For decades, the Clintons have deftly eluded accountability for alleged improprieties, from Whitewater and Rose Law Firm records to issues around Vince Foster’s death; Bill’s chronic sexual harassment and rape allegations to Hillary’s wild profits on cattle futures during Bill’s governorship; Benghazi and missing emails to destroyed servers, private foreign donations while Secretary of State to casual lies about handling classified material and “wiping” data. But Hillary’s escape from accountability – may be coming to an end.
No less respected a source than The Wall Street Journal seems to see cracks in Clinton’s legal defense. The sense one gets reading reports and transcripts is that accountability may be coming.
In short, the 2016 Clinton Presidential Campaign appears to have been more than a passive collector of opposition research, a standard gotcha-game part of modern political races.
The standard is to rummage up old news, rumors and innuendos, score settling and envy venting, job, financial, personal, and any other allegations – then load the stuff like grapeshot in a canon for salvos during a campaign. Ugly, ignoble, but done.
That occurred in 2016, but evidence is mounting that something more sinister was also afoot. Facts are starting to come out of the trial of Clinton’s campaign’s lawyer that indicate a knowing plan to disinform, coopt, distract, or misguide the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The plan appears to have involved the seemingly innocuous relay of what the Clinton Campaign knew was false and presumptively damning information, created to tar Donald Trump before the FBI, maybe trigger surveillance, leaked reports, rumors … to sink the opposition campaign.
After all, if the FBI was on her opponent’s tail, something must be wrong, right? That appears to have been the – rather bold, publicly corrupt, legally shocking approach that campaign took. As the Wall Street Journal is reporting, however, it gets more curious, more legally damning daily.
Not days after texts emerged confirming intended deception of the FBI by campaign counsel, one of Clinton’s aids says the former presidential candidate personally authorized going out with deceptions that ended up at the FBI, putting them on Trump’s campaign with false information.
Many questions remain not least how FBI and Justice leadership reacted, why statements at trial are now seeking to deflect the objective to mere misdirection of the press, and what will follow.
What we know is: “Hillary Clinton approved of an effort in the months before the 2016 election to provide the press with research purporting to show a computer link between the company of her GOP rival, Donald Trump, and a Russian bank” according to her presidential campaign manager.
Connecting dots, that bank was tied to the Russian government and Clinton apparently knew the data – and how it was assembled – suggested it was a bogus link. This testimony emerged during the on-going trial of Clinton’s campaign lawyer. He has been “charged with lying to the FBI about his motives for providing that research to the bureau in September 2016,” which he said was not for any client, despite working for Clinton.
Meantime, her campaign manager just testified: “I discussed it with Hillary … Notionally, the discussion was, ‘Hey, we have this, and we want to share it with a reporter.’ She agreed to that.”
The net pulls tighter, not yet tight. Words are slippery. Clinton could say she does not recall, too long ago, hazy, or just deny it. She could say the idea was to deceive just feckless reporters into these wild conclusions, not get the FBI chasing her opponent, or add FBI interest to storylines.
But this is getting hotter, not cooler. The special prosecutor has a reputation for playing chess with care, one piece at a time, triangulating cases, charges, witnesses on route to checkmate.
As the Journal notes: “The case is the first that special counsel John Durham has taken to trial in his three-year probe into how the Federal Bureau of Investigation handled allegations of ties between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016.”
That would be a lot of work to bring a one-charge case. Testimony continues to pour out. “Earlier this week, that former FBI official, James Baker, said the agency would have treated the allegations more skeptically had it known of the research’s connection to the Clinton campaign.” Indeed.
The takeaway from this “first case” is that more is coming, and the level, quality, and significance of cases, charges, witnesses, and outcomes may grow. The process tends to push toward higher levels of culpability, not lesser.
Put differently, as testimony continues, we may see a freight train pick up speed, legal pressure and revelations mount, until one wonders: Is Hillary Clinton in trouble? Could the long Clinton run from accountability be over?
Stepping back two steps, the larger point is that accountability in our Republic matters. It is the lifeblood of the constitutional process. All we have is trust in due process, rule of law, honest prosecutors, truth found via adversarial inquiry. The sense many have is that justice is coming. If so, the pursuit has been long, turns many, but we shall see. In all events, this trial matters.
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