So it turns out that while you can indict a ham sandwich, indicting our top diplomat for “extremely careless” handling of national secrets at a time of war against the most determined and diabolical enemy we have ever faced — well, that is just a waste of time. Inconvenient. Awkward.
The Democratic National Committee may not have publicly listed FBI Director James B. Comey on the schedule for its upcoming convention in Philadelphia, but the party gave him the highest-profile, prime-time speaking gig of the entire convention.
Heck, his speech Tuesday officially kicking off Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President Obama’s third term was the highest-profile convention speech for either party in modern political history.
What Mr. Comey delivered was stunning in its brassy disdain for justice and for the hard work of his dedicated agents, even as his stated logic behind the decision not to indict was utterly confounding.
Literally, as a dronelike Mr. Comey delivered his mystifying political haiku to reporters, Air Force One was being gassed up and prepared for liftoff, and a fleet of Marine helicopters began revving their rotors to pick up President Obama and ferry him and his hopeful successor — the unindicted Hillary Clinton — to their first joint event of the 2016 campaign.
By his own account, Mr. Comey’s investigation “looked at whether there is evidence classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on” Mrs. Clinton’s illegal bathroom server. Almost immediately, things got complicated when he explained that, in truth, it was “several” illegal servers the FBI had to scour, and most of them had been scuttled or somehow otherwise destroyed.
Still, they were able to determine over 100 emails contained “classified information at the time they were sent of received.” Eight were “Top Secret at the time they were sent.”
Some additional 2,000 were of such a sensitive nature that anyone with then-Secretary of State Clinton’s security clearance should have known that they should not have been sent over an unsecure email system.
“None of these emails should have been on any kind of unclassified system, but their presence is especially concerning because all of these emails were housed on unclassified personal servers not even supported by full-time security staff, like those found at departments and agencies of the U.S. government — or even with a commercial service like Gmail,” Mr. Comey said.
The FBI uncovered even more messages that were clearly marked classified among emails that Mrs. Clinton did not turn over.
And this is where things start to get really strange with Mr. Comey.
The FBI director said there is “no evidence,” however, “that any of the additional work-related emails were intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them.”
OK, so they were unintentionally deleted, or they were intentionally deleted, but not in an effort to conceal them? They were deleted in an effort to be transparent? Deleted in order to make them public? We are just having a hard time following here, Jimmy.
In addition, Mr. Comey said, there were even more emails that may have contained more secrets that were sent over the illegal bathroom server that FBI agents could not find. Those unseen emails “are now gone” because the Clintons deleted everything and their “lawyers cleaned their devices in such a way as to preclude complete forensic recovery.”
Again, all in an effort by the Clintons to be transparent. Or something.
As for “hostile actors” who spend every second of every day trying to gain access to America’s secrets, Mr. Comey said his agents found no “direct evidence” of a breach but also determined that they would not even be able to detect such a breach at this point. But given Mrs. Clinton’s reckless disregard for email security and flagrant use of unsecured servers even while traveling abroad, “it is possible that hostile actors gained access” to her classified emails.
Yet out of all of this, Mr. Comey found “reasonable confidence” that there was no effort to conceal emails from investigators and determined that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring any charges against Mrs. Clinton.
I am starting to think that maybe Mr. Comey has a skewed idea of what is “reasonable.” I guess that depends on what the definition of “is” is.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama arrived in North Carolina, and the president — Mr. Comey’s boss — declared that he was “fired up” and “ready to go.”
Charles Hurt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter via @charleshurt.