yes, thanks. I almost said Barzini, but realized we were talking about a Tattaglia here.

              And you’re right, as a true believer in a nation of laws and not of men, I agree that “The law can’t look at the person’s rank or status when deciding whether to bring charges or not.”


              There’s a point at which you have former leaders who’ve gone out and done their best, and their political opponents want to use the criminal justice system years later to punish them for disagreeing with them.

              We’re seeing that today with Brits who continue to be so angry with Tony Blair over Iraq that they want him prosecuted for his policy decisions. They are adherents of the British version of the “Bush lied; people died” mantra. They’re quite sincere, and their passion is unassailable — in their vanguard are the bereaved families of dead soldier. They believe firmly that sending people off to war, an activity in which some will die, is not only a crime but the worst sort of crime. They don’t see it as one of a set of possible policy decisions that a head of state has to choose from. It’s beyond the pale for them.

              But bottom line, they want to punish him for disagreeing with them about that policy decision.

              We saw the same thing from people on the left who wanted Obama to run out the day after inauguration and start indicting everybody at the CIA and other agencies involved in prosecuting the war on terror (excuse me, what they would call the “so-called War on Terror”).

              But prosecuting people who followed lawful orders as they understood them is a formula for tearing the country apart. Obama chose wisely; he didn’t go there. He chose to stick to pursuing what he believed to be wise and moral policies going forward.

              That was the right thing to do. That was leadership.

              Mind you, we’re talking judgment calls here. We’re not talking about Blair or anyone else going out and stealing from the kitty or seizing personal power for himself. There’s nothing venal here. There’s just a matter of pursuing policies that a lot of people very ardently oppose.

              In the case of Hillary, Condi and Colin, we’re not even talking about POLICIES. We’re talking administrative procedures. We’re talking housekeeping. Yes, they are important procedures; but whether to prosecute them is a judgment call. And the wise judgment is not to do so.

              We don’t dig up the old, dead king and chop his head off for the satisfaction of it. And we don’t revisit the administrative failures of previous secretaries of state for the purpose of prosecution. What would be the goal here — put them in prison? I really think we need to save those cells for violent offenders.

              Mind you, please, that we’re talking judgment calls here. We’re not talking about people who robbed banks, or and certainly not people who ran off the Moscow with state secrets like Snowden. We’re talking about people who did not follow proper security protocols. It’s a judgment call, and Comey showed good judgment.

            2. Brad Warthen Post author

              Oh, and with my “Tattaglia will be the don” scenario, I wasn’t anticipating that she would quit if indicted. But I do believe that the campaign would become nastier and more vicious and personal, with her supporters more convinced than ever that the indictment was the work of the vast right-wing conspiracy.

              And I think you’re underestimating the crowds of people out there who may not currently be for Trump, but could go his way if she were indicted. That’s a mistake. I thought there was no way in hell that more than a handful of clueless, marginal people would ever vote for Trump. Then I thought he could never expand his support beyond a plurality of the GOP vote, which after all is only about 40 percent of the electorate.

              I was very, very wrong on those counts. And I think you’re wrong to think there aren’t crowds of undecideds out there who would decide, “She’s worse than he is! Look, she’s been indicted!”

              Now, under these circumstances, all Trump has going for him is the people who say the fix was in and Hillary got special treatment by the FBI. And I think Trump’s got all the Clinton conspiracy theorists backing him already.

              Of course, I could be wrong about that, too… The nation may not have dodged a bullet here. But I think we did.

  1. Doug Ross

    Was there ever any doubt?

    I loved how the media called Hillary’s meeting with the FBI a voluntary interview. I saw that phrase repeated over and over. Was it really voluntary? was it really an interview? Was she sworn under oath? Will there be a transcript of the “interview”?

    The fix was in from the beginning when she was able to decide which emails to turn over, when backups were conveniently deleted, when Bill met with Lynch to talk about “grandchildren”. She kept changing her story as it moved along. She’s a pathological liar and is not a reasonable alternative to Trump.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Oh, I’m up for it after what we’ve seen the last few months.

