And so it came to pass that on Sunday, FBI Director James Comey put out another press release. And Comey hath said unto the people that investigators from the Bureau had been working with urgency but to process all the apparently-new Clinton emails which had yet nine days previous he reported were upon themselves discovered. And he smote them to the ground, writing --
"During that process we reviewed all of the communications that were to or from Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State. Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton."
So, no change. Nothing illegal. No charges. Not even any new emails -- indeed, almost all seem to be duplicates of what the FBI had already investigated and had cleared the Democratic presidential nominee of any criminal actions.
It was good to read, and hard not to react by thinking, "Swell, so you couldn't have waited nine days to determine this first before undercutting the presidential campaign?" (Unless you were Donald Trump, who only nine days before had praised the FBI and not claimed that they like everything were rigged.)
Donald Trump aside on almost a daily basis for the past year, the one thing that has perhaps infuriated me more than anything during this entire seedy election process is the FBI's involvement during the last two weeks -- and even longer. The email "discovery" announcement was galling enough for how shoddily it was handled, but also other recent news reports about one-sided activities within the FBI by Trump partisans, including investigations of Russian hacking activity that the Agency sat on.
I can understand stretching things to make a reasonable case that Director Comey felt obligated to provide a follow-up report to Congress after having said that there was nothing more to investigation. (It's a stretch since his initial report to Congress wasn't apparently necessary, but let's accept that.) However, if one is going to make this follow-up report only nine days before an election, it would be clear to the most dolt-headed among us that such a report would have an impact on the election, so handling it with precise, delicate care was essential. For starters, as I said, since clearly the FBI was able to determine in only nine days and before the election that there was nothing new in the emails, it seems that a good action by Comey would have been to WAIT for nine days before reporting that the emails had been found and cleared in the same announcement. But at the very least, the phrasing of the initial press release could have made much of this clear what they had and were looking at -- emails on another person's computer, most of which were neither to nor from Secretary Clinton. After all, it's so much easier to add information later rather than make people not hear what you've told them. And it would have been nice to have had a legal warrant before getting and announcing this, too.
All of which leads to the FBI Director announcing on Sunday that "we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July."
Well, bully for him. Much, much, MUCH better late than never.
But not a whole lot.
The problem with all this is not whether or not it will keep Hillary Clinton from being elected president. We'll find out on Tuesday, but it appears as if she will be. The problem is that it energized the demoralized GOP base like red meat to a rabid dog which may well have had two impacts. The first is that it probably helped keep Hillary Clinton from having any chance of a landslide victory, which would have been so critical to quiet any cries of a "rigged" election and also help create a mandate. And the second is that it perhaps affected the down-ticket races and could have an impact on control of the U.S. Senate.
Maybe it won't change any of those -- and the race was tightening somewhat before the "news" anyway. But in presidential and senate races, you don't want to dance around "maybes." Or especially probablies.
Happily the new report did get released. But it was stomach-churning that it had to.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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