Tuesday, November 01, 2016


Do I think James Comey's FBI has treated the Clinton and Trump campaigns in a fair and equal way? No.

Do I think Comey believes that the treatment has been fair and equal? I think he believes it's been as fair as he can make it. That doesn't mean he's right. But I think I know what he's telling himself.

Consider what we're hearing about apparent Internet traffic between the Putin-linked Alfa Bank and Trump Tower. In a New York Times story clearly spun by law enforcement sources who aren't Clinton fans, Eric Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers tell us:
In classified sessions in August and September, intelligence officials ... briefed congressional leaders on the possibility of financial ties between Russians and people connected to Mr. Trump. They focused particular attention on what cyberexperts said appeared to be a mysterious computer back channel between the Trump Organization and the Alfa Bank, which is one of Russia’s biggest banks and whose owners have longstanding ties to Mr. Putin.

F.B.I. officials spent weeks examining computer data showing an odd stream of activity to a Trump Organization server and Alfa Bank. Computer logs obtained by The New York Times show that two servers at Alfa Bank sent more than 2,700 “look-up” messages -- a first step for one system’s computers to talk to another -- to a Trump-connected server beginning in the spring. But the F.B.I. ultimately concluded that there could be an innocuous explanation, like a marketing email or spam, for the computer contacts.
A Slate story by Franklin Foer described the evidence as much more persuasive -- although Foer acknowledged that the innocent explanation could be correct.

Comey, I think, tells himself that he believed there was wrongdoing in the way Hillary Clinton handled her emails, and there might be wrongdoing here -- but he's looking for what might stand up in court in both cases, and he didn't find that in either case. Never mind the fact that he publicly upbraided Clinton and hasn't done the same for Trump.

CNBC reports that the FBI didn't want to put its name on a government statement accusing the Russians of trying to hack the election because, in Comey's opinion, it was too close to the election -- something he didn't worry about when he announced that emails relevant to the FBI's Clinton investigations were found on Anthony Weiner's laptop (and something he also didn't worry about when he simultaneously exonerated and chastised Clinton last summer). I think Comey tells himself he was doing the right thing in the Trump case and that he would have done the right in the Clinton case, but he was just under so much pressure -- from congressional Republicans, from leak-happy underlings -- that he simply had no choice. He meant well!

And this, from the New York Times story, strains credulity, but I'm sure Comey thinks it's simple fairness:
The most serious part of the F.B.I.’s investigation has focused on the computer hacks that the Obama administration now formally blames on Russia. That investigation also involves numerous officials from the intelligence agencies. Investigators, the officials said, have become increasingly confident, based on the evidence they have uncovered, that Russia’s direct goal is not to support the election of Mr. Trump, as many Democrats have asserted, but rather to disrupt the integrity of the political system and undermine America’s standing in the world more broadly.
How do you hack the campaign of one candidate in an election that only two candidates can win without helping the other candidate? And if you wanted to undermine faith in U.S. elections, why wouldn't you hack both campaigns, or concentrate on the electoral process, or just attack everything you can that's connected to the election?

I've seen it argued that Putin believes Trump can't win and assumes he can weaken Clinton without helping to elect Trump. Maybe Putin actually does believe this, even though polls at several moments in the race (including now) have made clear that Trump absolutely can win. (Nate Silver now believes that Trump has as good a chance of winning the election as the Cubs do of coming from behind to win the World Series. It's far from impossible to win a World Series after being down 3-1, and then 3-2 -- it's been done several times.)

This benign analysis, we're told, comes from the intelligence agencies, so we can't blame Comey exclusively. But he's gone with it -- again, perhaps, because he doesn't want to taint the election (unless pressured to do so by conservatives). Maybe he just needs more pressure from our side. That pressure is coming now, and leaks are flowing. It could be that Comey's FBI is equally willing to roll over in response to political pressure, and Republicans are just better at exerting that kind of pressure. That might be what Comey tells himself.


Yastreblyansky said...

It's not a benign analysis! "It's OK , the Russian government isn't trying to interfere in who gets elected, they're merely trying to make our government permanently dysfunctional and unable to carry out effective foreign policy." If it were merely about politics Comey would be right to leave it unpublicized at the time of the election (though he'd still be wrong in refusing to do the same with the Weiner case). But it's not.

Yastreblyansky said...

That said, yes, I'm sure that's the kind of thing Comey tells himself.

Jimbo said...

Two points: 1) absolutely nothing connected in any way to Putin is ever just "innocent" and 2) Republicans always play much more ruthless hardball than Democrats and have absolutely no compunction about breaking the law, cheating, ratfcking and any other damnable behavior because their voters are always IOKIYAR.

Victor said...

Please, another airplane modeling glue martini - wet, dirty, and with extra rat-fucker feces-stuffed lives!

