U.S. Politics

Looking back at the most controversial election ever


The road to Election Day 2016 hasn’t been a smooth one. It was filled with sexual assault allegations, controversial emails and Twitter meltdowns. But we’re almost there. With only two days to go before America elects its next president, let’s take a look at how we got here.

Neither major party candidate could stay away from controversy along their respective campaign trails. Donald Trump faced pushback over insulting minorities, alienating women and refusing to release his taxes, while Hillary Clinton battled questions about the Clinton Foundation, her speeches to Wall Street executives and, of course, her emails.

The most recent national polls show Clinton with a five-point lead over Trump, but polls only tell us so much. In the end, it’s up to the voters and the elusive Electoral College.

From identifying voter suppression to polling place rules, here’s everything you need to know about the voting process ahead of Tuesday.

And don’t forget — you’ll be voting for a whole lot more than just the next president. The Democrats are hoping to regain control in the Republican-majority House,  and many states will be voting on extremely important ballot initiatives.

Go forth, and may the voting forces be ever in your favor.

U.S. Politics

Clinton leads by five points nationally as Trump personality concerns persist, Post-ABC Tracking Poll finds



The latest Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll shows Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in a dead heat nationally. (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

After running even with Donald Trump early last week, Hillary Clinton now holds a five-point lead in the latest Post-ABC Tracking Poll overall, as well as clear advantages on several personal attributes.

Enthusiasm for Clinton and Trump now stands at rough parity, both significantly lower than it was among supporters of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney four years ago. But Clinton has a clear advantage in affirmative support, with 55 percent of her backers saying the main reason they are voting for her is because they support her, compared with 43 percent of Trump voters. More Trump voters say they are voting for him mainly because they oppose Clinton.

Clinton’s advantage in the tracking poll is slightly larger than her standing in other national surveys released in the past week. Clinton was up three points in a CBS News/New York Times poll, two points in a Fox News poll, one point in a McClatchy-Marist poll and tied in theIBD/TIPP daily poll released Saturday — results that lean in her favor, but not by a significant margin.

[Read full poll results | Graphic: Who key groups are supporting]

The new Post-ABC poll asked voters which candidate they favored across five personal attributes debated during the campaign, including honesty, empathy, qualifications, moral character and temperament.

Clinton holds clear advantages on four of the five qualities, some by very large margins. By 58 percent to 32 percent, more voters prefer Clinton’s personality and temperament, and by 55 percent to 36 percent, more say she has better qualifications for the job than Trump does. The Democratic nominee also holds an eight-point advantage on the question of which candidate has a better understanding of the “problems of people like you,” and a seven-point lead when voters are asked which candidate has stronger moral character.

But Trump maintains a 44 percent to 40 percent edge over Clinton on which candidate is more honest and trustworthy, though that result is down from an eight-point edge earlier this week after the FBI announced the discovery of additional emails that might be relevant to from their investigation of her use of a private server while secretary of state.

While voter preference on candidate qualities seemed clear, they were more closely split on who they trust to deal with major policy issues. A previous wave of the Post-ABC Tracking Pollreleased this week found neither candidate held a double-digit advantage on trust to handle the economy, terrorism, immigration, health care or corruption in government.

There are sizable minorities of Trump and Clinton supporters who do not vouch for some of their personal qualities. About 82 percent of Clinton supporters say she is more honest and trustworthy than Trump, while 18 percent do not, saying neither is better than the other or that they have no opinion. Defections from Trump are sharpest on the issue of personality and temperament, with 27 percent of his backers saying he does not have a better personality and temperament than Clinton; 17 percent say he is not more qualified. Fewer than 3 in 10 of these voters say their vote for Trump is mainly because they support him, while two-thirds say they are mainly voting against Clinton.

Voters’ opinions on the personal traits of Clinton and Trump are closely tied to which candidate they support. But the poll finds the connection is closer on the question of which candidate “better understand the problems of people like you.” Fully 84 percent of likely voters say they support the candidate who is more empathetic, while only 1 percent choose the opposite. The connection is weakest for temperament, with 77 percent supporting the candidate they prefer on this question while 6 percent choose the opposite (nearly all of them Trump supporters).

