Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Monday, September 26, 2016
Hillary couldn’t be proven guilty without proving the president guilty as well.
By Andrew C. McCarthy — September 26, 2016
In this Dec. 1, 2008, file photo, then-President-elect Barack Obama, left, stands with then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., after announcing that she is his choice as Secretary of State during a news conference in Chicago.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
"How is this not classified?”
So exclaimed Hillary Clinton’s close aide and confidante, Huma Abedin. The FBI had just shown her an old e-mail exchange, over Clinton’s private account, between the then-secretary of state and a second person, whose name Abedin did not recognize. The FBI then did what the FBI is never supposed to do: The agents informed their interviewee (Abedin) of the identity of the second person. It was the president of the United States, Barack Obama, using a pseudonym to conduct communications over a non-secure e-mail system — something anyone with a high-level security clearance, such as Huma Abedin, would instantly realize was a major breach.
Abedin was sufficiently stunned that, for just a moment, the bottomless capacity of Clinton insiders to keep cool in a scandal was overcome. “How is this not classified?”
She recovered quickly enough, though. The FBI records that the next thing Abedin did, after “express[ing] her amazement at the president’s use of a pseudonym,” was to “ask if she could have a copy of the email.”
Abedin knew an insurance policy when she saw one. If Obama himself had been e-mailing over a non-government, non-secure system, then everyone else who had been doing it had a get-out-of-jail-free card.
Thanks to Friday’s FBI document dump — 189 more pages of reports from the Bureau’s year-long foray (“investigation” would not be the right word) into the Clinton e-mail scandal — we now know for certain what I predicted some eight months ago here at NRO: Any possibility of prosecuting Hillary Clinton was tanked by President Obama’s conflict of interest.
As I explained in February, when it emerged that the White House was refusing to disclose at least 22 communications Obama had exchanged with then-secretary Clinton over the latter’s private e-mail account, we knew that Obama had knowingly engaged in the same misconduct that was the focus of the Clinton probe: the reckless mishandling of classified information.
To be sure, he did so on a smaller scale. Clinton’s recklessness was systematic: She intentionally set up a non-secure, non-government communications framework, making it inevitable that classified information would be mishandled, and that federal record-keeping laws would be flouted. Obama’s recklessness, at least as far as we know, was confined to communications with Clinton — although the revelation that the man presiding over the “most transparent administration in history” set up a pseudonym to conceal his communications obviously suggests that his recklessness may have been more widespread.
Still, the difference in scale is not a difference in kind. In terms of the federal laws that criminalize mishandling of classified information, Obama not only engaged in the same type of misconduct Clinton did; he engaged in it with Clinton. It would not have been possible for the Justice Department to prosecute Clinton for her offense without its becoming painfully apparent that 1) Obama, too, had done everything necessary to commit a violation of federal law, and 2) the communications between Obama and Clinton were highly relevant evidence.
Indeed, imagine what would have happened had Clinton been indicted. The White House would have attempted to maintain the secrecy of the Obama-Clinton e-mails (under Obama’s invocation of a bogus “presidential communications” privilege), but Clinton’s defense lawyers would have demanded the disclosure of the e-mails in order to show that Obama had engaged in the same misconduct, yet only she, not he, was being prosecuted. And as most experienced criminal-law lawyers understand (especially if they’ve read a little Supreme Court case known as United States v. Nixon), it is an argument that Clinton’s lawyers would have won.
In fact, in any other case — i.e., in a case that involved any other unindicted co-conspirator — it would be the Justice Department itself introducing the Obama-Clinton e-mails into evidence.
As noted above, the FBI told Huma Abedin that the name she did not recognize in the e-mail with Clinton was an Obama alias. For the agents to do this ran afoul of investigative protocols. The point of an FBI interview is for the interviewee to provide information to the investigators, not the other way around. If agents give information to potential witnesses, the government gets accused of trumping up the case.
But of course, that’s only a problem if there is actually going to be a case.
In this instance, it was never going to happen. The president’s involvement guaranteed that . . . so why worry about letting Abedin in on the president’s involvement?
Abedin was startled by this revelation. No wonder: People in her lofty position know that direct presidential communications with high-ranking officials who have national-security and foreign-policy responsibilities are presumptively classified.
To convey this, and thus convey the legal significance of Obama’s involvement, I can’t much improve on what I told you back in February. When the Obama Justice Department prosecuted retired general David Petraeus, the former CIA director, for mishandling classified information, government attorneys emphasized that this top-secret intelligence included notes of Petraeus’s “discussions with the president of the United States of America.”
