Is the timing of the FBI’s decision to reinvestigate Clinton’s email scandal ‘unprecedented’? - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Is the timing of the FBI’s decision to reinvestigate Clinton’s email scandal ‘unprecedented’?

WASHINGTON – Hillary Clinton called the FBI’s 11th-hour decision to reopen the criminal investigation into her private server “unprecedented,” but 24 years ago Bill Clinton applauded a similar bombshell that helped him defeat George Herbert Walker Bush.

Four days before the 1992 presidential election, federal prosecutors levied an additional charge against former Reagan Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger for his participation in the Iran-Contra scandal more than five years earlier. Weinberger was already under indictment for perjury and obstruction of justice.

Then-President George H.W. Bush, who had served as Reagan’s vice president, and whose diary later suggested that he may have had inside information about the scandal, is widely believed to have suffered politically as a result of the last-minute indictment of Weinberger.

The late indictment was later dismissed and Bush pardoned him for the remaining charges shortly before leaving office.

Nick Akerman, a former assistant U.S. Attorney who was also a member of the Watergate special prosecution team, told Talk Media News that Clinton’s situation differs from that of Weinberger in that the decision to reopen the email investigation emanated from an agency within the Department of Justice as opposed to the Office of Independent Counsel, and also was not based on hard evidence.

Photo: Brookings Institute via Flickr
FBI Director James Comey (Photo: Brookings Institute via Flickr)

“There is no element of hypocrisy with respect to the criticism of FBI Director [James] Comey,” Akerman said. “The prosecutorial decision made on [the] Weinberger case was not done by the U.S. Department of Justice but was made by a Special Prosecutor who was not bound by the Department of Justice or its rules. It should also be pointed out that the Weinberger matter was an indictment where a grand jury determined there was probable cause to charge a crime. Here, there is no evidence whatsoever of a crime. Indeed, the statement by Comey in the letters to Congress was pure innuendo and begged speculation, as we have seen in the last couple of days.”

Sean M. Bigley, an attorney specializing in national-security cases, told TMNthat the prosecutorial decision to levy an additional charge against Weinberger several days before the 1992 election was politically motivated and perhaps unnecessary as well.

“The Weinberger precedent is very salient,” Bigley said. “If anything, that case smacks of partisan politics more than Mrs. Clinton’s, as there was no pressing urgency to add an additional charge to an already pending indictment.”

Hillary Clinton (Wikipedia screenshot CSPAN)
Hillary Clinton (Wikipedia screenshot CSPAN)

Bigley said the Clinton campaign’s decision to criticize Comey for reopening the email investigation smacks of hypocrisy considering the opulent praise the now-Democratic nominee and her surrogates previously bestowed upon the Bureau director after he had decided in July against recommending charges.

“This smells like the worst kind of hypocrisy  especially because those who are now screaming the loudest were the same ones heaping praise on Comey just a few months ago when he recommended against prosecution,” Bigley said. “It is natural that the Clinton campaign would be upset over the news.”

Former Maryland Republican legislator Michael Smigiel has practiced law for nearly three decades and previously served as minority parliamentarian in the state’s House of Delegates.

Smigiel told TMN that Clinton’s use of a private server to conduct official government business is undoubtedly unprecedented and took issue with the now-Democratic presidential nominee’s previous assertion that she was merely emulating her predecessors in doing so.

“It was unprecedented that Hillary would use her own private server from the start,” Smigiel said. “Now she likens that to the secretary of states previously having their own email addresses but that’s not the same thing as your own server. She’s the first to do that. And yes, others did have their own email addresses but they used it for private non-government purposes.”

Attorney General Loretta Lynch (Photo by Danielle Wilde)
Attorney General Loretta Lynch
(Photo by Danielle Wilde)

Smigiel suggested that designating Attorney General Loretta Lynch as the official arbiter of whether to prosecute Clinton represented a conflict of interest and referenced Lynch’s private meeting with former President Bill Clinton on the tarmac of the Phoenix Airport just days before Director Comey recommended against charging Hillary Clinton.

“There is a mechanism that could have been pursued, which was to go out and get a special prosecutor,” Smigiel said. “But rather than do that they say: We’re going to have this unprecedented step according to the attorney general; and we’re gonna dump it in the lap of the FBI director.”

Steven H. Levin, who is a former federal prosecutor, suggested that the Clinton email scandal may be worthy of further inquiry but said that Comey did not have to make that information public.

“Comey’s decision to reopen the investigation – or continue it, to the extent it was never formally closed – so close to the election is not what’s problematic,” Levin said. “It’s the decision to announce it publicly.”

“Just like Walsh was wrong to obtain an [additional] indictment against Weinberger, Comey was wrong to announce the continuation of the investigation into Clinton’s emails,” Levin said. “Just like Walsh could have sealed the indictment, Comey could have waited until after the election to notify Congress, or he could have chosen not to notify Congress at all, given that the FBI does not ordinarily notify lawmakers about ongoing investigations.”

This article is republished with permission from Talk Media News 


About the author

Bryan Renbaum

Bryan is a reporter and political columnist with Baltimore Post-Examiner and has broken multiple stories involving athletic scandals. He has been interviewed by ABC's Good Morning America as well as Baltimore area radio stations. Bryan has both covered and worked in the Maryland General Assembly and is extremely knowledgeable of politics, voting patterns and American history. In addition to his regular duties, Bryan freelances for several publications and performs investigative research. He has a B.A. in Political Science. Contact the author.
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