- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 5, 2016

ANALYSIS:

In presenting a cascade of apparently damning evidence against Hillary Clinton and then letting her off the hook Tuesday, FBI Director James B. Comey handed Donald Trump and other Republicans a gift that can keep giving through the November elections, political observers said.

Whether they will know how to exploit it effectively is another matter, some skeptical Republican leaders said.

“People will agree with Trump who said the fix is in for Hillary,” said former Texas Republican Party Chairman Tom Pauken. “The problem is, can the Trump campaign and the GOP take advantage of it? I mean, given that the campaign is weak organizationally, has internal divisions and too many Republicans are spending time sniping at Trump instead of at Hillary.”

Erich Bruechner, a founder of the Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tea Party Patriots, said the problem isn’t Mr. Trump but the Republican leadership.

“If anybody can go after Hillary for what Comey did, it’s Trump, but after the soft, pittypat of the Benghazi report, I have no confidence in the GOP establishment.”

How the FBI director could say no competent prosecutor would bring charges against Mrs. Clinton despite the “extremely careless” handling of classified information Mr. Comey attributed to her is another question to be amplified by Mr. Trump.

“A crushing doubt Republicans can raise about Hillary’s fitness for running for the presidency — let alone occupying it — is the version of the daily CIA presidential intelligence briefing she’ll be getting as the nominee of a major party,” said Stephen Yates, who was a national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney.

“How after all the incompetence and gross negligence Comey attributed to her in handling of classified emails can she be trusted with more national security secrets?” said Mr. Yates, also the Idaho Republican Party Chairman. “That’s the question for Trump and Republicans in general to hit hard on.”

Mr. Comey let the investigation of Mrs. Clinton drag on until it was evident to many that it was too late in the presidential election process to indict one of the two major party’s nominees and raise the possibility of a Watergate-level constitutional crisis. Politics would prevent any prosecution because there was too much at stake for the Democratic Party.

Mr. Bruechner said he and other tea partyers always wondered whether there was a criminal smoking gun or not. He said the Obama administration wasn’t going to let the FBI or the Justice Department kill Mrs. Clinton’s run for the presidency.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said the supposedly chance meeting between former President Bill Clinton and Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the Phoenix airport was the final signal to Mr. Comey — Ms. Lynch, a friend of President Obama’s, would ignore an FBI recommendation to indict Mr. Obama’s reliable successor.

“The Lynch-Clinton meeting upended this investigation,” said Mr. Fitton. “One can argue that Comey wasn’t going to waste his time with a recommendation to prosecute to an already-compromised Department of Justice.”

Campaign advisers also have said that it was too late to use popular elections — i.e., primaries — for the Democratic Party to find a nominee to replace Mrs. Clinton.

Nonetheless, making Mrs. Clinton seem part of a privileged class of Americans above the law is exactly what plays into one of Mr. Trump’s campaign themes. That Mrs. Clinton will be getting daily CIA briefings despite her record on intelligence matters also seems clear.

“Presidential nominees will always get security briefings. One can’t get help but conclude that politics intruded on the process,” said Mr. Fitton. “How the process will impact politics, I leave to others to sort out.”

Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor for whom Mr. Comey once worked, criticized Mr. Comey by saying that “a reasonable prosecutor would have brought this case no doubt.” He also noted the precedent that has been set.

“I don’t know how he ever, ever is going to be able to charge anybody in the CIA or the FBI who is extremely careless with top-secret information if he isn’t charging Hillary Clinton,” he said.

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