Chapter 73: Two Weeks to GoPublished October 24, 2017
There were two weeks to go until November 8. The number of women that had come forward to accuse Trump of unwanted sexual advances was nearing a dozen. Trump continued to call them liars and vowed to sue them after the election. Trump was constantly threatening to sue people. This was a hallmark of his career. What kind of person always feels the need to sue people, or to threaten to sue? Who has that many grievances with people, and why?
The number of major newspapers endorsing Trump for president could be counted on one hand. The number endorsing Clinton exceeded 150. Some of them published scathing indictments of Trump. Some had never before endorsed a Democrat for president. Reporters at some of these papers received death threats. Trump continued to call the media “dishonest” and “corrupt” at his rallies, point to reporters and encourage his followers to verbally abuse them.
He also showed no sign of backing off statements that the election was “rigged” and he might not concede if he lost. Clinton was hoping to roll up a big enough win to erase all doubt. But if Trump was a crybaby on election night and screamed foul if he lost, he would intensify the divide in the country and begin the path towards delegitimizing Clinton’s presidency.
“I’ve got to figure out how we heal these divides,” Clinton said, perhaps getting ahead of herself. “We’ve got to get together. Maybe that’s a role that is meant to be for my presidency if I’m so fortunate to be there.”
Republicans were getting increasingly worried about losing control of the Senate, where Democrats needed to pick up just four seats. It was unlikely Democrats could pick up the 30 seats necessary to flip the House but were hoping to at least cut into the GOP majority there.
As for Trump’s chances, there were states no Republican could hope to win and states almost impossible for a Republican to lose. The blue, or Democratic, states were the more populous with the most electoral votes, like New York and California. Thus, Trump had to win most of the states that were “in play” to reach the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election. These included Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah and Virginia. The fact that traditionally red states like Arizona and Utah were in play reinforced that this was not a normal election. Even a red state like Texas had Trump leading by just a few points in some polls.
“We are behind,” admitted Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, noting that Clinton “has some advantages.” These included Barack and Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden all campaigning for Clinton. Conway felt compelled to add that all were “much more popular than she can hope to be.”
Trump seemed to contradict Conway when he came out the next day and said the polls were rigged too, at least those that showed him behind. “I believe we’re actually winning,” he said. He blamed the “disgusting” media for reporting biased poll results to discourage people from voting for him. “The media isn’t just against me,” he told supporters at a rally in Florida. “They’re against all of you. They’re against what we represent.”
Trump trailed in most key demographic groups, including women, minorities, college-educated whites and young people. One poll showed Trump trailing Clinton 60 percent to 19 percent among likely voters 18-30 years old. That is, of course, if the poll could be believed.
Not that everything was all “happy-happy joy-joy” for Clinton. Every day there were new revelations from the thousands of e-mails that were hacked from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and being released by WikiLeaks. Talk about conspiracies! It sure seemed like WikiLeaks and the Russians were trying to help Trump’s campaign. I’m just saying it’s easy to cry conspiracy.
Just a note on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange: He was living in Ecuador to avoid extradition to Sweden where he was accused of rape. He had previously released stolen classified information that threatened U.S. national security.
So, what else was being disclosed in the hacked e-mails? Some showed frustration in Clinton’s camp over not disclosing information about her private e-mail server sooner. “Why didn’t they get this stuff out like 18 months ago?” asked Clinton aide Neera Tanden. “I guess I know the answer. They wanted to get away with it.”
In another e-mail, Podesta said that not handling the e-mail situation sooner reflected “terrible” decision-making and poor “instincts” on Clinton’s part. Trump seized on this, telling supporters that Clinton’s own campaign staff said she had “terrible” judgement.
The most damaging e-mails revealed possible ethics violations between Bill Clinton’s business dealings and the Clinton Foundation. Chelsea Clinton had gotten involved in the foundation and had questioned the propriety of a former aide to Bill Clinton arranging speaking engagements and other business deals for the former president while encouraging the same corporate sponsors to donate to the Clinton Foundation. There were allusions to free travel and vacations being provided by these corporations. The aide, Doug Band, called the arrangements “unorthodox” but denied any ethics violations. He called Chelsea a “brat.”
“Mr. Band called the arrangement unorthodox,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Ohio. “The rest of us call it outright corrupt. If the Clintons were willing to play this fast and loose with their enterprise when they weren’t in the White House, just imagine what they’ll do in the Oval Office.”