The contrast between the candidates’ results on personal characteristics helps explain Trump’s historically weak standing among white women with college degrees. In the 2012 election, Republican Mitt Romney won that group by six points. Today, the Post-ABC poll finds Clinton leads that group by 16 points, 54 percent to 38 percent.

On all five attributes measured, white college-educated women prefer Clinton to Trump, and are more likely to say so than voters overall. White women college graduates are 12 points more likely than voters overall to say Clinton has better temperament than voters overall, 10 points more likely on “moral character,” nine points more likely on empathy, eight points on honesty and seven points on overall qualifications.

In contrast to Trump’s struggles on personal traits among college-educated white women, he fared well compared to Clinton when it comes to being trusted to handle some top issues in a previous wave of the Post-ABC Tracking poll this week (where Trump fared slightly better in overall voting). Trump topped Clinton by six points on this group in trust to handle terrorism and national security, five points on handling corruption and four points on the economy, while trailing by seven on immigration and health care alike.

This Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted on cellular and landline phones Nov. 1-4, 2016, among a random national sample of 1,685 likely voters and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt-SRBI of New York


U.S. Politics

Final NBC/WSJ Poll: Clinton Holds a Four-Point National Lead Over Trump


By Mark Murray

Democrat Hillary Clinton holds a four-point lead over Republican Donald Trump in the final national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of the 2016 presidential race.

Clinton gets support from 44 percent of likely voters, while Trump gets 40 percent. Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson is at 6 percent, and the Green Party’s Jill Stein is at 2 percent.

In a two-way contest without Johnson and Stein, Clinton’s advantage over Trump expands to five points, 48 percent to 43 percent.

Clinton’s current lead over Trump is down from the 11-point edge she enjoyed in the four-way horserace in the previous NBC/WSJ poll in mid-October, 48 percent to 37 percent.

That poll was conducted after 2005 video of Trump surfaced with him saying that “you can do anything” to women when you are a star like he is. “Grab them by the p****. You can do anything.”

In the two-way contest last month, Clinton’s lead was 10 points, 51 percent to 41 percent.

This newest poll – conducted Nov. 3-5 of more than 1,200 likely voters – comes after the letter FBI Director James Comey sent to Congress on Oct. 28 saying that the FBI had “learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent” to the investigation of Clinton.

Clinton maintains double-digit lead with women

Looking inside the numbers of the two-way horserace, Clinton is ahead of Trump among women (53 percent to 38 percent), African Americans (86 percent to 7 percent), Latinos (65 percent to 20 percent) and those ages 18-34 (55 percent to 32 percent).

Trump, meanwhile, leads among men (47 percent to 42 percent), seniors (49 percent to 42 percent) and whites (53 percent to 38 percent).

But there’s a significant difference among whites: Those without college degrees are breaking for Trump by a 2-to-1 margin, 60 percent to 30 percent.

Yet among whites with college degrees, Clinton is ahead by 10 points, 51 percent to 41 percent.

Clinton leads among those who are early voters, 53 percent to 39 percent, while Trump is up among those who will wait to vote on Election Day, 48 percent to 41 percent.

Majority feels comfortable with Clinton as president

The NBC/WSJ poll also finds 52 percent of likely voters saying they would be comfortable and prepared to support Clinton as president if she wins on Tuesday night, versus 46 percent who say they wouldn’t be comfortable.

That’s compared with just 43 percent of likely voters who say they would be comfortable with Trump as president. Fifty-four percent say they’d be uncomfortable.

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted Nov. 3-5 of 1,282 likely voters (including more than 600 reached by cell phone), and it has a margin of error of plus-minus 2.7 percentage points. The rest of the poll will be released at 5:00 pm ET.

Mark Murray

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: November 6, 2016

John Locher/Associated Press


1. Trump rushed off Nevada rally stage after false alarm
Donald Trump was rushed off the stage by Secret Service agents at a campaign rally in Reno, Nevada, Saturday evening after someone in the audience yelled, “gun!” Several minutes later, an individual was removed from the crowd, after which Trump reappeared and thanked the agents involved for their swift action. The Department of Homeland Security soon confirmed Austyn Crites, the man removed, was only carrying a sign, and he was simply a #NeverTrump Republican who wanted to peacefully protest. Crites was questioned by law enforcement and released. Trump later posted a brief statement reiterating his thanks to his supporters and the Secret Service. Donald Trump Jr. shared a tweet describing the incident as an “assassination attempt.”