          The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in shimmering samite, would NEVER for moment offer Excalibur to The Horrid One, Sir Donald of the Fasces…

      1. Tex

        It still doesn’t mean she’s the better option. I’d prefer we go without a President than have either one of these two. Actually Trump comes out ahead of the two when it comes time for me to vote. Hillary has already served two terms when her husband held the ceremonial title. Speaking ol’ Bill, has anyone else noticed that it doesn’t look like he’ll live through her term if elected? He’s looking rough.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      By the way, just a point that is important to journalists but not everyone seems to get…

      Doug says, “I loved how the media called Hillary’s meeting with the FBI a voluntary interview..”

      I didn’t see any media do that. I saw news reports that reported that the Clinton campaign called it “voluntary.” Which, of course, is the media doing their job.

      Big difference. Of course, we may have seen different reports…

  2. Bob Amundson

    She could lose (or be unable to renew) her security clearance; that would be news! Very poor judgement, even a sense of entitlement, that makes me concerned about her ability to govern. However, still in the #nevertrump camp.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      How could you be in any other camp?

      Hillary Clinton just isn’t a person I can ever feel pleased to pull the lever for. I’ve just never warmed up to her.

      But Trump is absolutely, irrefutably, incontrovertibly unthinkable. He is a national nightmare, of a scope we have never seen (that we’ve never even come CLOSE to seeing), and over the next few months we need to be slapping ourselves in the face repeatedly to make ourselves wake up from it…

      1. Tex

        All I can say is I hope both choose a VP running mate that is better in the position than they are.

        A thought that people are afraid to talk about but something that is worthy of a discussion. Regardless of who wins, I suspect that we will see a rise in attacks and assassination attempts over the next four years. There is that much hatred in this country for both candidates, and all it takes is one nutjob to fall through the cracks who knows his name will be in all of the history books.

  3. Karen Pearson

    The conspiracy theorists will always believe that Ms. Clinton is a liar, and that Mr. Obama is not a true American. I agree she shouldn’t have used her private email, but are you telling me her official email couldn’t be hacked? For goodness sake, the Pentagon’s was. It wasn’t their classified account, but there’s no reason to believe that Ms Clinton used her account for info that was classified at the time she used it. But, of course, the conspiracy theorists will claim that everyone lied, and that both Congress and the FBI covered it up.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      You won’t hear me say that: “there’s no reason to believe that Ms Clinton used her account for info that was classified at the time she used it.”

      That’s an excuse that won’t hunt.

      If you’re secretary of state, your default mode is to make sure all communications that are not the contents of a press release are secure. There’s no excuse for failing to do that.

      And the fact that others have done the same is no excuse, either.

      She did wrong, period. Fortunately, what she did isn’t so awful to keep her from becoming president in place of the one who should not be named…

    2. Doug Ross

      Karen – do you consider Hillary to be a trustworthy person? A person who is truthful all the time? Or is it a relative scale based on her being a politician?

      You believed every explanation she gave for why she used a private email server as the story unfolded?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I wonder what people are looking for when they talk about her “trustworthiness.”

        That’s not a thing I think about when it comes to her. She’s never going to be someone I like and admire. The only “trust” issue is whether I trust her to act carefully and responsibly with regard to public policy.

        And I do. Why? Because she’s a highly self-interested, pathologically ambitious person. So she will pursue policies that make her look good. And like Bill she’ll gravitate more toward centrist, pragmatic solutions than toward the ideological ones. The Clintons aren’t true-believer ideologues, which is why the Bernie people hate her.

        Best of all, she’s smart enough to know a sensible policy when she sees one, unlike far too many people out there.

        Bottom line, I trust her to do the job she’s running for — just as I would have trusted Jeb Bush, or John Kasich, if the GOP electorate hadn’t gone stark raving mad.

        You won’t see me longing to have a beer with her. But I can feel confident delegating the job to her…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Then people would consider him to be an asshole.

            Sorry, but I believe the BIGGEST fallacy in the feminist firmament is the old canard about how we’d forgive obnoxiously pushy, assertive women if they were men.

            That is simply not true. It’s true that we don’t call men “bitches,” because it would be inaccurate, since the term specifically refers to a female. But for the same behavior, we call them jerks, pricks, or assholes. They aren’t given a free pass. Not in the universe in which I dwell.

