The New Transparency in Government Will Make America Great Again. Believe Me. [Links repaired, 11/5 at 11:29 a.m.]
The people familiar with the investigation said that senior officials had been informed weeks earlier that a computer belonging to former congressman Anthony Weiner, D-New York, contained emails potentially pertinent to the Clinton investigation. Clinton’s top aide, Huma Abedin, shared the computer with her husband, from whom she is now separated.
It is unclear what FBI agents have learned since discovering the emails in early October. But officials say they gained enough information from the email metadata to take the next step, seeking a warrant to review the actual emails. That legal step prompted Comey’s letter to Congress, which has made him a central figure during the stretch run of the presidential campaign.
“He needed to make an informed decision, knowing that once he made that decision, he was taking it to another level,” an official with knowledge of the decision-making process said.
— FBI leaders knew about new emails for weeks before Comey letter, Sari Horwitz, Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post, Nov. 2 at 7:37 p.m.
When it was revealed last Friday that there had been a Comey recount and Clinton lost, Solomon turned into Torquemada. But, of course, Comey had no choice. How could he have sat on a trove of 650,000 newly discovered emails and kept that knowledge suppressed until after the election?
— Final days, awful choice, Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, today
The Horwitz and Yakashima article was published online not just by the Washington Post and in its print edition yesterday, but also (apparently) by other newspapers. The link for it that I’m using is to the Chicago Tribune website. Presumably, it appeared also in yesterday’s print edition, along with all the good stuff about the Cubs’ 10th inning Series victory.
I pause here to say to the Cubs on behalf of my late, lifelong-Cubs-fan relatives: Thanks.
But along with that big sports story, there was this: The three paragraphs I quote above contain two profound misstatements—the error in the first of those paragraphs the apparent result of a quick, (I believe) verbatim, copy-and-paste by these journalists from the original, breaking story on Comey’s letter to Congress and quickly afterward, his email to FBI employees.
The letter in which Comey actually said he had sent the letter partly because he wanted to influence voters’ vote choices by providing them with the information in the letter—a fact that has received little press attention and none, to my knowledge, from Clinton and down-ballot Democrats.
Information, during early voting in more than 20 states and absentee voting in every state, and 11 days from the election itself, that Clinton’s top aide, Huma Abedin, shared the computer with her husband, from whom she is now separated.
Information that Comey sent the letter to Congress after a search warrant was obtained and agents had had time to learn information about the metadata—inferentially including the approximate number of emails involved.
And Krauthammer, a nationally syndicated columnist, is unequivocally wrong, about two things: That, of course, Comey had no choice. And that all, or even remotely close to all, of the 650,000 emails on Weiner’s personal computer were emails between Abedin and Clinton. The claim is logically absurd, and the leaks from the FBI since Friday estimate that about 30,000 of them are to or from Abedin.
The Washington Post’s story on the emails issue today does not repeat those errors. But neither does it expressly correct its report from the day before, and say that it is a correction. It should do this, online today and in print in Sunday’s paper.
Also widely reported over a period of several days, by many, many news organizations, was that Abedin had received a subpoena for all electronic devices she had used to send or receive emails about State Dept. matters, or to or from Clinton. Yesterday, it was reported that that, too, is false.
The news outlets that reported the misinformation should prominently correct it.
But my immediate point is this: Every one of these errors by the journalists who made them—with the exception of Krauthammer’s—was absolutely understandable as inference from Comey’s two public messages on Friday.
But the larger point is that Comey told all the world that law enforcement prosecutorial powers of raw information- and evidence-gathering via the various means available only to law enforcement—including search warrants, grand jury testimony, informants, and plea bargaining deals—are now available to the public if a law enforcement officials or rank-and-file employees opt for transparency. At least if a partisan legislative body has subpoenaed a law enforcement investigative-agency official about an ongoing or closed investigation, and in answering a query during his or her testimony, promises real-time release of any further information or evidence, even before it is known what, if anything at all, the information means that is relevant.
Presumably, this applies in investigations of pretty much anyone or anything. Irrespective of its political potential. But a rule of thumb is that, the closer to an election, and the less known about what the information actually is and whether it is relevant to anything other than political smear, and the higher the office of the candidate at issue, the freer law enforcement officials and rank-and-file employees are to make it known to the public.
As Krauthammer and Comey both say: Of course.
Hope y’all agree. Cuz this is a genie that may be impossible to put back in the bottle.
But I do wonder about this: Isn’t it conservatives—Republicans—who are always raising shouting, “Separation of Powers! Separation of Powers!”
Guess that, too, is no longer true. Right?