Tuesday, August 16, 2016
HILLARY'S CROOKED DEFENSE - WILLIAM MCGURN.
In 2016 an aspiring president, Hillary Clinton, as part of her campaign for the White House, is advancing an aggressive variant of the Nixon defense. It runs like this: Anything that isn’t criminal is permissible—and therefore none of it should be disqualifying for the Oval Office.
This has become the go-to argument for Team Clinton these days. Thus Maryland Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings was quick out of the box last week when the State Department’s inspector general released a damning report finding that then-Secretary of State Clinton had defied the department’s rules by setting up her private email server. Mr. Cummings, ABC News said, pointed out that the inspector general’s report “does not accuse Clinton of any crime.” The implication is that it therefore doesn’t matter.
Chalk it up as one legacy of the first Clinton presidency, which has prepared the way for the second. Because by refusing to resign after being caught out in an affair with an intern, President Bill Clinton successfully lowered the bar for would-be President Hillary.
In his fight to remain in office, Mr. Clinton’s argument was that because sex between two consenting adults—even between the president of the United States and a subordinate 27 years his junior—wasn’t a crime, it was nobody’s business but his and his family’s. In this brave new world, even perjury turned out not to be a crime when Bill Clinton did it, because it was about sex.
Today the No Crime/No Foul defense defines the case for Mrs. Clinton. And she and her defenders have been invoking it for years:
"There were no criminal violations involved here.” The speaker was Clinton Budget Director Leon Panetta in July 1993, putting forward the White House party line on the firing of seven people in the travel office, in which some had detected Hillary’s hand. Three years later, an internal memo would surface confirming Mrs. Clinton as the force behind the sackings.
“As far as even a breath of criminal activity by either the president and the first lady, it will turn out to be nothing at all.” This time it was White House counsel Lloyd Cutler in March 1994, dismissing the inquiry into the smelly Whitewater land deal. The remark came at the same time Mrs. Clinton was explaining to the press that she hadn’t been forthcoming about the details because she had been trying to protect her family’s privacy.
“Those motives for helping Webb Hubbell, you can criticize or not, but they’re not criminal.” This was 1998, and it was now the turn of Lanny Davis, a former White House special counsel. Mr. Davis was arguing that the hundreds of thousands in payments that Mrs. Clinton’s former law partner had received from Clinton associates after he’d resigned from the Justice Department was not hush money to keep him quiet.
“No evidence of a crime.” “Nothing criminal.” “Nothing illegal.” “No criminal activity.” How frequently these words pop up when the subject of discussion is some action by Mrs. Clinton.
Now we have the FBI investigation into her private email server. When the New York Times reported the news last year, the Clinton campaign haggled over the Times’s use of—you guessed it!—the word “criminal” the Times had used to describe the investigation. The Times issued a correction.
In a perverse way, it all works to Mrs. Clinton’s advantage. For so long as a criminal conviction is presented as the only possible disqualification for running for president, Mrs. Clinton will remain viable even if she does get indicted. In addition, the whole obsession with whether the FBI investigation will end up in an indictment helps deflect attention away from other key aspects of the server mess that themselves make pretty substantive claims for Mrs. Clinton’s unfitness.
Even putting aside the question of criminality, we know the following: While in a position of trust, Mrs. Clinton deliberately chose to put American security at risk by setting up her home server. In so doing, she also concealed what should have been public records from the American people. In the year since she’s been found out, almost every public statement she has made in defense of her actions has been exposed as false. And she refused to cooperate with investigators.
In short, this is a woman who never tells the truth when a lie will serve her purposes equally well.
What an extraordinary place this has left her party and her country. Here we are, six months out from the presidential election, and the Democratic nominee is under federal investigation.
It used to be, before the Clintons first moved into the White House, that having no criminal conviction was something that kept you out of prison. But the way Mrs. Clinton and her defenders talk, it’s almost as though it should make her president.