            I DID, however, give myself a free pass on the usual blog standards for language. I just didn’t want to type all those blank spaces. It seemed excessively pedantic in these circumstances…

          2. Doug Ross

            She’d be Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Rudy Giuliani.

            There’s a difference between being driven and focused and being ruthless and a liar. One only needs to look at how she responded to Bill’s multiple infidelities. She attacked the women who came forward.

  4. Karen Pearson

    I don’t know how truthful she is. I do know that there are an awful lot of vicious lies about her floating around. At least that’s the result I get from checking both Politifact and Snopes. Which means she beats the hang out of Trump in the truthfulness department. And I won’t argue that she should have used her official email addy, although I can certainly understand how she might not have thought of the gravity of it, considering that her predecessors did likewise. Apparently, the use of one’s private email addy for unclassified matters was a case of same thing, different day until she came along. Oh, well. At least no one will make that mistake in the future, we hope.

    1. Bob Amundson

      Interesting thought experiment (not my own): what would Secretary Clinton’s chances be if she’d been married three times and had a similar history to Mr. Trump? She’s clearly the best choice, and some of the dislike of her is due to gender bias.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Well, I don’t know if I’d call it “gender bias,” but it’s sort of related to that.

        I think when the Clintonistas first pushed that “Two for One” deal when Bill was running and the snotty remark about baking cookies was out there, she alienated most of the country that wasn’t part of the feminist left.

        I think people have always resented her presumption at being something other than a typical First Lady — being a fellow policymaker, when she was not ELECTED to do any such thing. And she’s never really gained that ground back with the public.

        She would have had to be a far more sympathetic, charismatic person than she is to have overcome that bad first impression.

      2. Tex

        I don’t believe marital status is a deciding factor for most voters. This country has had past presidents who were married more than once, and some who were known to have women on the side.

  5. Bart

    If Clinton had used the proper email server and if it had been hacked, then she would have no culpability in providing access to hackers and this would have never become an issue. The same goes for Condi Rice and Colin Powell, no favoritism should be allowed. But, she chose to use her private email account and based on what the hacker claimed, he did gain access to her email account. Whether true or not, the fact remains that Clinton is asking the voters to trust her judgment and entrust the future and security of the United States into her hands.

    This is quite a reach for anyone who believes someone who wants to be POTUS is willing to forego protocol and the rules governing communications by the State Department and the US Government should be elected to the office under any circumstances.

    My distrust of Clinton and Trump are on an equal level. Neither one should be the standard bearer for their respective party, we deserve better or so I thought at one time. Now, it is my belief we will get what we deserve come November whether it is 4 years of Clinton or Trump.

    Extremists on both sides of the political aisle have held sway for too long and the ignorance of voters who never bother to examine platforms, policies, and the candidates history on everything is astounding. In another universe, neither Clinton or Trump would or could be a candidate for the highest and arguably the most powerful elected office in the world. Yet they have supporters who believe the sun rises and sets in either Clinton’s or Trump’s behind and they follow them blindly.

    If the sunlight of truth were to shine on either one for more than a few seconds, they would be burned to a crisp.

    In other words, we are totally screwed!!!

  6. Tex

    When does Donald Trump get to use Air Force One for his campaign stops? It’s nice that Hillary gets to be escorted around on the taxpayer’s dime.

  7. bud

    Most of the charges against Hillary Clinton have been greatly exaggerated (email server, Benghazi), silly (White House travel office) or flat-out lies (Whitewater, Vince Foster). The vast right wing conspiracy has had a tough time actually pinning anything on her. At the end of the day it is the kooky right that looks bad. I look forward to 8 years of the Cintons back in the White House. And the peace and prosperity that comes with it.

    1. Brad Warthen

      Ah, but don’t forget, Bud: One thing I like about Hillary is her hawkishness. Since Joe Lieberman retired, she’s the closest thing the Democrats have to a neocon…

      1. Doug Ross

        Which is why any Bernie Sanders who would vote for Hillary is as deranged as someone who’d vote for Trump. The best alternative for Bernie voters is Gary Johnson. You’ll get what you’re looking for on gay marriage, immigration, legalizing marijuana, cutting spending on unwinnable foreign wares… and all you have to give up is the IRS and the the Department of Education. Seems like a fair compromise..