Oh, and a side of horse-doovers:
Let me have a few sniff's of coke, some meth, a crack-pipe, a full bong, and heroin as well as as syringe, some rubber cords to tie-off with, a spoon, and a lighter.
Thank you...

Victor said...

Oh, and please make it snappy!

I have a funeral to go to.
My own...

Unknown said...

Folks listen up. All the Trump-Russia leaks from the FBI are coming from Comey himself. It is his way of making amends for the Hillary email mess.

Feud Turgidson said...

"it's been done several times"

The rate going back thru the wild card era derives from only 5 times in the last 35 instances in either of the two best-of-seven series contexts (i.e. World Series or League Championship Series) where a team trailing either 1 game or 2 games to 3 went on to win that series. And only 2 of those 5 were of the former sort . That SEEMS to mean about a 15% chance, but then remember the Cubs were behind 1 game to 3 before Sunday's clash, so their task from before thhen was more like a 5-6% chance. One could choose to blend the 2 & get a ratio of ~1:11. And that's with a LOT of over-determined fanboy navel-gazing.

IMO Silver is full of crap. Two routes to this view:

A) I followed his blog from early in the 2008 cycle. Early on I noted his admission that his 'system' had some 'special sauce', which he partly cast in "fundamentals" and otherwise in some proprietary hidden goop.
He was MUCH better in 2012 when the NYT provided him its platform, I think because he depressed most of his special secret sauce nonsense in favor of adhere more closely to pure aggregation. Since he left NYT to set up his own site, he's gone back to hitting the special secret sauce, har. Sam Wang at PEC regularly spanks Silver for this.

Wang has a HRC win in the upper 90s%. The NYT new flava fave, the Upshot, so has nothing like the need Silver has to be 'special' but also has to add something saucy to distinguish it from PEC, has HRC at a bit above 90s%. Historically Wang hasn't just spanked Silver, he & his PEC pure aggregation system mostly kicked 538's butt.

B) The context of one or two scenarios lifted from first- to-4-wins sportsball series isn't usefully comparable to a 10 months of aggregated polling gathering up 50 different crab-lobster death struggles in 50 different patches of ocean floor. The reason the Best Team In MLB doesn't have much more than 1 chance in 8 of winning the WS, assuming it ever gets to the postseason without having to play in the Wild Card game, is that over the course of many millions of computer simulated seasons based on the statistics from 112 modern MLB seasons, one standard deviation in skill has been shown to amount to juuuust a bit outside low of a 1:25 edge, while one standard deviation in chance has been proven to amount to a juuuust a bit outside high of 1:25. The difference between the 2 amounts to about one in 167. And like with coin tosses (See the opening scene in Rosencranz & Guildenstern Are Dead), the odds reset to the same for EVERY SINGLE game in the overall competition.

But this presidential election is a contest in which there are self-contained points tests where Trump has NO chance, and others where Clinton has ZERO chance. The difference between them is that Clinton has SO MANY MORE points already safely stowed away in her handbag before the overall competition versus how many Trump already has his money-grubbing tiny mitts all over, so clinch the overall, she just doesn't have to do much at all.

So tonight, when the somewhat-better-at-baseball Chicagoans face the up-1-game with home field & last at bats Clevelanders, neither team enjoys any comparable head start.

I don't read much on 538 - maybe Harry Enten if I notice he's got something interesting up. But I'm a totally addicted NoMore because Steve M. is an honest vendor of political analysis who is trying to b.s. anyone with secret special sauce and so often produced good solid pieces like this one or quirky offbeat ones that mostly can't be found elsewhere. Also, because you like Pierce & he likes you, and those alone mean you start every piece with 265 blogger votes already in the bag, AFAIC.

Green Eagle said...

Who cares what Comey tells himself? There is no one on earth easier to lie to than yourself, because there is no one who has a greater interest in believing your lies.

Not to violate Godwin's law or anything, because I am certainly not comparing Comey to Hitler- maybe Vidkun Quisling, but not Hitler- but do you have any doubt that Hitler had convinced himself that he was acting in the world's long term best interests? It is no trick at all to convince yourself that you acted with the best of intentions.

Arjay said...

Very gentlemanly of you to give Comey such a fine benefit of the doubt. I'm sure he's just trying to be fair. What gets me is the anodyne: "but rather to disrupt the integrity of the political system and undermine America’s standing in the world more broadly." Kind of like the Russians are just some juvenile delinquents out for the hell of it. Remember when they were the Masters of Deceit, any move, however small, was always a carefully thought out step in a master plan for world domination. They used to be the great chess players, ten steps ahead of us soft-minded liberals. Now it's as if they couldn't possibly strategize far enough ahead to know whether a Clinton or a Trump presidency would be better for their foreign policy.