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Hillary Clinton

James Comey: Hillary Clinton email inquiry is FBI chief’s latest controversy

The former prosecutor and deputy attorney general has grappled with a series of contentious issues, including surveillance and the Ferguson effect.

Three days ago, James Comey was one of Donald Trump’s symbols of Washington corruption and a law enforcer of the highest integrity to Hillary Clintons campaign. On Sunday, the FBI director was the most controversial figure in the capital, heroic to Trump, irresponsible to Clinton and puzzling to nearly everyone.

Comey has a long history of trying to walk political tightropes, to varying success, dating to the earliest days of his career.

Comey, a career prosecutor who grew up in New Jersey and studied religion and chemistry, had his first brush with a high-profile investigation came in 1996, after a stint with the US attorney for New York. That year, he joined a Senate investigation into Bill and Hillary Clintons real estate investments, named Whitewater after a failed venture they joined.

He remained in the background of an investigation that ultimately petered out, but Comey soon joined two prestigious prosecutors offices, in eastern Virginia and Manhattan, where he pursued high-profile cases against identity thieves, a top Credit Suisse banker and Martha Stewart.

In 2003, he was named deputy attorney general in the administration of George W Bush, becoming a dissenting voice against surveillance programs of the National Security Agency revealed in 2005 by the New York Times.

Comey later testified to Congress that one night in March 2004, with attorney general John Ashcroft hospitalized for an emergency procedure, he raced to the sickbed to prevent the renewal of warrantless wiretapping programs which the justice department had determined were illegal.

Comey arrived just before Bushs top lawyer and chief of staff, and Ashcroft did not sign the renewal. “I was angry,” Comey told the Senate in 2007. “I thought I just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man, who did not have the powers of the attorney general because they had been transferred to me. That night was probably the most difficult night of my professional life.”

The next day, Bush modified the wiretapping program.

In those hearings, about possible misconduct by the White House chief counsel and, ironically, missing emails from the Republican National Committee, Comey told Congress he felt it imperative that the justice department stand outside partisan politics.

The Department of Justice, in my view, is run by political appointees of the president, he testified. But once they take those jobs and run this institution, its very important in my view for that institution to be an other in American life.

My people had to stand up before juries of all stripes, talk to sheriffs of all stripes, judges of all stripes. They had to be seen as the good guys, and not as either this administration or that administration.

Comey left the justice department in 2005 for Lockheed Martin, the largest military contractor in the US, and eventually an investment firm and Columbia Law School. In 2013, Barack Obama nominated the registered Republican to lead the FBI, joking that the 6ft 8in prosecutor was a man who stands very tall for justice and the rule of law.

He was confirmed as the agencys seventh director in a 93-1 vote only Kentucky senator Rand Paul voted against him, over domestic drone surveillance and quickly took on a series of controversial cases.

Though he opposed the NSAs warrantless wiretapping, Comey has emerged as a steady advocate of US security agencies since the Guardian revealed a host of programs in 2013, a system that gave the FBI access to a trove of data. Comey has repeatedly argued that security agencies should be given tools to bypass private encryption, and took the FBI to court against Apple over unlocking the phone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists.

Were asking Apple to take the vicious guard dog away and let us pick the lock, he told Congress in March. Its not their job to watch out for public safety. Thats our job. The logic of encryption will bring us to a place in the not too distant future where all of our conversations and all our papers and effects are entirely private.

The legal battle ended in anticlimax, as the FBI found another way into the iPhone. It has since said that the hack it used does not work on newer phone models.

Comey has walked a careful line on race and police killings. Last year he said it was unacceptable that the Guardian and Washington Post had better data on police shootings than the federal government, but also dipped into controversy by suggesting a Ferguson effect named after sometimes violent protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the police shooting of an unarmed black teen may cause police officers to step back from their responsibilities.

Comey conceded he lacked evidence for that claim, which led him into an unusually public disagreement with the president, who warned last year: What we cant do is cherry-pick data or use anecdotal evidence to drive policy or to feed political agendas.

Since then, tentative research by the justice department and a St Louis criminologist has suggested the Ferguson effect is plausible as an explanation for a single-year spike in violent crime.

The director rose to national prominence in July, when he announced the FBI’s findings in its investigation into whether Clinton and her staff had acted criminally in their use of a private email server. He concluded there was no evidence of intentional wrongdoing.

Comey used a press conference itself a break from tradition and his original sin, in one former officials words to lay out the facts at the time, correct several false claims by Clinton, and castigate her and her staff for their extremely careless email practices. He was then called to Congress to defend his decision, which ended months of expensive and inconclusive Republican investigations.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/oct/30/james-comey-fbi-director-hillary-clinton-email

Who won the debate? A round-by-round analysis of Clinton v Trump

The first debate of the 2016 campaign was divided by NBC into three sections. Sabrina Siddiqui and Ben Jacobs investigate who won each of them.