        But, nah, vote for Hillary. She’s going to out-Obama Obama.

        1. bud

          Some of the Libertarian positions are good. I just can’t get past the Ayn Rand cultishness of their philosophy. Don’t we already have enough corporate greed and abuse? That’s why this Bernie supporter won’t be voting Libertarian this time around. If Hillary turns out to be the hawk Brad suggests then in 2020 I’ll take another look.

          1. Doug Ross


            Libertarian Randian
            Libertarian Corporate Greed and Abuse If it does, which corporations are supporting the libertarian candidate? Here’s the top 10 U.S. corporations:

            1. Wal-Mart Stores $351,139.0
            2. Exxon Mobil 347,254.0
            3. General Motors 207,349.0
            4. Chevron 200,567.0
            5. ConocoPhillips 172,451.0
            6. General Electric 168,307.0
            7. Ford Motor 160,126.0
            8. Citigroup 146,777.0
            9. Bank of America Corp. 117,017.0
            10. American International Group 113,194.0

            1. Doug Ross

              Lost the does not equal symbol above.

              Libertarian does not equal Randian
              Libertarian does not equal Corporate Greed and Abuse

            2. Brad Warthen Post author

              How do you mean “top corporations?” Apple’s not on your list.

              Are you saying “top” in the sense of political contributions? What do those numbers represent?

              1. Doug Ross

                My error, that was an old list from 2007 — why Google would show that first is odd. Anyway, here’s the top 10 from Fortune 500 based on revenue:

                1 Walmart$482,130
                2 Exxon Mobil$246,204
                3 Apple$233,715
                4 Berkshire Hathaway$210,821
                5 McKesson$181,241
                6 UnitedHealth Group$157,107
                7 CVS Health$153,290
                8 General Motors$152,356
                9 Ford Motor$149,558
                10 AT&T$146,801

                #3 and #4 would never fall into the libertarian category. #8 and #9 rely heavily on unions as well, right?

                Corporations aren’t libertarian.

                1. Doug Ross

                  You’re right. I was incorrect. Of the 10, they would be most libertarian. Socially ultra liberal, too. So if you like Apple, vote Libertarian!

                  And it’s not prerogatives and priorities. It never was about that. It was about setting a precedent for future access by the government to Apple devices. The government lied repeatedly about what they could and couldn’t do. And then magically cracked the phone they said they couldn’t crack. I wonder how much evidence has been retrieved from that phone? I bet we’ll never find out — because there was nothing. Anyway, my friend who just returned from India said there are any number of vendors over there who will crack an iPhone in a similar manner for $10.

                2. Brad Warthen Post author

                  And as I’ve said before, if Apple were led by good citizens, good neighbors, the response to the government’s request would have been, “Certainly! Here you go… Can we do anything else to help?”

                  No other response was in any way justified.

                3. Doug Ross

                  And newspapers should always reveal confidential sources when asked by the government.

        2. Scout

          Those are surface similarities. My sense is that the core motivations of Bernie supporters and the libertarian philosophy run counter to each other, and it will be more the nature of Bernie supporters to be aware of that. If they go to the libertarian candidate I suspect it will be because they can’t stomach Hillary more than because they choose Gary Johnson.

          Just my impression.

  8. Burl Burlingame

    The contents of Clinton’s emails WERE made public. By the Republican investigating committee.

  9. Bob Amundson

    Mens Rae (the intention or knowledge of wrongdoing that constitutes part of a crime, as opposed to the action or conduct of the accused) and the precedent of not prosecuting gross negligence in similar cases seem to be the most likely reasons Director Comey stated, “no reasonable prosecutor” would recommend charges against Secretary Clinton.

  10. Burl Burlingame

    Hillary Clinton is pushy and assertive and opinionated. Yes. She’s also endured three decades of vicious lies and character assassination, and she’s still standing. They’re still claiming she killed Kathleen Willey’s cat.

      1. Tex

        Did it commit suicide by shooting itself in the back of the head three times or was it the victim a tragic weight lifting accident?

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