Petraeus pled guilty because he knew the case against him was a slam-dunk. He grasped that trying to defend himself by sputtering, Clinton-style, that “the notes were not marked classified” would not pass the laugh test. As I elaborated in the February column, when you’re a national-security official engaging in and making a written record of policy and strategy conversations with the president, the lack of classified markings on the documents you’ve created
[does] not alter the obvious fact that the information they contain [is] classified — a fact well known to any high government official who routinely handles national-defense secrets, let alone one who directly advises the president.
Moreover, as is the case with Clinton’s e-mails, much of the information in Petraeus’s journals was “born classified” under the terms of President Obama’s own executive order — EO 13526. As I’ve previously noted, insection 1.1(d) of that order, Obama issued this directive: “The unauthorized disclosure of foreign government information is presumed to cause damage to the national security.” In addition, the order goes on (in section 1.4) to describe other categories of information that officials should deem classified based on the damage to national security that disclosure could cause. Included among these categories: foreign relations, foreign activities of the United States, military plans, and intelligence activities.
Abedin knew, as the FBI agents who were interviewing her surely knew, that at least some of Obama’s pseudonymous exchanges with Clinton had to have crossed into these categories. They were born classified. As I said in February, this fact would profoundly embarrass Obama if the e-mails were publicly disclosed.
Hundreds of times, despite Clinton’s indignant insistence that she never sent or received classified information, the State Department has had to concede that her e-mails must be redacted or withheld from public disclosure because they contain information that is patently classified. But this is not a concession the administration is willing to make regarding Obama’s e-mails.
That is why, as I argued in February, Obama is trying to get away with the vaporous claim that presidential communications must be kept confidential. He does not want to say “executive privilege” because that sounds too much like Nixon. More important, the only other alternative is to designate the e-mails as classified. That would be tantamount to an admission that Obama engaged in the same violation of law as Clinton.
Again, this is why the prosecution of Mrs. Clinton never had a chance of happening. It also explains why, in his public statements about the matter, Obama insisted that Clinton’s e-mailing of classified information did not harm national security. It is why Obama, in stark contrast to his aforementioned executive order, made public statements pooh-poohing the fact that federal law forbids the mishandling of any intelligence secret. (“There’s classified, and then there’s classified,” he said, so cavalierly.) He had to take this position because he had himself effectively endorsed the practice of high-level communications through non-secure channels.
This is also why the Justice Department and the FBI effectively rewrote the relevant criminal statute in order to avoid applying it to Clinton. In his public statements about Clinton, Obama has stressed that she is an exemplary public servant who would never intentionally harm the United States. In rationalizing their decision not to indict Clinton, Justice Department officials (in leaks to the Washington Post) and the FBI director (in his press conference and congressional testimony) similarly stressed the lack of proof that she intended to harm the United States.
As I’ve repeatedly pointed out, however, the operative criminal statute does not call for proof of intent to harm the United States. It merely requires proof of gross negligence. This is entirely lawful and appropriate, since we’re talking about a law that can apply only to government officials who have a special duty to preserve secrecy and who have been schooled in the proper handling of classified information. Yet the Justice Department frivolously suggested that applying the law exactly the way it is written — something the Justice Department routinely tells judges they must do — would, in Clinton’s case, potentially raise constitutional problems.
Alas, the Justice Department and the FBI have to take that indefensible position here. Otherwise, Clinton would not be the only one in legal jeopardy.
I will end with what I said eight months ago:
To summarize, we have a situation in which (a) Obama knowingly communicated with Clinton over a non-government, non-secure e-mail system; (b) Obama and Clinton almost certainly discussed matters that are automatically deemed classified under the president’s own guidelines; and (c) at least one high-ranking government official (Petraeus) has been prosecuted because he failed to maintain the security of highly sensitive intelligence that included policy-related conversations with Obama. From these facts and circumstances, we must deduce that it is possible, if not highly likely, that President Obama himself has been grossly negligent in handling classified information.
That is why the Clinton e-mail scandal never had a chance of leading to criminal charges.
— Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.
By Mike Lupica
September 26, 2016
Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer at the 1964 Masters.
This was last spring, an event at Jack Nicklaus’ Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Fla., not too long before the Masters tournament.
Barbara Nicklaus, Jack’s wife, was introducing a new cookbook, and she and Jack had acted as celebrity chefs for a small gathering of club guests and their friends. Some friends of my wife and I had invited us and near the end of the night, I was talking to Jack about Arnold Palmer. It has been impossible for more than a half-century in America to talk about one without talking about the other. Arnie and Jack. Jack and Arnie.
