"This is not a team that sits on its hands," said an FBI official to the Washington Post.
That's a fascinating quote, since it comes 12 paragraphs after the Post's lede: "FBI agents investigating Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state knew early this month that messages recovered in a separate probe might be germane to their case, but they waited weeks before briefing the FBI director."
Six paragraphs after that? "Officials said the agents probing Clinton’s private email server didn’t tell the director immediately because they were trying to better assess what they had." Fair enough. Yet two paragraphs later: "Investigators will now look at whether the newly uncovered emails contain classified information or other evidence that could help advance the Clinton email probe."
So the crack law enforcement agency that doesn't sit on its hands sat on its chain-of-command hands for weeks as it first labored throughout those weeks to "better assess" recovered evidence which it "will now" assess — meaning weeks of assessment were essentially void of assessment.
In brief, the FBI hasn't a clue. Literally. It's quite possible, even probable, that the "pertinent" emails discovered are but duplicates "of others already recovered elsewhere" or simply "a collection of benign, personal notes." But we should dismiss speculation about probable innocence. For the fact of the matter is that what the FBI possessed weeks ago is, by its own and still-unaltered admission, a wholesale lack of any wrongdoing evidence.
That, however, ultimately failed to deter FBI Director James Comey from throwing an eleventh-hour grenade into the presidential race, which of course violated Justice Department protocol and infuriated veteran prosecutors. The Justice department will no doubt wish to tighten its guidelines before another reckless FBI director plays with things that go boom. Pragmatically speaking, though, what's done is done, and the "pertinent" question now is how Comey's recklessness is influencing the race. Concludes the afore-cited story:
A Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll found that more than 6 in 10 likely voters said the FBI’s announcement would make no difference in their vote. A little more than 3 in 10 said the news made them less likely to support Clinton, though about two-thirds of those were Republicans or Republican-leaning independents.
The way I read that "3 in 10" statistic is that, discounting the Republican or Republican-leaning 2 in 10, the news left 1 in 10 less likely to support Clinton; in other words, 10 percent of the likely-voting electorate. And in swing states in which presidential contests are often decided by 1, 2 or 3 percent margins, a negatively influenced 10 percent is immense.
The polling could be in error, of course. Or the Comey Effect may possess a lifespan of only 48 hours or so. What's more, even now-less-supportive Clinton voters may still comprehend that voting for the ignorant, racist, misogynistic, vastly unfit neofascist alternative is no rational alternative at all.
All of that notwithstanding, the evidence at hand — something the FBI no longer obsesses over — suggests that the Comey Effect is both real and damaging to Hillary Clinton. This further suggests that Donald Trump's nonetheless inevitable loss will look more like John McCain's than Barry Goldwater's; unless, that is, Director Comey soon does, by any reasonable standard of fairness, what he should do: Confess publicly that the FBI doesn't have squat — never did.