Source: Mediaite, Reuters

2. Final polls give Clinton slight lead, bolstered by Latino support
Sunday’s Washington Post/ABC presidential poll gives Hillary Clinton a 5 percent national lead over Donald Trump. Both candidates are lagging in affirmative support: Just 55 percent of Clinton voters and 43 percent of Trump voters say they’re voting for their candidate as opposed to against the other campaign. The final Politico/Morning Consult poll, also published Sunday, similarly sees Clinton with a 3-point advantage among the general population and a 6-point lead among women. Two polls from Saturday give Clinton a 2 or 1 percent lead. Clinton’s advantage is thought to rely significantly on Latino voters, whom early voting figures indicate are turning out in higher numbers than 2012.

Source: The Washington Post, Politico

3. SCOTUS allows Arizona ballot collection ban to stand
The Supreme Court on Saturday ruled that an Arizona ban on independent ballot collection may continue. Some Arizonans — particularly those who live in border towns or on Native American reservations where postal service is inconsistent — have relied on ballot collectors to transport their mail-in votes to polling locations in time. Arizona made such third-party transport (except by family members and caregivers) a felony, a move Democrats say will in practice disenfranchise thousands of voters. Supporters of the law say it is necessary for ballot security.

Source: CNN Politics, Reuters

4. South Carolina man who kidnapped woman confesses to 7 murders
The South Carolina man accused of keeping a woman “chained up like a dog” in a storage container confessed to seven murders, said Spartanburg Sheriff Chuck Wright. The woman was discovered Thursday on land belonging to Todd Kohlhepp, who has a history of violent behavior. On Friday, a body was found on the same property, which law enforcement identified Saturday as belonging to the woman’s boyfriend. Kohlhepp then admitted to seven killings, including an unsolved case known as the “Superbike murders” in which four people were killed at a motorcycle shop in 2003. Wright said Kohlhepp showed officers other graves and “told us some stuff nobody else ought to know,” suggesting the confession is genuine.

Source: Associated Press, WSPA News 7

5. Kaine suggests there are ‘people within the FBI actively working’ to help Trump
Tim Kaine suggested in an interview Saturday that forces within the FBI are conspiring to hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign. “I don’t think Giuliani’s walkback is credible,” the vice presidential nominee said, referencing Rudy Giuliani’s backtracking of comments in which he indicated he knew about the FBI’s recent announcement about Clinton’s private email server before it became public. “What’s come out since suggests that it’s probably more likely explained that [Giuliani] knew that the FBI is not only a leaky sieve,” Kaine continued, “but there were people within the FBI actively working — actively working — to try to help the Trump campaign.”

Source: CNN, Fusion

6. The National Enquirer reportedly suppressed a story of Donald Trump’s infidelity
The Wall Street Journal reports The National Enquirer paid $150,000 to buy the rights to a tale of Donald Trump’s marital infidelity and then suppressed it. The newspaper allegedly made a deal with Karen McDougal, Playboy‘s 1998 Playmate of the Year, for her account of an affair she claims to have had with Trump in 2006 and 2007, well after he married his third wife, Melania. A statement from the Enquirer, which endorsed Trump for president, denied quashing the story. The Trump campaign called the allegations “totally untrue.”

Source: The Wall Street Journal, Politico

7. U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces launch campaign to retake ISIS capital Raqqa
Syrian forces supported by the United States and led by Kurdish fighters announced Sunday they have begun a campaign to retake Raqqa, Syria, the de facto capital city of the Islamic State. This effort will run in parallel to Iraqi troops’ American-supported push to oust ISIS from Mosul, the largest city the terrorist organization still controls in Iraq. The Raqqa operation, called Euphrates Anger, started Sundaywith U.S. air support. Civilians still living in Raqqa were encouraged to avoid areas with a heavy ISIS presence.

