What a mess! Hillary Clinton's single-minded, decades-long pursuit of the presidency seems to have hit a speed bump — or maybe a brick wall.
Clinton's carefully orchestrated career has been noteworthy for two things. First is the absence of any substantive accomplishments during her time in various high offices. Second, and more importantly, is the rigid control she has maintained over any and all information about her activities during her tenures. She has been secretive, to say the least, and it is this penchant for secrecy that may have just put her holy grail — the presidency — out of reach.
While she was Secretary of State, as is now widely known, Hillary Clinton had her own private email server at her home in Chappaqua, New York. In fact, she never even had an official State Department ".gov" email address. Instead of communicating over U.S. government secured networks and servers so that information could be protected from unauthorized disclosure, Clinton, and at least two top aides, Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills, used the private server for everything, including official State Department business. With that arrangement Hillary had complete control over her communications so they might never be made public or available to congress.
Unfortunately for Hillary, knowledge of the private server slipped out when email communications between her and long-time Clinton loyalist Sidney Blumenthal were hacked and leaked to Gawker. The leaked messages showed Hillary's private email address, which in turn pointed to the existence of the private server.
The server has since been seized by the FBI, but apparently it was wiped clean of thousands of emails — ones that Hillary said were private — before the FBI could get their hands on it. Hillary said she had deleted only private emails, but we have only her word that official emails were not deleted.
The big trouble for Hillary are those federal laws on the books that are intended to insure the protection of classified information. Her use of a private server seems to have been a violation of those laws. Here is Charles C. W. Cooke writing in the National Review.
As it stands, Hillary seems likely to have violated at least two federal laws. They relate to:
1) The illegal storage of classified information. The rules that govern the storage of classified information — laid out for all to see in 18 USC 1924 — hold that “whoever . . . becomes possessed of documents or materials containing classified information of the United States, knowingly removes such documents or materials without authority and with the intent to retain such documents or materials at an unauthorized location shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.” By deliberately setting up a home-brewed server in her house that contained classified e-mails — and by copying at least some of those e-mails onto thumb drives and giving them to her lawyers — Hillary Clinton violated this rule. The statute confirms that one cannot become “possessed of documents or materials containing classified information of the United States . . . with the intent to retain such documents or materials at an unauthorized location.” Surely, Clinton did. (Incidentally, this was the law that General Petraeus broke.)
2) The illegal transmission of classified information. Under 18 USC 793(f)(1)-(2), it is a felony to transmit classified information on the subject of national defense through unapproved channels:
(f) Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense,
(1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or
(2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer— Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
If Hillary Clinton either sent, forwarded, or destroyed a single classified e-mail that related to national defense, she will have broken this law.
According to the Clinton spin, this is a manufactured scandal, created by partisan Republicans. So far, voters have not come around to that view, and now that the FBI is involved they are less and less likely to as time goes on. In spite of it, Hillary seems determined to soldier on.
And so does Donald Trump.
I happen to think that Donald Trump got into the Republican race for the White House for the purpose of getting Hillary elected president. The way I see the Trump strategy unfolding is this: With zero chance of winning the Republican nomination, he runs in the general election on a third party ticket. His goal in the three-way race would be to attract enough disgruntled Republicans away from their party's candidate that Hillary, the Democrat, could win with a plurality, if not a majority, of votes.
But suddenly Hillary is looking at big trouble. What purpose will Trump's candidacy serve if Hillary is crushed before the primaries ever begin? And crushed she might be. One rumor has it that the Obama Justice Department is getting ready to drop the hammer on Hillary and open the way for Vice President Joe Biden's presidential bid in 2016.
If Hillary is indicted for improper handling of classified materials, will Trump's loyalty automatically transfer to the next Democrat in line, maybe Joe Biden? With Biden in the White House instead of Clinton, what kind of favors could Trump expect in return for his Clinton Foundation donations — reportedly between $100,000 and $250,000? Admittedly, it's chump change for Trump, but would there be any reason for Trump to continue campaigning if there's no chance for Hillary? There is certainly no chance for Trump.
But what if Hillary is not indicted? The Clintons are known for the loyalty of their minions. You may recall during the 9/11 Commission hearings that Clinton loyalist Sandy Berger went into the National Archives, stuffed classified Clinton administration documents into his pants, took them out of the Archives and shredded them, rather than allow the Commission to see them. Then, after plea bargaining his way out of jail time for his crimes, he voluntarily surrendered his license to practice law rather than face questions about the shredded documents in a disbarment proceeding. That's what you call loyalty.
There are suggestions that Hillary loyalist, Huma Abedin, might "fall on her sword" in much the same Sandy Berger did for Hillary's husband Bill. Time will tell, but it seems unlikely to me that Huma could take on enough of the blame to afford Hillary the plausible appearance of innocence.
But let's suppose Hillary, for whatever reasons, escapes indictment, and Donald Trump runs as a third party candidate. There's still Bernie Sanders to think about. Recent New Hampshire polls show Bernie Sanders leading Hillary. Could Bernie win the Democratic nomination from Hillary? There's a bit of a problem there. He's not a Democrat. He's registered as an Independent. Will party Democrats in 50 states dump Hillary in favor or Bernie as their candidate? Or will Republicans in red states force him to run as an Independent creating a four-way race if Trump stays in, or a three-way race if he doesn't? Like Trump, Sanders has no chance of winning the presidency in a general election. He would only take votes from Hillary. Either way, it looks like Hillary is toast. At least it looks that way at this point.