Politics & Policy

Hillary Ruins the Plan

President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton at a campaign rally in Charlotte, N.C., July 5, 2016. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)
Plan A was to exonerate her and get her elected. Plan B, the failsafe, was an ‘insurance policy’ meant to destroy Trump.

Editor’s note: Andrew C. McCarthy’s new book is Ball of Collusion: The Plot to Rig an Election and Destroy a Presidency. This is the first in a series of excerpts.

 There really was a collusion plot. It really did target our election system. It absolutely sought to usurp our capacity for self-determination. It was just not the collusion you’ve been told about for nearly three years. It was not “Donald Trump’s collusion with Russia.”

Here is the real collusion scheme: In 2016, the incumbent Democratic administration of President Barack Obama put the awesome powers of the United States government’s law-enforcement and intelligence apparatus in the service of the Hillary Rodham Clinton presidential campaign, the Democratic party, and the progressive Beltway establishment. This scheme had two parts: Plan A, the objective; and Plan B, a fail-safe strategy in case Plan A imploded — which all the smartest people were supremely confident would never, ever happen . . . which is why you could bet the ranch that it would.

Plan A was to get Mrs. Clinton elected president of the United States. This required exonerating her, at least ostensibly, from well-founded allegations of her felonious and politically disqualifying actions.

Plan B was the insurance policy: an investigation that Donald Trump, in the highly unlikely event he was elected, would be powerless to shut down. An investigation that would simultaneously monitor and taint him. An investigation that internalized Clinton-campaign-generated opposition research, limning Trump and his campaign as complicit in Russian espionage. An investigation that would hunt for a crime under the guise of counterintelligence, build an impeachment case under the guise of hunting for a crime, and seek to make Trump un-reelectable under the guise of building an impeachment case.

Upon becoming President Obama’s secretary of state, Clinton improperly set up a private, non-secure system for email communications. It featured her own personal server, stored in her home and, later, maintained by a private contractor. Secretary Clinton used this private email system for all of her official State Department communications, notwithstanding that doing so (a) violated government regulations (which, as the department head, she was responsible for enforcing); (b) violated governmental record-keeping and record-production obligations imposed by federal law; and (c) made it inevitable — due to the nature of her responsibilities — that streams of classified information would flow through and be stored in the non-secure system.

This lack of security meant that top-secret intelligence — some of it classified at the highest levels, some of it involving Clinton’s communications with the president of the United States and other top national-security officials — became accessible to people who were not cleared to see it. Accessible not just to those lacking security clearance but also to hostile actors, including foreign intelligence services and anti-American hackers.

When asked, nearly two years after leaving office, to surrender copies of her emails (by an Obama State Department under pressure from congressional investigators and Freedom of Information Act claimants), Clinton caused tens of thousands of her emails to be destroyed. Not just deleted. Destroyed. As in: purged with a special software program (“BleachBit”) designed to shred electronic documents. The aim was to prevent their being recovered. Ever. By anyone.

In all, Clinton undertook to destroy over 30,000 emails, even though some of them had been demanded by congressional subpoena. And this would not be a Clinton story if we failed to note that, in the time-honored family tradition, Hillary lied her head off about the substance of the destroyed emails: We were to believe that, in thousands upon thousands of email exchanges, one of the busiest public officials and most obsessively political creatures on the planet had lolled her days away gabbing about yoga routines, family vacations, and her daughter’s wedding.

President Obama took care of undermining any prosecution for her mishandling of classified information. He had a deep interest in doing so: He had knowingly communicated with his secretary of state through the private system, and he had misled the public about it — claiming to have learned about Clinton’s private email practices from news reports, like everyone else. All of that could be neatly buried in two steps. First, invoke executive privilege (without calling it that — too Nixonian) to seal the Obama–Clinton emails from public view. Second, ensure that the Clinton-emails case would never be prosecuted: If Clinton was never accused of criminal conduct, then Obama’s role as a minor participant would not become evidence in a criminal case.