Once it had been the rivalry to watch and talk about in golf, the kid from Ohio coming along to take on the acknowledged king of the sport, the guy known to the golf world as “The King” — Arnold — and beat him for the first time at the U.S. Open of 1962, and keep beating him on his way to winning 18 major championships and becoming the greatest golfer of them all.
But out of that rivalry came something more important: A deep and lasting and splendid friendship. Now, in the spring of 2016, everybody in Jack’s world and Arnold’s world knew that Arnold was failing, it was no secret any longer, Arnold had barely been visible at his own tournament at Bay Hill, in Orlando.
There was even some question about whether or not Arnold Palmer, 86 then, would make it to the first tee at Augusta with Nicklaus and Gary Player, for the ceremonial opening to another Masters tournament.
Sunday, September 25, 2016
September 24, 2016
Anyone who has ever experienced the uniquely soul-stirring amalgam of musical celebration, spiritual rejuvenation, intellectual provocation and physical release-to-the-point-of-exhaustion that is a concert by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band will feel right at home in the 508 pages of “Born to Run” (Simon & Schuster, $32.50), his 67-years (as of Friday)-in-the-making autobiography.
On the most superficial level, this richly rewarding rock tome could be subtitled “The Collected and Expanded Between-Song Sermons.” That’s how integral to his fabled marathon performances over the last 40-plus years are his ripped-from-New-Jersey-life fables of spirit-shaping battles with his father, his comradeship with his bandmates, his fitful attempts to unravel the mysteries of love and, binding them all together, his DNA-deep passion for music, specially that strain called rock ’n’ roll.
Throughout his career, the once scrawny kid who was born in Long Branch, N.J., and grew up in nearby Freehold, has relied on music as a source of inspiration, a platform for understanding the world around him and a forum for self-examination and expression.
All of those qualities serve this Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee beautifully in a book that illuminates not just the career, but the full-bodied life of one of pop music’s most valuable artists.
It’s alternately brutally honest, philosophically deep, stabbingly funny and, perhaps most important, refreshingly humble.
We’re told on the book jacket that his 2009 performance at the Super Bowl was what started him writing, specifically about that show and what it meant to him at the time.
“Since the inception of our band,” he writes late in the book about his group’s performance at the event that typically draws the largest global audience of any other, “it’s been our ambition to play for everyone. We’ve achieved a lot, but we haven’t achieved that.
“Our audience remains tribal...that is, predominantly white. On occasion,” he notes, “I looked out and sang ‘Promised Land’ to the audience I intended it for: young people, old people, black, white, brown, cutting across religious and class lines. That’s who I’m singing to today.”
It’s been his hubris from the outset that Springsteen believed to his soul that he had something to offer to the world; and his supreme gift that he fought and scraped his way onto stages across the globe to realize that dream.
Given his Catholic upbringing, it’s fitting that the book is divided into three parts, his own literary Holy Trinity, as he lays out his life story essentially in chronological order.
“In Catholicism, there existed the poetry, danger and darkness that reflected my imagination and my inner self. I found a land of great and harsh beauty, of fantastic stories, of unimaginable punishment and infinite reward. It was a glorious and pathetic place I was either shaped for or fit right into,” he writes early on. “This was the world where I found the beginnings of my song.”
Book One is titled “Growin’ Up,” recounting his early family life and apprenticeship as a budding musician; Book Two, “Born to Run,” continues with his rise to a level of fame and fortune he probably did conceive, but only in his wildest dreams, and Book Three, “Living Proof,” looks into adult life as one of pop music’s biggest stars, and the often diametrically opposed realities of his on- and offstage lives.
Unapologetic rock ’n’ roller that he is at heart, Springsteen often crafts chapters like good pop songs — most take just three or four minutes to finish, there are catchy hooks and typically snappy endings, usually with a grain of life’s truth dropped in along the way.
His book offers none of the surreal flights of imagination found in Bob Dylan’s unconventional 2004 memoir “Chronicles, Vol. 1” or Neil Young’s 2012 self-narrative, “Waging Heavy Peace.” And where Elvis Costello took readers on a trip through the formative events of his life processed through the filter of his formidable intellect in last year’s highly engaging “Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink,” Springsteen speaks predominantly and most powerfully from the heart, and his gut.
roll for their own sake, but to illustrate
What emerges unequivocally is his almost singled-minded devotion not to scoring hits, or finding fame and fortune, but to creating a body of music that matters.
“Born to Run” also goes well beyond frequently illuminating analysis of his career ambitions, and the successful and unsuccessful execution of those aims to paint a picture of a full-rounded life, with all its rough edges, bruised and battered relationships and another theme that’s been ongoing in his music: the redemption that’s possible to those who seek and are willing to sacrifice for it.