Source: Reuters, Associated Press

8. Clinton Foundation admits accepting $1 million from Qatar during State Department years
The Clinton Foundation admitted it accepted a $1 million donation from the government of Qatar during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. In October, the foundation refused to confirm such a donation occurred. Clinton may have violated her ethics pledge to notify the State Department of any new or significantly increased support from foreign donors to avoid appearance of undue foreign influence on U.S. policy, because the agency says it was never notified of this donation. A Clinton Foundation representative said Qatar supported the charity “at equal or lower levels” than its pre-2009 gifts but declined to offer any specific figures.

Source: Reuters, Business Standard News

9. Missing Chibok schoolgirl rescued from Boko Haram with her baby
A schoolgirl kidnapped by the Boko Haram terrorist group from Chibok, Nigeria, in 2014 was rescued alive with a 10-month-old baby, the Nigerian military reported Saturday. One of some 270 girls abducted more than two years ago, the girl was discovered near the border of Cameroon. Her rescue comes about a month after 21 other girls were released pursuant to negotiations with Boko Haram, which is believed to still hold about 80 girls. The Nigerian military promised to release more details on the rescue soon.

Source: BBC News, The Guardian Nigeria

10. SNL‘s Clinton and Trump break character to end election rancor
Saturday Night Live‘s final pre-election cold open took an unexpectedly charming turn, appealing for unity and high voter turn-out. The sketch started predictably enough, with Kate McKinnon’s Hillary Clinton and Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump facing off in a contentious CNN interview. But right around the 7-minute mark, Baldwin can’t take it anymore. “I’m sorry Kate, I hate yelling at you like this,” he says, and she agrees. They run out of the studio for a delightful romp through New York City to the swelling chords of Arcade Fire, finally returning to 30 Rock to offer one last Election Day appeal.

Source: YouTube

U.S. Politics

The real Clinton email scandal is that a bullshit story has dominated the campaign


If you agree with her on policy, vote with a clear conscience about the server.

Some time ago, Hillary Clinton and her advisers decided that the best course of action was to apologize for having used a personal email address to conduct government business while serving as secretary of state. Clinton herself was, clearly, not really all that remorseful about this, and it showed in her early efforts to address it. Eventually aides prevailed upon her to express a greater degree of regret, which they hoped would lay the issue to rest.

It did not. Instead, email-related talk has dogged Clinton throughout the election and it has influenced public perceptions of her in an overwhelmingly negative way. July polling showed 56 percent of Americans believed Clinton broke the law by relying on a personal email address with another 36 percent piling on to say the episode showed “bad judgments” albeit not criminality.

Because Clinton herself apologized for it and because it does not appear to be in any way important, Clinton allies, surrogates, and co-partisans have largely not familiarized themselves with the details of the matter, instead saying vaguely that it was an error of judgment and she apologized and America has bigger fish to fry.

This has had the effect of further inscribing and reinscribing the notion that Clinton did something wrong, meaning that every bit of micro-news that puts the scandal back on cable amounts to reminding people of something bad that Clinton did. In total, network newscasts have, remarkably, dedicated more airtime to coverage of Clinton’s emails than to all policy issues combined.

This is unfortunate because emailgate, like so many Clinton pseudo-scandals before it, is bullshit. The real scandal here is the way a story that was at best of modest significance came to dominate the US presidential election — overwhelming stories of much more importance, giving the American people a completely skewed impression of one of the two nominees, and creating space for the FBI to intervene in the election in favor of its apparently preferred candidate in a dangerous way.

Why Hillary Clinton used a personal email account

When Hillary Clinton took office as secretary of state, she, like most people, already had a personal email account. Like most people who started a federal job in 2009, she was also disheartened to learn that the then-current state of federal IT departments was such that she could not connect her personal smartphone to a State Department email address. If she wanted ready access to both her email accounts, she would need to carry twosmartphones.

As any reporter in Washington knows, this indignity was in fact visited upon a huge number of DC denizens for many years. Everyone working in government felt that this was kinda bullshit, but nobody could really do anything about it. (Meanwhile, Chief Justice John Roberts has opined that carrying two phones could be reasonable grounds to suspect someone is a drug dealer.)

