Now that we’ve solved Memogate — okay, maybe just provided a road map — we can turn to other things like Emailgate. Not unlike the stock market these days, don’t blink or you’ll miss something huge. The hits keep coming from DC. Today’s entrant is the latest batch of text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page of the FBI. There’s lots here but two texts stand out.
One on Sept. 28, 2016, refers to a meeting in Deputy FBI Director Andy McCabe’s office to review how to handle the hundreds of thousands of emails found by the FBI’s New York office in its investigation of Anthony Weiner, including “a ton of material” from his “spouse” (that would be Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin). A full month later FBI Director James Comey told Congress that “due to recent developments” he was going to reopen the Hillary email investigation based on new emails that had surfaced in an unrelated investigation “that appear to be pertinent.” He further stated that his investigative team briefed him on this “yesterday.”
Now recall why Comey was obligated to inform Congress of this. When he exonerated Hillary, he promised Congress under oath that he would let it know if anything popped up that might need to be reviewed. Tons of emails on Weiner’s computer that included info from Hillary’s and Abedin’s communications would certainly qualify. A few days later Comey announced that nothing he found would change his conclusions on Hillary and life went on. But the timeline shows one of two things. Either McCabe and Strzok withheld critical info from Comey and, by extension, Congress (maybe that partly is why McCabe is no longer employed and Strzok was reassigned), or Comey lied to Congress. Inquiring minds want to know.
But the text that should be in neon lights was dated Sept. 2, 2016, and involves the discussion about the request to prepare talking points for Comey to brief Obama because “Potus (Obama) wants to know everything we’re doing.” Watch for Democrats and the media to try to bury this, but the more likely implications are stunning.
Remember, Obama had gone public on at least two occasions regarding Hillary’s predicament. When asked if she had committed a crime, he said she was an outstanding secretary of state and never intended to compromise national security, so the answer was no; after all, there is “classified” and there is “classified,” so the info on her server probably wasn’t that bad anyway. Message to prosecutor delivered. Moreover, when asked if he had ever tried to influence the investigation, he adamantly denied that he had ever involved himself in anything the FBI or Justice Department were doing nor spoken to anyone there about any investigation. And there had never been any attempt at political influence — “guaranteed.”
Now, it’s perfectly understandable that Obama would want to know about what was going on in the Hillary investigation. Time was running out on the election, and he had to decide whether to stump aggressively for her, whether to start getting Uncle Joe warmed up in the bullpen, or whether to start scouring the yellow pages for a wise man to deliver the exit message to Hillary, ala the Nixon resignation. His reputation and legacy were squarely on the line.
I’m not sure if it’s a crime to let the boss know the status of an investigation, but at minimum, it is highly unethical in the midst of a presidential election campaign. Either way, the text underscores what had already been obvious; namely that Obama’s thumb was blatantly on the scale. Compare that evidence of clear obstruction of justice to, say, someone who tells the FBI to aggressively pursue and prosecute any of his people who broke the law and asks it to go easy on the sentencing (not the conviction) of a decorated military veteran who had already been fired from his advisory job and bankrupted by the process. You decide.
I have said all along that the Emailgate and Memogate trails lead back to Obama with or without the explicit smoking gun, but no one wants to go there. No one wants to be seen as trying to destroy the legacy. These cases always involve enough gray that the process would be long and ugly, those tipping the first domino would be equally destroyed by the media as the ultimate racists, and the country would be further divided. Hillary is yesterday’s news, and no matter how much I would love to see if another set of reasonable prosecutor eyes would “ever bring such a case,” turning over that rock would inevitably expose Obama. I wish it were true that we could rely on Obama’s other statement in the Hillary case that we should let the chips fall where they may because “nobody is above the law,” but the downside may win on that one too. Ditto the FISA process.
All things considered, the best course might be to find a way to dig an adequate amount, but ultimately just let it go. Couple that with Robert Mueller coming to his senses and acknowledging that there is no “there there” in the Trump case, and all sides should call it a day and move on. There has been enough awareness raised that cleaning house at the FBI/Justice and starting fresh might be enough to keep things in line.