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When smart people make dumb mistakes

  • Published at 12:03 am November 3rd, 2016
When smart people make dumb mistakes

Mr James Comey, director of the FBI, did something unintelligent last Friday.

In a cryptic letter, he informed the Congress that, “the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the (Clinton email) investigation.” At the time Comey sent the missive, he was not aware of the contents in Anthony Weiner’s laptop.

In his subsequent letter to FBI employees, Comey said that the FBI “should take appropriate steps to obtain and review them.” This implies that, at the time he wrote these letters, Comey had not, himself, reviewed the content of the emails. That being the case, Comey had no way of knowing that the emails may be “pertinent to the (Clinton email) investigation.”

Condemnations of Comey’s ill-advised actions have been bipartisan.

From President George W Bush’s Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, to Republican and Democratic legislators, and ethics professors, all concluded that the timing of the letter, 11 days before the election, is tantamount to putting his finger on the scale to swinging the election in favour of Donald Trump.

Pundits ask: What if Comey’s letter results in a Trump victory, and it turns out after the election that there were nothing significant in them, and that many were duplicates of what the FBI had already seen?

Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz suggested what Comey should have said in the first place, and still should say the before the election to clarify his comments and remove ambiguity: “The FBI has just learned that there are emails to and from Huma Abedin on the devices we obtained from Anthony Weiner during the sexting investigation. Neither I nor my investigators have seen these emails. At this time, we have no idea whether they are duplicates of what has already been produced or whether they contain any information pertinent to the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails.

“We simply do not know. Nobody should presume therefore that there is anything pertinent to our investigation, or incriminating, in any of these emails. We won’t know that until we have accessed and read these emails and compared them to those previously disclosed.

The damage to Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been significant so far. A poll of polls shows that Hillary’s nationwide lead has decreased from 6% last week to 4% this week

“I feel obligated to tell Congress about this development, but because we are not yet aware of the content of the emails, it would be unfair for any candidate or voter to infer from my letter that there is anything in them relevant to the election. This is especially the case since it is unlikely that our investigation will be completed before the election.”

Dershowitz writes: “But that is not what Comey said; that is not what the media reported; and that is not how voters perceive the impact of Comey’s disclosure.

“At this point, Comey has only two options -- if he is to maintain his neutrality in the election. First, he must either issue a statement of the kind described above, or second he must undertake a crash investigation and make a further disclosure in the coming days so that voters will know whether there is anything in the emails that should properly impact their votes.

“Of course, much of the damage may already have been done, since early voting will take place between the time he issued his initial letter and the time he takes the steps outlined above.

“Reporting has indicated that none of the newly discovered emails are from Hillary Clinton. It is unlikely, therefore, that these emails contain incriminating information sufficient to result in a criminal prosecution of her. That is why FBI director Comey cannot remain silent following the release of his ill-advised statements.”

Those who know him believe that Comey, a stubborn man, will remain silent through the election, much to the detriment of Hillary Clinton’s chances of victory.

Comey is not the only guilty party here. Much of the blame lies on the shoulders of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Notice that Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Comey’s boss, is absent from the conversation. She had to essentially rescue herself because Bill Clinton had stupidly met the attorney general on the tarmac of an airport earlier this year, as the FBI was conducting their investigations on the Hillary Clinton emails.

Much has been rightly said about Hillary Clinton’s folly in installing seven email servers at home. Clearly, she was sloppy. It appears that sloppiness pervades the Clinton campaign.

The email account of the Clinton campaign manager, John Podesta, has been hacked by the Russians and released through WikiLeaks.

Granted, Hillary Clinton and John Podesta are nearly 70, and therefore, not tech-savvy. But, what about Huma Abedin, who at 40, should have been a tech nerd?

In a convoluted way, Bill and Hillary Clinton are responsible for their latest travails. Huma Abedin has been Hillary’s closest aide for 20 years. Hillary confides in her, and treats Huma like her daughter.

It was the mother’s instinct that made Hillary introduce Huma to then New York Congressman Anthony Weiner.

They were married in 2010. It was not an imam or a rabbi who officiated the wedding, it was Bill Clinton.

Suffice to say, if the philanderer-in-chief conducts the wedding, that marriage is not made in heaven.

None of this would have happened if Huma Abedin was not married to the degenerate Anthony Weiner.

The FBI was not investigating Huma or Clinton; they were investigating Anthony Weiner’s sexting when they stumbled across emails that Huma had sent from the laptop she shared with her former husband.

Mr Comey’s letter has scrambled the presidential race.

The damage to Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been significant so far. A poll of polls shows that Hillary’s nation-wide lead has decreased from 6% last week to 4% this week. Many Clinton supporters fear that the lead, already on a downward trajectory, may be only 2%, because of the hidden Brexit-like populist vote for Trump.

State polls are also tightening.

According to Nate Silver, battleground states like Arizona, Iowa, and Ohio have turned slightly red, and Florida and North Carolina are nearly 50:50. Hillary Clinton still can muster enough Electoral College votes to win the presidency if she loses all these swing states, although the Republicans will maintain control of the House and the Senate.

However, if Trump can breach only one of Clinton’s firewall states -- Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Virginia -- he will win the presidency.

With less than a week to go, and polls tightening every minute, currently Nate Silver puts Clinton’s chance of victory at 71%.

Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed is a Rhodes Scholar.