Clinton decided to do something about it. Namely, she told her top aides to just email her at her personal address so she could keep using whichever devices she wanted. This violated an internal State Department policy directive, known as a Foreign Affairs Manual, which stated that while it was okay to use personal digital devices to do work occasionally, “normal day-to-day operations” should be conducted on standard State Department equipment. Clinton chose to ignore this guideline and because she was the boss nobody could stop her. Career foreign service officers and other State personnel have every right to be peeved that Clinton opted out of an annoying policy rather than fixing the underlying issue, but it’s hardly a matter of overwhelming public concern.

And, indeed, it turns out Colin Powell also used a private email address for routine work. Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright didn’t use email, and back before Albright only weird nerds even knew what email was. So at the time Clinton took office, only one previous secretary of state had ever faced the question of what email account to use, and he reached the exact same conclusion Clinton did — just use your personal email address.

Why Hillary used a private email server

When Hillary tried the eminently sensible “I was following precedent” defense, Politifact dinged her answer as “mostly false” on the grounds that while Powell did use a personal email account, he didn’t use a private email server.

This distinction has attracted a lot of attention. And it’s proven politically damaging — because while lots of people maintain two email addresses and sometimes do work stuff on their personal email, very few Americans use a private email server as opposed to relying on a commercial email service. But legally speaking, this is completely irrelevant. As the State Department inspector general concluded in its report on Clinton’s conduct, the guideline Clinton violated was a principle that “normal day-to-day operations should be conducted on an authorized Automated Information System.”

Using a private server violates that rule, but so would using a Gmail address or simply checking your State.gov email address from your personal laptop rather than a Department-issue one.

But while the use of a private server is legally irrelevant, it’s certainly unusual. And it leaves people wondering: Why did Clinton go out of her way to set up a private server?

Clinton, as you may have heard, is married to former president Bill Clinton, who stepped down from office in January of 2001. Clinton was in the White House throughout the 1990s when the rest of us were being bombarded with AOL signup CD-ROMs, so he didn’t have a personal email when he left. Gmail didn’t exist back then, and his new job was, in effect, running a Bill Clinton startup. He launched a charitable foundation, he established his presidential library, and he made big bucks on speaking tours. He had a staff and he needed IT infrastructure and support. So he paid a guy to set up an email server that he could use.

Hillary Clinton — who is, again, his wife — also set herself up with an account on the same server. This is a bit unusual, but a lot about being married to a former president is unusual. What it’s not is suspicious.

The private server was not a transparency dodge

It’s become a bit of an article of faith among journalists frustrated with public officials’ constant FOIA-dodging that this is all obviously dissimulation and Clinton was really trying to evade the Freedom of Information Act.

Many people, for example, point to the fact that Clinton would routinely travel with multiple digital devices as debunking her supposed convenience argument. But this is silly. I’ve been known to travel with an iPhone, an iPad, a Kindle, and a laptop all at once. That doesn’t mean needing to carry two separate iPhones (one to check my work email and one to check my personal email) wouldn’t be inconvenient. After all, what if I was replying to a work email while a text came in to my personal phone and I wanted to check it.

I’d be left juggling phones and looking like an idiot, exactly how federal employees tended to look in the heyday of the double-fisting phones era.

I would not want to do that. Colin Powell did not want to do that. Hillary Clinton did not want to do that. Because that would be terrible.

By contrast, it’s a terrible solution to a desire to avoid having your emails disclosed to the public via FOIA. One way you can tell it’s a terrible solution is that Hillary Clinton’s work emails have been disclosed to the public. You can read them right here.

The specific timeline is that the House Select Committee on Benghazi requested Clinton’s emails in the summer of 2014, at which point the relevant State Department personnel realized they did not have the emails because Clinton had been using her personal address. State asked Clinton for the emails, and she handed them over later that year. It was only in March of 2015 that the New York Times broke the story of Clinton’s private server in a scoop by Michael Schmidt, which reported that the emails had been handed over to the State Department “two months ago.”

This is fairly clearly not an optimal approach to government record-keeping, as Thomas Blanton of the National Security Archive at George Washington University told Schmidt at the time:

It’s a shame it didn’t take place automatically when she was secretary of state as it should have. Someone in the State Department deserves credit for taking the initiative to ask for the records back. Most of the time it takes the threat of litigation and embarrassment.

According to the Inspector General’s report, Clinton “should have preserved any Federal records she created and received on her personal account by printing and filing those records with the related files in the Office of the Secretary.”

