Clinton emails: Case in the court of public opinion

Published 9:43 am Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Mankato Free Press

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency

The issue of Hillary Clinton’s email server won’t be fought out in a courtroom. It will be fought out in the court of public opinion, which is where it belongs.

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On Tuesday James Comey, the former prosecutor who heads the FBI, had harsh words for the presumptive Democratic nominee even as he recommended that no criminal charges should be filed against the former secretary of state or her aides over her use of a personal email server while in office.

He undermined her claims about her email practices, specified levels of classified information potentially exposed, and pronounced her “extremely careless” in her handling of that information.

What he didn’t find was reason to bring criminal charges. That would require intent, and, he said, “no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”

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For a presidential candidate whose core argument is her competency and judgment, Comey’s conclusion could be damning. “Extremely careless” is not an evaluation Hillary Clinton should welcome.

But the immediate reaction of Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans was to bewail the lack of criminal charges. Trump called Comey’s recommendation the result of a “rigged process,” never mind the fact that Comey is himself a Republican who donated to both of Barack Obama’s presidential opponents.

And perhaps the GOP needed an actual criminal indictment to make this issue stick to Clinton. It is going to be difficult to change minds in this election. Clinton has been a public figure for more than a quarter century; Trump has been embedded in popular culture even longer. Pretty much everyone figures they know who these two are. You like them or you despise them, but few if any are undecided on either.

Comey likely has had the final word on criminal charges. The electorate will issue the more important verdict in November.