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EMAILS! Was a Non-Scandal About Nothing, Period

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The biggest EMAILS! villains are, of course, the media and the FBI. But it’s also true that many liberals were remarkably timorous about pushing back against the silly pseudo-scandal that ended up putting Donald Trump in the White House. Perhaps it was exaggerated by Republicans, but surely Clinton’s use of private server RAISED TROUBLING QUESTIONS and CAST SHADOWS about Hillary Clinton? The answer is no. There was never anything there. Kevin Drum recently had an excellent, comprehensive post on the subject:

So here’s what we’ve got. Clinton used a private server for her unclassified emails. However, that doesn’t provide any reason to think she was any more careless about discussing classified information than any other secretary of state. Nevertheless, Republicans used the excuse of the Benghazi investigation to demand an inspector general’s audit of her emails. The intelligence community, naturally, concluded that Clinton’s archives contained thousands of discussions of classified programs. They would most likely conclude the same thing if they audited the email account of any ranking State Department official. It’s just a fact of life that State and CIA disagree about this stuff.

Comey certainly knew this, and he also knew that Clinton had done nothing out of the ordinary. However, in an attempt to appease congressional Republicans, who were sure to go ballistic when their hopes of putting Clinton in the dock failed yet again, he held a press conference where he called her actions “extremely careless.” Then, three months later, with absolutely no justification, he announced that more emails had been discovered—and he announced it in the most damaging possible way.

This is the meat of the whole affair. The rest is chaff. Did Clinton violate the Federal Records Act by holding her email on a private server? Was she trying to evade FOIA requests? Did she lie about wanting to use one email device? Did she violate agency regulations because she used an outside mail account for all her communications, rather than just part of them, as others have routinely done? Etc. etc. We can argue about this stuff forever and we’ll never know the answer. If you hate Clinton, you’ll insist that these are major felonies that should have landed her in a Supermax for life. But if you don’t hate Clinton in the first place, none of these will strike you as anything more than minor infractions at best and ungrounded speculation at worst. Plus there’s this: No one ever came close to investigating any of this, let alone trying to bring charges. Among the folks who know the most about these things, there was never so much as a hint that there was anything illegal among all the sensational accusations.

The bottom line is simple: There was never any real reason for either the IG investigations or the FBI investigation. And in the end, the FBI found nothing out of the ordinary—just the usual State-CIA squabbling. Nevertheless, under pressure from Republicans, Comey spent a full year on the investigation; reported its conclusions in the most damaging possible way; and then did it again two weeks before the election. Because of this, Clinton lost about 2 percent of the vote, and the presidency.

Liberals should have defended her with gusto from the start. There was never anything here and no evidence that Clinton did anything seriously wrong. And yet we didn’t. Many liberals just steered clear of the whole thing. Others—including me sometimes—felt like every defense had to contain a series of caveats acknowledging that, yes, the private server was a bad idea, harumph harumph. And some others didn’t even go that far. The result was that in the public eye, both liberals and conservatives were more or less agreeing that there was a lot of smoke here. So smoke there was. And now Donald Trump is a month away from being president.

The last point is important. Even among liberals who recognized that this was an empty pseudo-scandal, you would sometimes hear the line that “Clinton should have known not to give Republicans any ammunition.” This argument is, at his late date, almost shockingly naive. Whitewater, the years-long “scandal” that started George W. Bush’s path to the White House, was based on nothing. And EMAILS!, the “scandal” that sent Donald Trump to the White House, was also based on nothing. As were many intervening “scandals.” The idea that there’s some set of choices that Hillary Clinton could have made to stop media coverage of her campaign from being dominated by a Republican-generated snipe hunt. If it wasn’t this, it was going to be something else. Content is unnecessary. And way too many liberals are willing to half go along, which doesn’t help.

Oh, and take a look at the three above-the-fold stories about Comey’s letter containing no information about a silly non-scandal on the October 29 New York Times. Now look at today’s A1, in which the GOP gutting House oversight gets one lonely column. The press ludicrously portrayed Hillary Clinton as the corrupt candidate in a contest against Donald Trump.The result will be federal corruption on an unprecedented scale, and we’ll be lucky if it gets covered with a third of the energy and focus devoted to Hillary Clinton’s goddamned emails. Really, heckuva job.

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