By Kate Ryan, GOOD.is
Since FBI Director James B. Comey released a letter to Congress on Friday vaguely reopening issues with Hillary Clinton’s private server, Democrats and Republicans alike have been thrown off by the possibility of damaging information. Though the FBI completed its investigation of Clinton’s emails in July and found her not guilty of any wrongdoing, new information spawning from former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s emails could potentially spark a renewed—albeit much smaller—dig into her emails. Here are the top three things you should know about Hillary Clinton’s “email scandal” and how it concerns this presidential election:
1. Why her emails became a problem in a first place.
This email scandal has plagued much of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, but the source of this problem has become hazy in the shuffle of misinformation and dramatized headlines. To put it simply, mishandling information pertaining to national security is a federal crime. During her term as Secretary of State, Clinton used a personal email that operated through a private server instead of an email address safeguarded by State Department servers. While no one is certain why Clinton chose to go against the advice of the State Department, she’s said in the past that she didn’t want to carry multiple mobile devices, Vox reports.
This seemingly harmless preference grew into a legitimate issue for two reasons. For one, it’s a matter of transparency. By sending emails through a private account, Clinton might appear as though she’s attempting to conceal something. Secondly, the private server left Clinton’s emails more vulnerable to hackers. Still, after digging through tens of thousands of emails over the course of its investigation, the FBI found no evidence that her email account had been hacked or that the emails in question would have compromised national security. That should have been the end of the story, but ...
2. Comey’s letter is unprecedented.
According to The New York Times, the FBI. has never disclosed new evidence once a case has been closed—especially so close to a presidential election. In fact, other FBI. agents urged Comey not to release the letter as it violates department guidelines and would likely come across as an attempt to meddle with the election. Indeed, we should be wary of the letter’s timing considering it arrived in our news feeds just 11 days before Election Day. It also does little to inform the general public. Comey does not address how he came across these problematic emails, what they contain, or why they are worth mentioning. Because the letter is so vague, it can be easily misinterpreted as having damning information, despite the fact that no evidence of wrongdoing on Clinton’s part currently exists.
Comey, who said he released the letter for transparency purposes, has received harsh criticism for his actions. As former Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in a piece for The Washington Post on Sunday, “The department has a practice of not commenting on ongoing investigations. Indeed, except in exceptional circumstances, the department will not even acknowledge the existence of an investigation. The department also has a policy of not taking unnecessary action close in time to Election Day that might influence an election’s outcome.” There’s also the problem that if the FBI does reopen the investigation, it will likely not be finished by Election Day, leaving ample room for Clinton’s detractors to skew the information in an excessively negative light. But, all things considered ...
3. Clinton’s email scandal doesn’t even compare to Donald Trump’s litany of scandals.
If you’re looking for a little perspective, just consider the number of scandals surrounding Donald Trump that, under any normal circumstances, would have deemed his campaign dead in the water from day one. If we’re going to treat Clinton’s emails with such gravity, then we have to be more critical of the fact that Trump has blatantly lied, defended sexual assault, attacked women, incited violence, called for a ban of all Muslims, called Mexican immigrants rapists, and has been linked to the mafia. In response to these egregious offenses and countless others, Trump has either denied having any blame or threatened to sue those who question him.
What Clinton did was irresponsible, but if we’re looking at every politician’s actions from a fair and unbiased perspective, we’d barely register the mistakes she made with her emails. While this development won’t affect those who’ve voted early and those who’ve already decided who to vote for, it could have an impact on down-ballot votes. Counting down the final days before we vote for our next president along with several key measures, it might be best to take a step back and look at the whole picture. From that vantage point, we can all make more educated decisions.