Then Trump got another gift when it was announced that health-care premiums under Obamacare were expected to increase by double-digits in 2017. “My first day in office I’m going to ask Congress to put a bill on my desk getting rid of this disastrous law,” Trump said. Of course, he offered no alternative, because nothing makes sense but single-payer government-financed health care if you want to ensure access to care for all citizens at the lowest cost.
Ah, but the gifts kept coming for Trump. The next one might as well have come gift-wrapped with a pretty bow and a note saying, “Best of luck in the election,” signed your friend, James Comey. On Friday, October 28 – just 11 days before the election – FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to members of Congress saying that new e-mails had emerged that could be pertinent to the Bureau’s investigation of Clinton’s handling of potentially classified information on her private e-mail server while secretary of state. They had surfaced during the FBI’s investigation of former New York congressman Anthony Weiner and his alleged 2015 “sexting” episode with the 15-year-old girl.
Holy Scandal, Batman! Recall that Weiner had just become estranged from close Clinton aide and soon-to-be-ex-wife Huma Abedin. The new e-mails allegedly came from a laptop used by Abedin and Weiner. While the e-mails supposedly were not sent to or by Clinton, there had to be something there for Comey to come out with this so close to the election. Clinton was outraged and called on the FBI to release more details on what they had. “The American people deserve to get the full and complete facts immediately,” she said. “Put it all on the table.”
Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta released a statement noting the FBI had previously announced that “no prosecutor would move forward with a case like this and that it was not even a close call. In the months since, Donald Trump and his Republican allies have been baselessly second-guessing the FBI and, in both public and private, browbeating the career officials there to revisit their conclusion in a desperate attempt to harm Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
“We have no idea what those e-mails are,” the statement said of the new e-mails, “and the Director himself notes they may not even be significant. It is extraordinary that we would see something like this just 11 days out from a presidential election. The Director owes it to the American people to immediately provide the full details of what he is now examining. We are confident this will not produce any conclusions different from the one the FBI reached in July.”
Other Democrats called the FBI’s announcement so close to the election “unprecedented” and “deeply troubling.” The Associated Press reported that the Justice Department tried to talk Comey out of sending the letter to Congress, saying it was against policy to announce investigative actions that could be seen as influencing an election. For Comey to come forward despite this led some to speculate there must be something serious in the new e-mails.
“The letter from Director Comey was unsolicited and, quite honestly, surprising,” said Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee. “It’s left a lot more questions than answers for both the FBI and Secretary Clinton. Congress and the public deserve more context to properly assess what evidence the FBI has discovered and what it plans to do with it.”
Comey said in his letter that he didn’t know “how long it will take us to complete this additional investigative work.” Basically they were looking into whether there was classified information in the e-mails they got from “Weiner’s device” (insert joke here). Comey said it could take weeks and would not be completed until after the election on November 8. He feared if he didn’t come forward now he would be accused later of withholding the information.
In a frenzy of overreaction, Republicans pounced on this as if it were another Watergate. In fact, Trump called the news “bigger than Watergate,” adding that the system “might not be as rigged as I thought.”
“Hillary Clinton’s corruption is on a scale we have never seen before,” said the hyperbole king. “We must not let her take her criminal scheme into the Oval Office.” Having recently accused the FBI and Justice Department of being in Clinton’s pocket Trump now said he had “great respect” for them having “the courage to right the horrible mistake that they made” in not prosecuting Clinton. “This was a huge miscarriage of justice that the American people fully understand. It is everybody’s hope that it is about to be corrected.”
The grand “Holier-Than-Thou” prize went to Paul Ryan, who reiterated his argument that Clinton should not be allowed to receive the intelligence briefings normally given to presidential candidates because she could not be trusted. “She was entrusted with some of our nation’s most important secrets and she betrayed that trust by carelessly mishandling highly classified information. This decision, long overdue, is the result of her reckless use of a private e-mail server, and her refusal to be forthcoming with federal investigators. I renew my call for the Director of National Intelligence to suspend all classified briefings for Secretary Clinton until this matter is fully resolved.”
Some conservative media members called for Clinton to be disqualified and replaced by Tim Kaine until her e-mail woes were cleared up once and for all. They argued how a criminal investigation, which Republicans promised they would continue to pursue should Clinton win the White House, would make it hard for her to govern. Again, I had flashbacks to special prosecutor Ken Starr.
This idea that Hillary Clinton should be disqualified from running for president because she can’t be trusted with classified information would have more merit if not for one thing: the alternative was Donald Trump. Did Paul Ryan and others really trust him with classified information more than Clinton? Because it was her or him, folks – and mercifully, there was just one more week to go.