There are two possible interpretations here. One is that Clinton hatched the private email account plan as an elaborate dodge of federal record-keeping laws, but then months before the public became aware of the server’s existence complied with requests to turn them over. The other is that the federal records rule on the book was antiquated and a bit absurd, requiring officials to turn over paper copies of emails for no good reason, and simply got ignored out of sloppiness.

But she deleted 33,000 emails!

Suspicion at this point is then supposed to focus on the fact that she had her lawyers delete more than 30,000 emails from her server.

After Hillary left office, the State Department told her she had to turn all her work-related emails over to them, so she tasked a legal team with determining which emails were work emails and which were not. She turned the work emails over because that’s what she was legally required to do. She deleted the others, presumably because she did not want Trey Gowdy and Jason Chaffetz to rummage through her inbox leaking whatever they happened to find amusing to area journalists.

Now, is it possible that Clinton’s legal team simply decided to entirely disregard the law and delete work-related emails?

In some sense, sure. But there’s no evidence that this happened. Generally speaking, in life we assume it would be moderately difficult to hire a well-known law firm to destroy evidence for you without someone deciding to do the right thing and squeal.

Besides which, it would be almost comically easy to catch Clinton in the act of systematically destroying relevant emails. The vast majority of the work-related email correspondence of an incumbent secretary of state, after all, is going to be correspondence with other government employees. Maybe she shoots a note to the Pentagon about Benghazi, or circulates ideas for a speech draft with her communications team. Any message like that, by definition, would exist on a government server as well as on her private one. This means it would be fully accessible via FOIA and also means that if Clinton’s copy were found to not be in the pile of emails she turned over, she’d be caught red handed.

The available FOIA workarounds are available to everyone

Now what’s true is that Clinton could, in theory, have conducted work-related email conversations using another person’s personal email address.

She could, for instance, have emailed Jake Sullivan on his Gmail address then deleted the email from her private server. We’d be in the dark and she’d get away with it.

The key thing to note here, however, is that the availability of this option has nothing to do with Clinton’s decision to use a personal account as her exclusive account and also has nothing to do with her decision to host her personal email on a private server.

At any given time, any federal employee can use her personal account to email any other federal employee at his personal account. If they receive a Freedom of Information Act request, they are legally obligated to hand that correspondence over. But in a practical sense, if they want to break the law they can probably get away with it. And as Ezra Klein has noted, there are a lot of workarounds here:

As every reporter knows, when official sources want to tell you something particularly delicate, they email you from a personal account — or, much more often, they call.

A lot of my reporting happens by email. But virtually none of my reporting with the White House happens by email. There, emails for clarification, or comment, quickly lead to phone calls. The reason — unsaid but obvious — is that phone calls don’t leave an official record. White House officials can talk freely on the phone in a way they can’t over email.

Similarly, the White House keeps a visitor’s log. If you make an appointment to meet with someone, your entrance and point of contact are recorded for posterity and searchable online. When someone who shouldn’t be meeting with you wants to meet with you, they tend to suggest an off-site location: a restaurant downtown, or a nearby coffee shop. Peet’s Coffee doesn’t keep a list of everyone who walks in or out.

We do not, however, generally treat all federal employees as having a massive ethical cloud over their heads just because they could probably use this workaround to break the law. There is zero reason to apply heightened scrutiny to Clinton just because she also could break the law.

Besides which, when you are secretary of state there is a much simpler and easier way to mask your correspondence: classification.

Here, for example, is an email Sullivan sent to Clinton on June 4, 2011, that was duly handed over to the State Department and made available by the FOIA office:

I’m not saying the contents of that message don’t deserve to be redacted for security purposes. The fact is that I have no idea. But the reality is the American national security state is really, really good at using official channels to avoid disclosure of information. Nobody needs a private email server to pull that off.

Indeed, the allegation that the server setup was an elaborate con to evade transparency law is doubly ridiculous. On the one hand, a private server would not be necessary to carry it out. (All you need is to have a private email address on the side, which everyone does.) While on the other hand, the exclusive use of a personal email account means that Clinton’s personal account has come under an exceptional level of security.

