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Horowitz: Email Redux

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

 

More than a year ago, in a debate with Hillary Clinton, Senator Bernie Sanders said, “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails. Enough of the emails, let's talk about the real issues facing the United States of America."

Well, it is clear now that Bernie Sanders is not going to get his wish. This campaign will end as it began with a focus on Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State. 

FBI Director James Comey has made sure of that.  His decision to inform Congress this past Friday that the FBI had recently discovered emails in an unrelated matter, which could be pertinent to the Clinton email situation ,and that those emails will need to be looked at  ensures that Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of email will take up much of the remaining news coverage between now and election day.

This new batch of emails, which have yet to be examined by investigators, were uncovered when FBI agents seized a laptop owned by disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner, top Clinton aide, Huma Abedin’s husband, as part of the FBI probe into whether or not he ‘sexted’ a 15 year old girl.  It is likely that most of the emails are duplicates of ones already examined by the FBI before Comey made the decision to not charge Clinton or anyone else this past summer.  Still, it is only due diligence for the FBI to take a hard look at them.

Given this fact and the prospect of this information leaking, it is understandable why Comey felt the need to communicate with Congress, breaking Justice Department guidelines and the nearly always adhered to policy of not announcing information about investigations--whether new or old--within 60 days or an election. But his cryptic letter to Congress, which failed to spell out in plain English the surrounding facts and context nor explicitly acknowledge that no one at the FBI had read any of the new emails yet, predictably triggered a flood of speculation and gave Donald Trump’s campaign new found life. 

In a letter publicly released on Sunday, Comey was blasted by nearly 100 former federal Prosecutors and top Justice Department officials, Republicans and Democrats alike.  They wrote that his actions were “inconsistent with prevailing Department policy. We believe that adherence to longstanding Justice Department guidelines is the best practice when considering public statements on investigative matters,” the former Prosecutors continued.

Hillary Clinton’s excellent job of damage control, combining a prompt response, calling on Comey to clarify and release all the information he had, with a coordinated attack on  the FBI Director, whose Republican leanings make him a somewhat ripe target, will likely limit the impact of this startling development.

Still, several days of news featuring Hillary Clinton’s email problems are a boost for Trump--  but probably not a big enough boost for him to catch up to her. The mishandling of email is not new information to voters, the overwhelming majority of which have already made up their mind. If this occurred with a more acceptable Republican alternative the impact would likely be much greater.  For most voters, Donald Trump has failed to pass the Commander in Chief test. Additionally, 18 million people have already voted with a disproportionate share casting their votes in the battleground states

I agree with opponents of Hillary Clinton in this one respect: the person who is most to blame for this last minute and unfair campaign development is Hillary herself.  But she remains fortunate in having Donald Trump as her opponent—a candidate most Americans do not think is qualified to be President.

 

 Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, elected official and candidates.  He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at University of Rhode Island

 

Related Slideshow: Winners, Losers, and Defining Moments in First Clinton - Trump Debate

Prev Next

Steve Quist, Community Activist

1. Who do you think won?

Hands down no question Clinton.

2. Why do you think the other candidate lost?

Trump was on the defensive.

3. What was the defining moment - what does it mean for the campaigns moving forward? 


Trump's continually interrupting and scatter shot answers with no substance. Trump spewed a lot of verbiage and bloviation which was not all grounded in fact nor reality.
Going forward Trump swims uphill...Republicans battle the fallout down ticket and could well lose the US Senate -- incredible repercussions yet to materialize. I wonder if Trump will actually want to show up for the next debate.
 

Prev Next

Don Brand, Professor at Holy Cross

1. Who do you think won?

I would call Clinton the winner.

2. Why do you think the other candidate lost?

Trump was on the defensive more than Clinton (hardly anything on Clinton's email).

3. What was the defining moment - what does it mean for the campaigns moving forward? 

The turning point was the discussion on race. Trump's defense on birther issue was weak, and claiming he settled a racial discrimination suit with no admission of guilt is hardly proclaiming innocence. 
 

Prev Next

Joe Paolino, Clinton Apointee, Ambassador to Malta

1. Who do you think won?

I don't know if there's a big winner -- I know that some said there was a high bar set for Hillary Clinton and she surpassed it 

2. Why do you think the other candidate lost?

I think Trump lost a lot of points about  his taxes. Give us something -- he's the only person in 40 years who hasn't released them. And when it came to nuclear bomb and the whole discussion about NATO he didn't have the grasp that she did.

3. What was the defining moment - what does it mean for the campaigns moving forward? 
I think that when [Lester] Holt asked at the end, the Trump line that she didn't "look Presidential," I thought she'd give a Lincoln Chafee response and just end it there, but she didn't. I think it showed that Trump just doesn't have the temperament. 
 

Prev Next

Darrell West, Brookings

1. Who do you think won?

Clinton won the debate by controlling the conversation and getting many more of her attack lines into the debate. He barely mentioned her emails and made no mention of Benghazi.

2. Why do you think the other candidate lost?

He missed many opportunities to criticize her. Her killer line was that she she prepared for the debate and is prepared to be president.

He got irritated easily and had many sighs and groans. He did not have a good answer on why he has not released his tax returns.

3. What was the defining moment - what does it mean for the campaigns moving forward? 

He had a number of factual errors in his statements. This was not a close debate. She dominated from start to end.
 

Prev Next

Jennifer Duffy, Cook Report

1. Who do you think won?

I think Clinton "won," but I don't think she scored any knock out blows.

2. Why do you think the other candidate lost?

As expected, Trump wasn't prepared.  Clinton threw a lot of bait and Trump took it every time.

3. What was the defining moment - what does it mean for the campaigns moving forward? 

I don't know that there was a defining moment.  Whatever impact this debate may have will be short lived. I don't think this moved the needle much for either candidate.
 

Prev Next

Lisa Lawless, Professor at American University

1. Who do you think won?

Clinton, and it wasn't even close. She won on substance, style, and reminding viewers of her opponents weaknesses. She was prepared, kept her cool, and was very respectful of both Trump and Lester Holt.

2. Why do you think the other candidate lost?

Donald Trump was on the defensive the entire night. He attempted to bait Clinton and it never worked. But every time Clinton tried to do the same, Trump took the bait. You know it's bad when a candidate has to reference private conversations with Sean Hannity as a defense of his character and policy positions.

3. What was the defining moment - what does it mean for the campaigns moving forward? 

When Hillary Clinton responded to Trump's criticism that she wasn't campaigning this week, she told voters that she spent the week preparing for the debate, and that she'll also prepare when she's president. That one response really highlighted a key difference between them and the fact that experience matters. It also seemed that at that point, Trump started to come undone.
I should also note that there will likely be a lot of discussion about the extent to which Trump was sexist or was beating up on a woman. Here's my take: He was behaving EXACTLY the way he did with Bush, Rubio, etc. I see little here that is about Clinton being a woman. Trump has demonstrated time and again that he has no respect for people he debates, women or men. That's not to say that Trump isn't sexist. I think the evidence suggests he is. But I'm not sure that his behavior tonight is the best evidence for that claim.

 
 

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