Clinton’s Emails Crowd Out Trump Scandals for No Good Reason

While her Republican rival is embroiled in too many scandals to count, Hillary Clinton’s emails are back in the news.

American secretary of state Hillary Clinton attends a news conference in Washington DC, June 14, 2012
American secretary of state Hillary Clinton attends a news conference in Washington DC, June 14, 2012 (DoD/Glenn Fawcett)

I thought we were done with this, but it’s one week out from the election and Hillary Clinton’s emails are a thing again.

We still don’t know why exactly. In a letter to Congress on Friday that resurrected the issue, James Comey, the FBI director, wrote that more emails that “appear to be pertinent to the investigation” had been recovered.

We have since learned that those emails were recovered from the laptop of former Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner, who is under investigation for allegedly sexting a minor and whose estranged wife, Huma Abedin, is a top Clinton campaign staffer.

Comey told Congress the FBI could not yet assess if the emails found on Weiner’s computer were relevant to its investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state; an investigation that was closed earlier this year after the FBI found she had done nothing illegal.

So what was the point of informing Congress?

Godsend

Whatever Comey’s motives, his late-game intervention in the presidential contest was a godsend for Donald Trump, who is far behind Clinton in the polls and beating off myriad allegations of his own.

Just this week, Slate is reporting that Trump’s business empire had an email server communicating with a bank in Russia (we don’t know what for, but it may be nothing); The New York Times uncovered that Trump avoided reporting hundreds of millions of dollars in taxable income during the 1990s and the Democratic Party has filed federal lawsuits in Arizona, Nevada, Ohio and Pennsylvania accusing the Trump campaign of voter intimidation.

There are now 75 active lawsuits against Trump personally, according to USA Today, ranging from accusations of fraud and racketeering to rape.

Since The Washington Post published a 2005 tape last month in which Trump could be heard bragging about groping women, a dozen have come forward accusing him of sexual misconduct.

Meanwhile, the FBI is looking into the foreign ties of his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who used to do work for the Kremlin’s stooge in Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich. (No special letter from Comey about that.)

All this and now the media feel they have to spend equal time covering a Clinton “scandal” that will likely turn out to be nothing of the sort when it was already impossible to keep up with the many actual scandals involving her opponent.

Pattern

There is a pattern to this.

It’s not just false equivalence, which I wrote about earlier this year. Many journalists have thankfully stopped pretending Clinton and Trump are in any way comparable.

But there is still a tendency to assume wrongdoing on Clinton’s part when, as Fred Kaplan has convincingly argued, she did neither break the law nor damage national security in the way she handled her emails.

It’s not just the right, which, as Matthew Yglesias argues at Vox, is convinced Clinton is guilty; they’re just not sure what she’s guilty of. The mainstream media too is obsessed with Clinton malfeasance, real or imagined.

Media Matters, a left-leaning media watchdog, has found that the big three evening newscasts spent thrice as much time reporting on the non-scandal of Clinton’s emails this year as they did on all issue coverage combined.

No wonder voters believe there there must be something to it.

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