The classification thing is a red herring

It’s precisely because nothing about the basic setup of the email account was in any way wrong that the investigation ended up focusing on the question of mishandling classified information.

The key point here is that using a State.gov email account would not have changed anything. When US government officials have conversations about classified matters, they are not supposed to use email. They are supposed to use special secure channels.

Nonetheless, mistakes happen in part because classification standards are vague and ever-changing. Technically speaking, forwarding a Washington Post article detailing things revealed by Edward Snowden could constitute an improper discussion of classified matters.

As FBI Director James Comey concluded, “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring a case against Clinton over this matter. Almost all of the relevant statutes require an intent to mishandle classified information in order to bring a prosecution, a standard that Clinton’s conduct clearly does not meet. Critics have thus chosen to focus on 18 USC § 793, a statute that sets a lower “gross negligence” standard.

However, as Jack Goldsmith, one of the top lawyers in George W. Bush’s administration explains, such a prosecution “would be entirely novel, and would turn in part on very tricky questions about how email exchanges fit into language written with physical removal of classified information in mind.”


U.S. Politics

Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon Break Character to End the Election Vitriol on SNL



captureIn its final cold open before Tuesday’s presidential election, Saturday Night Live brought in veteran castmember Cecily Strongas CNN’s Erin Burnett to moderate a conversation between the two major party nominees.

What started as a regular cold open with Republican nominee Donald Trump portrayed by Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon‘s Hillary Clinton ended in unusual fashion: the two sketch actors breaking the fourth wall and addressing the crowd directly.

In an epic way to end the angry rhetoric that has divided the country, Baldwin and McKinnon run through a montage of loving embraces in Times Square with New Yorkers of all shapes, sizes, and perhaps even immigration statuses. The duo lands back in Studio 8H, encouraging everyone watching at home: get out and vote.

Tonight’s SNL episode is hosted by Benedict Cumberbatch (star of the new Marvel Comics film Doctor Strange) with musical performances by Solange Knowles, whose recent album A Seat at the Table has been met with critical acclaim.

Watch above via NBC.

U.S. Politics

Tim Kaine: Some FBI Employees Are ‘Actively Working’ To Help Trump



Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine accused people in the FBI of “actively working” in support of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign on Saturday, becoming the most prominent politician yet to level the charge after a week of extraordinary FBI leaks that appear to be intended to influence the outcome of the election.

In an interview with Fusion’s Alicia Menendez, Kaine speculated that FBI Director James Comey wrote his letter to Congress because “he knew that the FBI was not only a leaky sieve, but there were people within the FBI actively working ― actively working ― to try to help the Trump campaign.” Calling the situation “absolutely staggering,” Kaine said the events of the past eight days have been “a massive blow to the integrity” of the FBI.

Kaine emphasized that he does not think Comey is trying to influence the election, but that the director “felt pressure to do something” from agents inside the bureau. Comey “made a massive mistake in judgment” in becoming involved so close to the election, Kaine said.


A series of leaks over the past week have revealed that the FBI sought to investigate the Clinton Foundation. Career public integrity prosecutors did not find the case persuasive, according to reports. Reuters reported that investigators in the FBI’s New York field office are “known to be hostile” to Clinton, and that Comey feared leaks from within the FBI if he did not write to Congress. A source told The Guardian that the FBI is “Trumpland.”

On Friday, Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani said the campaign knew about the FBI’s review of additional emails before Comey sent his letter. “I thought it was going to be about three or four weeks ago,” he said. He later backtracked, but Kaine said Giuliani’s retreat is not “credible.”

Kaine said, “There are clearly people in the organization” who are trying to “put their thumb on the scale in an election. It is very troubling.” When the election is over, Kaine said, “There are going to be a lot of questions.”

Whitney Snyder

U.S. Politics

Sunday Talk: Dirt Off Her Shoulder




Two days from now, history will be made, one way or another—either through the election of the first female president, or the election of the last president altogether.

For the past week, Donald Trump has been on his “best behavior“—an extraordinarily low bar, for sure; unfortunately, the same can not be said for the FBI.

Ever since James Comey opted to insert himself into the election (and perhaps violatethe Hatch Act in the process), the FBI has been leaking like a sieve to Trump’s allies.