At the core of this story is his combative relationship with his father, Doug Springsteen, whom he describes sitting night after night in the kitchen of their working-class household puffing on a cigarette and sucking down beers until he would unpredictably, but frequently, explode at the nearest target of his outrage, which often was his only son.
“My dad’s desire to engage with me almost always came after the nightly religious ritual of the ‘sacred six-pack,’” Springsteen writes. “One beer after another in the pitch dark of our kitchen. It was always then that he wanted to see me and it was always the same. A few moments of feigned parental concern for my well-being followed by the real deal: the hostility and raw anger toward his son, the only other man in the house. It was a shame,” Springsteen writes evenhandedly. “He loved me but he couldn’t stand me.”
The power in Springsteen’s book emerges from his steadfast refusal simply to create villains who embody the antagonistic forces he railed against as a youth — something every adolescent feels at one time or another. He transcends the bitterness that could have consumed him through an honest curiosity about the life forces that shaped his father, and a real wish not to let the sins of the father become those of the son.
Springsteen is chasing truth and understanding — not scapegoats.
With active, objective exploration as his guiding principle, Springsteen comes to the conclusion that “I haven’t been completely fair to my father in my songs, treating him as an archetype of the neglecting, domineering parent. It was an ‘East of Eden’ recasting of our relationship, a way of ‘universalizing’ my childhood experience. Our story is much more complicated. Not in the details of what happened, but in the ‘why’ of it all.”
Perhaps the most poignant moment, among many he shares, is their reconciliation, years after his father and mother, Adele, had quit New Jersey and started a new life across the country, with his younger sister, Pam, in San Mateo, Calif.
He recounts a visit from his father, who was increasingly battling various illnesses, yet still made the drive from the Bay Area to see his now-famous son in Los Angeles.
“Bruce, you’ve been very good to us,” the elder Springsteen tells his son, “and I wasn’t very good to you,” to which Bruce responds: “You did the best you could.”
“That was it,” Springsteen writes. “It was all I needed, all that was necessary.”
Although he reveals that much of this inner and outer-world analysis grew out of psychological counseling he underwent as an adult, the book also gives us a vivid picture of just how crucial music was as a life-renewing force for him.
“I began to feel the empowerment the instrument and my work were bringing me,” he says about wood-shedding his guitar chops. “I had a secret … there was something I could do, something I might be good at. I fell asleep at night with dreams of rock ’n’ roll glory in my head.”
Perhaps it’s the classic Catholic guilt at work, but Springsteen comes off admirably generous in recounting disagreements and outright betrayals that he’s been involved with along the way with family members, friends, bandmates, girlfriends (who remain largely unnamed), business associates, his first wife — actress Julianne Phillips — and his second — singer and songwriter Patti Scialfa, the mother of their three children.
He wisely avoides the descent into vitriol that sank Creedence Clearwater Revival front man John Fogerty’s autobiography “Fortune Son: My Life, My Music.”
Instead, he takes his rightful lumps for numerous transgressions, such as disbanding the venerated E Street Band in the late 1980s, after the peak of his massive popularity with the “Born in the U.S.A.” album. An inevitable process of an autobiography, of course, is that we get only his side of those disagreements, as equitable as he is in relating them.
He barely touches on the hurt he caused “The Big Man,” saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who freely expressed in his own interviews his pain at being told by “The Boss” that the E Street Band was being mothballed so he could explore other musical situations. His subsequent meditation on Clemons’ death in 2011 is a masterpiece of love and empathy.
Springsteen has an honest out for his frequent invocation of the better part of valor, noting toward the book’s end, “I haven’t told you ‘all’ about myself. Discretion and the feelings of others don’t allow it. But in a project like this, the writer has made one promise: to show the reader his mind. In these pages I’ve tried to do that.”
For the super faithful, he has supplied a wealth of insight into the creation of many of his greatest songs and albums. The relative lack of commentary on middling mid-career works such as “Lucky Town” and “Human Touch” likely tells us what we need to know about his thoughts on those.
He incorporates thoughts about his two sons, Evan and James, and daughter, Jessica, while wife Patti fulfills the role of near-saintly best friend, lover, muse and life partner, although it’s not hard to want to hear more about how those roles have fed, or derailed, her own musical ambitions, which are left for someone else’s book.
Structurally, “Born to Run” flows elegantly and effectively for the most part. One exception is his chapter about the family’s entrance into the world of high-end equestrian life because of daughter Jessica’s passion for horses. It feels awkward, almost trivial, coming immediately after his eloquently moving chapter about the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and his musical response to that world-jolting event.
