Well, now, don’t be hasty. Pete Williams went on the air on NBC a few hours ago to say that his DOJ sources don’t expect a “gamechanger” out of the new material they’ve found on Huma Abedin’s and Anthony Weiner’s devices. Sounds like the system will be back to being “rigged” soon enough.
Two things. First, let’s pause for a moment to reflect that this human garbage dump of an election was destined somehow to come down to Anthony Weiner’s dong. If/when President Trump orders full nuclear release, Weiner can boast in the final few moments before impact that his schwanz triggered armageddon. Second, my read on Comey’s presser in July, in which he all but accused Hillary of violating 18 U.S.C. 793 before claiming that it’d be unfair to prosecute her in light of precedent, was that he wanted voters rather than a jury to render a verdict on Clinton. If he had recommended charges against her, it would have upended the presidential election. Democrats might have replaced her on the ticket, or Clinton might have staggered on, fatally weakened, and lost to Trump. That’s a lot of political responsibility for a supposedly nonpolitical law enforcement agency to shoulder. Comey’s compromise, I think, was to withhold formal charges while making the case directly to the electorate that, yes, she had been grossly negligent in her handling of classified material. If they found that disqualifying and elected Trump, fine. If they didn’t, that’s also fine. Comey’s conscience would be clear. Today’s announcement is of a piece with that. He’s giving you what he knows — and if he finds something damning in the Weiner/Huma emails, I think he’ll race to disclose that before the election too. If he holds back or slow-walks it and Clinton wins the election, and then the FBI announces that they’ve found something incriminating on her, no right-winger will ever trust the FBI again. The “system is rigged” suspicions now will multiply a thousandfold. Which raises a question: Why not race to analyze the new material and disclose the findings before the election rather than put out today’s teasing announcement about how there may or may not be something meaningful in there? If there’s nothing incriminating in the Weiner/Huma stuff, then he’ll have the opposite problem — it’ll be Democrats who scream that the “system is rigged” because Comey cast suspicion on Clinton today even though, in the end, there was nothing there. In fact, Democrats are screaming already.
He’s in a spot either way. Probably Comey figures that Hillary will win the election despite this afternoon’s revelation, in which case he should dribble it out there now so that he can say he’s being transparent. If she does go on to win and the investigation turns up something incriminating afterward, Republicans will forgive him (somewhat) because they’ll suddenly have some pretty sweet impeachment material on President Clinton. And if today’s announcement leads to voters rejecting her for Trump, hey — like I said above, his conscience will be clear. The national jury decides. Exit question: If Democrats have anything big left in their oppo file on Trump, this accelerates the timetable for releasing it, no? Probably they’d prefer to drop it in the middle of next week, for outrage to peak on Election Day, but they don’t want voters chattering about Hillary and her, er, Weiner problem for the next five days, especially with Trump already creeping up in the polls. If they have a nuke aimed at Trump, they’re going to fire it sooner now rather than later.
Update: David French reasons that there must be something problematic in what the FBI’s already found to get Comey to take this extraordinary step. Could be, but again, I think Comey’s sensitive to post-election perceptions and might feel he has to flag any new developments in the interest of maximum transparency. If, say, the feds found a few thousand emails from Huma’s private-server account addressed to Weiner and some of them mentioned State Department business, that alone might cause the FBI to feel it needs to examine the entire cache to see if anything improper was disclosed. And if they do, Comey then has to either let the public know that that’s happening or hush it up and risk being accused next month of having suppressed the fact that the investigation into Clinton’s server had been reopened before the big vote. This is why he went the route he did, I think, dribbling enough out there to let voters know that something’s going on but nothing so incriminating that voters might necessarily change their vote over it.