No doubt, there’s a certain irony in the agency responsible for investigating leaks being at the heart of a leak scandal itself; but, really, it’s no more ironic than than the factthat America’s top law enforcement agency seems to have the same goal as Russia’sintelligence serviceselecting Trump.


In any case, throughout it all, Hillary Clinton has steadfastly maintained her cool—and her Electoral College lead (Nate Silver’s tweets notwithstanding).


Morning lineup:

Meet the Press: Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta; Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; Roundtable: Tom Brokaw (NBC News), Republican Strategist Nicolle Wallace, Chris Matthews (MSNBC), Jose Diaz-Balart (Telemundo) & Savannah Guthrie (NBC News).

Face The Nation: Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee Tim Kaine; RNC Chair Reince Priebus; Former Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend; David Ignatius (Washington Post); Roundtable: Jamelle Bouie (Slate), Amy Walter (Cook Political Report), Mark Leibovich(New York Times Magazine) & John Heilemann (Bloomberg Politics).

This Week: Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta; RNC Chair Reince Priebus; Nate Silver (FiveThirtyEight); Roundtable: Republican Strategist Alex Castellanos, Democratic Strategist Stephanie Cutter, “Independent” Strategist Matthew Dowd, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) & Republican Pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson.

Fox News Sunday: Republican Vice Presidential Nominee Mike Pence; Bill O’Reilly (Fox News); Roundtable: Republican Strategist Karl Rove, Bob Woodward (Washington Post), Former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino & Juan Williams (Fox News).

State of the Union: Trump Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway; Sen. Al Franken (D-MN); Libertarian Vice Presidential Nominee Bill Weld; Roundtable: Progressive Activist Van Jones, Republican Strategist Sean Spicer, Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D), David Chalian (CNN) (R) & Dana Bash (CNN).

Evening lineup:

60 Minutes will feature: a report on potential developmental problems for babies born without microcephaly to Zika-infected moms (preview).

Late night shows:

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Monday: Actor John Goodman; Actor Andrew Rannells; Rock Band The 1975; Drummer Keith Carlock.

Tuesday: Pre-empted.

Wednesday: TV Host Wendy Williams; Pop Band Lukas Graham; Drummer Keith Carlock.

Thursday: Lester Holt (NVBC News); Actress Alia Shawkat; Author Jade Chang; Drummer Keith Carlock.

Friday: Rerun.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

Monday: Jonathan Capehart (Washington Post);  Tuesday: Live Election Night Coverage;  Wednesday: John Stanton (BuzzFeed);  Thursday: Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James.


Morning Joe Scarborough tried to dispel once and for all with this fiction that he’s rooting for Trump.

While going over some of the newest state-by-state polling data just days before the presidential election, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough took a quick detour to clearly state that he is not — under any circumstances — “rooting” for Republican nominee Donald Trump.

“Now in case you have a short attention span,” Scarborough said during a segment in the 6 o’clock hour Friday, “Joe’s not saying this is going to happen, Joe’s saying it might happen. It might happen. Could happen. Along with Nate Silver I think there is a 35% chance that it will happen.” He was referencing the statistical likelihood that Trump could win next Tuesday’s election, a prospect forecasted by Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.

“I don’t want you to think three minutes from now that anybody here is rooting for Donald Trump,” he clarified with a hardened look into the camera lens. “God, you people. You need to do your job and be journalists. You’re really disgusting.”


Brian Williams called out Mark Halperin for his fawning coverage of Trump.

MSNBC anchor Brian Williams called out Bloomberg Politics host (and quasi-MSNBC host) Mark Halperin Thursday night for his coverage of the 2016 campaign, saying that Halperin goes out of his way to present the news in a way favorable to Donald Trump.

“Mark Halperin, to you, I say this with charity in my heart as an every evening and weekly viewer,” he prefaced. “When Donald Trump complains that he is not getting favorable coverage in the MSM, he has not been listening to you this cycle.”

Williams continued: “I think you’ve gone out of your way to find the path, argue for the path, forge the path for him in an argumentative way with your co-host to the nomination.”

“Tonight I thought you were interestingly optimistic,” he said. “Where are you getting the path of positivity you laid out on your broadcast tonight?”

Vote or die.

– Trix