Round one: Achieving Prosperity


Hillary Clinton focused early on policy, laying out an economic agenda that called for reducing income inequality by raising the minimum wage, closing the gender pay gap and eliminating corporate tax loopholes. But she did not miss the opportunity to go after Donald Trump for being the first major-party nominee in more than 40 years to refuse to release his tax returns.

The Republican candidate managed to put his Democratic rival on the defensive on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, forcing her to explain why she came out against the landmark 12-nation trade agreement last year after previously supporting it. But Clinton was able to overcome the question in part because Trump repeatedly shouted over her attempts to answer it placing the focus instead on his aggressive posture. SS


Donald Trump was strongest early in the debate, when he hit familiar talking points on trade and put Clinton on the back foot, having to defend her flip-flop on TPP and the controversial legacy of Nafta, the free trade agreement signed by her husband that many in the industrial midwest feel has cost manufacturing jobs. An off-key rehearsed line from a stilted Clinton about Trumped-up trickle down economics represented a brief window into what the debate might have been like if Trump had been able to act like a normal candidate for more than 10 minutes.

But the Republican nominee took Clintons bait and played defense on personal attacks almost immediately. After Clinton said: He started his business with $14m, borrowed from his father, Trump immediately responded, rather than turn the focus back on to trade, perhaps his strongest issue. BJ

Round two: Americas Direction

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/27/first-presidential-debate-who-won-each-round

If George HW Bush votes against Trump, he’ll be in good Republican company | Jamie Weinstein

Bush’s opposition can be dismissed as the qualms of a north-eastern moderate. But alongside him are many with unimpeachable conservative credentials.

It wouldn’t be surprising if, as one recent visitor to the Bush compound in Kennebunkport reports, former president George HW Bush will be voting for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump this fall.

After all, the elder Bush president is a moderate from the north-east who has in recent years developed a close relationship with the Clintons. His old patrician sensibility is reportedly offended by Trumps vulgar style. And lets not forget Bush witnessed Trump ruthlessly and gleefully eviscerate his son Jeb during the Republican primary, often in the most personal of ways, and delve into conspiracy theories to attack the presidential legacy of another son, George W.

This is not to say that Bush voting for Clinton is a non-story altogether. When is the last time a former Republican president not only refused to endorse the presidential nominee of their own party but allowed it to get out they were actually voting for the opposition partys presidential candidate? Off the top of my head, I cant think of any parallel in recent American history.

But if you forget for a moment that George HW Bush was once was a Republican president, he is not all that different from the type of Republicans who have crossed party lines in past elections to endorse the Democratic nominee. (Think Colin Powell in 2008 and 2012.)

To understand why this story is more remarkable than notable Republicans crossing party lines to support, say, Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, you have to take a look of the full scope of top-tier Republicans who have refused to endorse Trump, if not declared they will be voting for Clinton.

Yes, you have the squishy north-eastern Republicans such as Bush, Maine senator Susan Collins and former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman. But you also have staunch movement conservatives like Nebraska senator Ben Sasse, Washington Post columnist George Will and radio host Erick Erickson not getting aboard the Trump train.

Now, unlike Bush Sr, this latter group is probably far less likely to let it be known they support Clinton over Trump. But unlike in 2008 and 2012, there are bulwarks of the conservative movement refusing to get behind the Republican presidential nominee, not just those easily dismissed as Rinos (Republicans-In-Name-Only). Thats no small thing.

It is true that as the election draws nearer, some so-called Never Trump conservatives have come around to supporting Trump. Conservative talkshow host Mark Levin is perhaps the most famous example. But many more Never Trumpers seem to be in it for the long haul, even in the face of conservatives who argue that they have to vote for Trump at the very least to prevent Clintons supreme court nominees.

But its not only significant right-leaning politicians, activists and opinion columnists who are refusing to support Trump. The most famous conservative academics are refusing to get behind him as well, including conservative and libertarian legal scholars exactly the kind of people who understand how important the supreme court is.

For instance, you have Princeton professor Robert P George, perhaps the most noted intellectual defender of social conservatism in the country, refusing to back Trump, even as he says he cant back Clinton either. The same goes with some of the top conservative economists, such as Harvards Greg Mankiw. In fact, the Wall Street Journal reached out to 45 past economists who served on the White House Council of Economic Advisers under both Republican and Democratic administrations and not one responded to say they were supporting Trump.

You can make fun of these people as egghead elitists, but the reality is most have fought the intellectual conservative fight in the most liberal of environments their entire lives. These are are not squishy moderates. They are true believers in conservative principles.

So it may be easy to dismiss George HW Bushs putative decision to vote for Clinton (his spokesman refuses to confirm or deny the report). But when you look at the scope of figures from Republican establishment politicians to leaders of the conservative movement to members of the conservative intelligentsia who still refuse to get on the Trump train and likely never will, it is hard to conclude anything other than there is something truly repellent about the current Republican presidential nominee and something deeply awry with a conservative movement that could nominate him.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/20/george-hw-bush-vote-trump-republicans

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