A sage no less than Socrates famously observed, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” A more modern corollary also suggests that “The unlived life is not worth examining.”
Bruce Springsteen proves that he has taken on life fully engaged both in living and examining it, and in doing so, he’s delivered a story as profoundly inspiring as his best music.
Saturday, September 24, 2016
By Paul Sperry
September 24, 2016
Hillary Clinton and Cheryl Mills in 2010.
If anyone would know Hillary consigliere Cheryl Mills’ reputation for obstructing investigations, it’s FBI Director James Comey. He complained about her lack of cooperation while probing Clinton scandals in the 1990s. Yet he agreed to give Mills immunity from prosecution in his probe of Hillary’s illegal e-mails as secretary of state, where Mills was chief of staff.
As a Whitewater investigator for the Senate in the mid-1990s, Comey sought information from Mills; but wouldn’t you know, the then-deputy White House counsel claimed a burglar stole her notes.
Comey concluded that Hillary Clinton ordered Mills to block investigators. The obstruction, the Senate committee found, included the “destruction of documents” and other “highly improper . . . misconduct.”
Two years later, Mills was in the middle of another Hillary scandal, involving the then-first lady’s integration of White House and Democratic National Committee computer databases.
This time the House subpoenaed information from Mills, who not only withheld the documents but, a government committee said, “lied under oath” — prompting staff lawyers to send a criminal referral to the Justice Department demanding prosecutors charge Mills with obstruction of justice and perjury.
In 2000, a Commerce Department official testified that Mills ordered her to “withhold” from investigators e-mails and other documents exposing yet another scandal involving the first lady — the selling of seats on foreign trade junkets for campaign cash.
At the same time, a federal judge suggested Mills helped orchestrate a cover-up that blamed a technical “glitch” in the White House archiving system that conveniently resulted in the loss of 1.8 million e-mails under subpoena in the Monica Lewinsky, Filegate and other scandal investigations.
Fast-forward to Hillary’s tenure as secretary. In October 2012, Mills sorted through key Benghazi documents and decided which to withhold from a review board. She also leaned on witnesses. Deputy ambassador to Libya Gregory Hicks testified before Congress in 2013 that Mills told him in an angry phone call to stop cooperating with investigators.
The FBI chief was fully aware of Mills’ M.O. when he launched his investigation. Yet even after discovering she was in the middle of everything improper, if not illegal, he treated her with kid gloves.
Comey knew it was Mills who had Hillary’s e-mails moved off her private unsecured server and onto laptops, where she decided which ones were government-related and OK for public release and which were “personal.” He knew it was Mills who shredded the e-mails that were printed out and who had the rest of the 31,000 e-mails deleted, and then had the laptops bleached clean.
And he knew it was Mills who told the Denver tech who maintained the server to stop retaining her e-mails and to delete Hillary’s archived e-mails, all of which the tech dutifully performed after Congress subpoenaed them and ordered them preserved.
Even so, Comey agreed to grant Mills immunity in exchange for her cooperation in the investigation. He also agreed to ground rules that left some lines of inquiry off-limits. When agents in April tried to pin her down on the procedures she used to search for Hillary’s e-mails under order, she and her lawyer stormed out of the room. So much for Comey’s cooperative witness.
Mills claimed such information was protected under “attorney-client privilege,” which is ridiculous. Mills was chief of staff for Hillary, not her lawyer, at the time Hillary was bypassing government security and squirreling away state secrets in her basement.
And even though Mills deleted the records after she left State and was supposedly acting as Hillary’s attorney then, privilege does not apply when a client seeks advice on how to commit a crime and the crime is committed.
Yet Comey’s agents abided by her claim and never pursued the line of questioning again. In effect, they gave her a pass on the whole question of the criminal obstruction behind which she looks to be the mastermind. And then, three months later, they let her sit in on Hillary’s interview even though Hillary was represented by attorney David Kendall!
Mills should be dragged before Congress to publicly answer questions the FBI refused to ask her. But she would just lie with impunity like she did in her past testimony involving other Hillary scandals.
Rather, it would be more productive to grill Comey under the klieg lights. Why did he give a key suspect who orchestrated the destruction of government records immunity as a witness? Why didn’t he demand prosecutors convene a grand jury to question Mills under oath? Was he pressured by the attorney general?
Sweating Mills could have cracked the case wide open. No one would have ever let H.R. Haldeman get away with editing the Nixon tapes. Why would the FBI director let Hillary’s chief of staff get away with deleting her e-mails?
Paul Sperry is author of “The Great American Bank Robbery,” which exposes the role of race-based Clinton housing policies in the mortgage bust.