Friday, August 5, 2016

What If It Turns Out Hillary Didn't Lie About Her Emails?

People predisposed to dislike Hillary Clinton will still dislike her even if she was proven to have been truthful. What does that say about our politics?

Hillary's story holds up, if you're inclined to believe her.

(Note. None of the following is parsing anybody's statements. It's my attempt at finding the truth in the muddle that constitutes the "conversation" on Clinton's emails.)

I watched James Comey's press conference and every moment of his testimony in front of rabid dogs the House Oversight Committee, and I came away -- in real time -- with the distinct impression that James Comey was pretty sure that Hillary Clinton believed she had not sent or received any emails that were classified.

Although I'd have to check the transcript -- something I'm not even sure I have access to -- I recall clearly that Comey used the phrase "emails that discussed classified information" when describing most if not all of the emails in question, by some estimates 110 out of some 55,000. The expression "emails that discussed classified information" does not connote "contained classified information" or "marked classified." I assume Comey is generally careful in his choice of words.

I also remember clearly that Comey agreed, when pointed out by a Democratic congressman, that it seemed likely that the three emails that had markings something like (C) in several paragraphs down in the body of the emails were not following protocols for marking classified information, using the current manual for marking such information. In other words, the markings were stylistically incorrect and thus it would be unfair to expect Hillary Clinton to know what the markings meant.

Thirdly, Comey clearly believed that Clinton may not have realized she was mishandling possible classified information because she was not (technically) sophisticated.

Fourthly, a common complaint about Hillary's stance is that Comey said she had used multiple devices, contrary to her statement that she used the email system in question so she could carry a single device. Comey later clarified that those multiple devices may have been serially used, that is, not at the same time but much the way we upgrade or replace a phone. (I have three or four phones in a drawer, all of which work but aren't so "smart" anymore. Are they "multiple devices?")

Just what is revealed in the last four paragraphs handles about ninety percent of Clinton's misleading statements. Most of the misleading is being done by opponents who are grasping at straws to prove she has lied. The other ten percent can be put to rest by Clinton's admittedly overly crafted statements such as "never knowingly sent or received emails marked classified."

It's quite clear at this point that Comey believes that she never sent email that was marked classified. The gist of Comey's complaint about Clinton is that she should have known that the whole system was a very bad idea.

I think we can agree on that. Clinton herself has said so.

An important point is that it's never been shown that the system was hacked. With all the hacking that's been going on of U.S. government and political servers, the fact that Clinton's emails weren't on government servers looks to actually have been fortuitous.

Comey protests by saying it could have been hacked, we just don't know. That's pretty weak teas as accusations go.

Finally, and quite importantly, there is no evidence that any national security information was ever compromised. Full stop.

So what's this all about? We all know the answer: Republican bullshit pure politics. If Democrats, left-leaning independents, and Sanders fans want to latch on to any of this, they do so not so much at their own peril but the peril of the country. Deciding who to vote for based on what's likely bullshit is the opposite of rational.

Read these two articles, here and here, please, to help put this nonsense to bed. One is from a (knowledgeable) colleague who makes a strong case, and the other is from ABC News, in which they go through the case and basically don't find any there there. I appreciated both takes.

Or you could listen to Donald Trump scream "Crooked Hillary" over and over. You choose.

Update. This Politico article supports the case that Clinton may not have had the intent required to demonstrate that she lied about anything. Here's a good snippet:
To Clinton’s assertion that she never sent or received information marked classified on her private email, Comey pointed to the investigation’s findings to the contrary.
"That's not true. There were a small number of portion markings on I think three of the documents,” Comey said. (The State Department on Wednesday said that two of those documents were inadvertently marked.)
On Clinton’s statement that she did not email classified material to anyone, Comey responded, “There was classified email.”
So, that's 110, marked down to three, marked down to one email marked classified, though Comey later agreed it appeared that the markings didn't follow protocol. As for the "There was classified email," that doesn't establish that it was so marked or that she had sent it instead of having received it. And, once again, Comey could find no intent. Repeat, no intent.

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