In April 2016, on national television, the president made clear that he did not believe an indictment should be filed against former Secretary Clinton, who, by then, was the inevitable Democratic presidential nominee. Obama explained that, in his considered judgment, Clinton meant no harm to national security. Plus, the intelligence involved, though technically categorized as “classified,” was not really, you know, the super-secret stuff — “There’s ‘classified,’” Obama scoffed, “and then there’s classified.” It was a classic Obama straw man. The criminal provisions pertinent to Clinton’s case did not require proof of intent to harm the United States, only that she was trusted with access to intelligence and nevertheless mishandled it, either intentionally or through gross negligence. Moreover, no one was accusing Clinton of trying to damage national security. That is a different, more serious criminal offense that was not on the table. It was as if Obama were claiming that a bank robber was somehow not guilty of the bank robbery because she hadn’t murdered anyone while committing it.

There was no way on God’s green earth that the Obama Justice Department was ever going to authorize a prosecution involving conduct that would embarrass the president. Nor was it ever going to indict Obama’s former secretary of state — certainly not after Obama, revered by Democrats and pundits as a first-rate lawyer, had pronounced her not guilty, had provided a legal rationale for exoneration, and had endorsed her as his successor.

Wonder of wonders: The “no intent to harm the United States” rationale President Obama had glibly posited in insisting Clinton had done nothing wrong was echoed in the ensuing months by his subordinates. Justice Department officials leaked to their media friends that Clinton was unlikely to be charged because there was scant evidence of intent to harm the United States. Meanwhile, very shortly after Obama’s public statements about Clinton’s case, FBI director James Comey and his closest advisers began drafting remarks exonerating Mrs. Clinton. Over a dozen critical witnesses, including Clinton herself, had not yet been interviewed. Salient evidence had not yet been examined. No matter. With the end of the story already written, the rest was just details. When Director Comey finally announced that Clinton would not be indicted, his rationalizations were indistinguishable from Obama’s.

Thus “exonerated,” the former first lady was on her way to the Oval Office — this time as president. Or so she thought — as did the Obama White House, the Justice Department, the State Department, the FBI, the intelligence agencies, every progressive activist from Boston Harbor to Silicon Valley, and every political pundit from the Beltway to the Upper West Side. Alas, there was just one problem — a problem the president and his myrmidons could not fix for Mrs. Clinton.

That problem was Mrs. Clinton.

As would have been manifest to less politicized eyes, she was an atrocious candidate. Clinton was the same fundamentally flawed, deeply dishonest, broadly unpopular candidate she had been in 2008, when she couldn’t convince Democrats to support her. You may recall this as the reason there was a President Barack Obama in the first place. You say, “Hey, wait a second. Donald Trump was fundamentally flawed, deeply dishonest, and broadly unpopular, too.” Maybe so, but if hammering away at an opponent’s malignance is the path to victory, shouldn’t you perhaps nominate a candidate who doesn’t mirror his defects?

The only differences between the “It’s My Turn” Senator Hillary! of 2008 and the “Stronger Together” Secretary Clinton who expected a 2016 coronation was that she now had hanging around her neck the Benghazi debacle, a desultory tenure as secretary of state, a shades-of-2008 inability to convince Democrats that she was the preferable candidate (this time, not in comparison to a charismatic young progressive, but to a 75-year-old self-proclaimed socialist who had joined the Democratic party about five minutes before announcing his presidential aspirations), whispers that her health was deteriorating, and an email scandal that smacked of both national-security recklessness and rules-don’t-apply-to-me arrogance —  precisely the kind of controversy that reminded Americans of how exhausting the last scandal-plagued Clinton administration had been.

The Obama administration’s exoneration gambit came up snake-eyes because of Clinton herself. Democrats can con themselves (and attempt to con everyone else) into believing that her failure is due to Vladimir Putin’s perfidy or Trump’s demagoguery. In the real world, though, Clinton lost because of her epic shortcomings.

That loss made it inevitable that the Obama administration’s exploitation of counterintelligence powers to monitor the opposition party’s presidential campaign would come to light. That made it imperative to promote the notion that there had been a Trump–Russia scheme worth investigating — a dark cloud of suspicion that would straitjacket and shorten the Trump presidency.

The collusion narrative.

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