Anthony Weiner

Hey remember how a few weeks ago I suggested that people should start mentally preparing themselves for the possibility — just the possibility — of President Trump? Some people didn’t like that, suggesting I was forecasting a Trump win — a measure of their own terror at the prospect, and their own lack of faith in the pretty terrible Clinton campaign.

Days later, Trump was got by one of the few things the Dems have got right: their ability to bait him into angry defence of personal attacks. The Access Hollywood tapes, the angry defence, the attacks on speaker Paul Ryan and the whole Republican party, the desperate flailing in the third debate, threat to sue women accusers, claims the entire election may be rigged against him — by the end of all that, Hillary was up by anything from seven to 12 points, and she was campaigning in Arizona, and advertising in Texas, Georgia and Alaska.

Now? Well, I would mentally prepare yourself for the prospect of President Trump.

In the last week, the Clinton campaign has been hit by fresh revelations from the rolling WikiLeaks releases of the “Podesta emails”, with new releases having real bite about potential Clinton favours and malfeasances. Then on Friday afternoon, a bombshell: FBI director James Comey informed Congress that he was reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

There was uproar when the news hit the wires, as everyone realised at the same time what it meant: Hillary Clinton would be officially under investigation by the FBI right up to election day, and beyond. People scrambled for details, but Comey had given nothing away other than that a stash of Clinton emails had been found at “another source”, as part of a separate investigation.

Hours later, the whole thing was thrown into further uproar when the subject of that “other investigation” was revealed: Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Clinton’s top aide Huma Abedin, currently under investigation for, well … let’s go back a bit.

Weiner is the ex-congressman from New York state, who resigned in 2011 after being caught sending dick pics to several women, an infraction for which Abedin forgave him. So much so that she helped out on his 2013 race to be mayor of New York, all of which was filmed in the fly-on-the-wall doco Weiner — and which included the eruption of a fresh scandal, because Weiner had been sexting another woman (one “Sydney Leathers”, who repeatedly ambushed him at events, all on tape). It was all consensual, but that doesn’t fly in American politics, and Weiner’s campaign was sunk. Abedin stuck by him, even as she became perhaps the most important person, apart from Hillary herself, in winning the Democrats a third term.

And waaddaya know, Weiner was caught sexting again. Except this time, it was to a 15-year-old girl, and suddenly he was very very screwed. Abedin separated from him. The FBI got involved. One of the things they picked up in the investigation was a laptop shared by Weiner and Abedin (I know, ewwwwwww, right?) and therein was a batch of emails between Abedin and Clinton, that Abedin appears to have forwarded to herself for work purposes.

Thus the emails are probably duplicates of those already seen by the FBI. But they may not be, as Hillary destroyed a number of them during the FBI investigation. Since the issue at hand is how Hillary handled emails marked confidential or top secret — that should never have been on a private server, much less a sticky laptop — there is a compelling reason for re-investigation.

Whether FBI director James Comey was required to announce such, as he says he was, is currently being politically litigated hour-by-hour across all media. Comey claims that the fact that he had earlier testified that the investigation was closed, meant that he had no choice but to notify Congress that it was open again.

There then followed a perfect crossover, with Democrats who had previously praised Comey as a stern guardian of the law, etc — after announcing that he wouldn’t be sending the case for prosecution — now piling on. Two weeks ago he was a “fine public servant”, resisting pressure. Now outgoing-Senator Harry Reid says he may have broken the law. Others say that he was responding to “peer pressure” — srsly — from other agents, angry that the original emails inquiry had been truncated.

Republicans, who had piled on Comey — Trump said that there would be an inquiry into his possible prosecution — are now, of course, praising this fine, upstanding champion against the blah blah. The party reversals are utterly shameless. If prior to this, politics made the public feel like they wanted to throw up, we are now at the retching-water-on-the-bathroom-floor stage.

Weinergate 4: A Very Weinereen came at the end of a bad week for team Clinton, as the steady release by Wikileaks of emails from the “Podesta files” began to bite it. It’s either pure coincidence, or the individual emails have become more and more problematic for the Clintons with each fresh release. Early releases gave a picture of the Clinton Foundation and campaign as a small, separate world insouciantly soliciting charity donations from big corps and sovereign wealth funds without much thought to issues of transparency or separation from influence, together with a lot of bitchiness about Bernie Sanders, possible passage of debate questions from media to team Hillary, and clear prejudice against the Sanders campaign by the DNC.

An email a few days ago detailed the promise to the King of Morocco for a Clinton Foundation jamboree in Morocco, in exchange for $12 million dollars, about which much was made. But that was merely a curtain-raiser to a genuine smoking-pistol — a long email by disgruntled Foundation associate Doug Band, claiming that Bill Clinton had gained tens of millions in speaking and consultancy fees from foundation donors, by piggybacking on the donation effort. Any doubt that the releases had a deliberate escalation to them were dispelled when WikiLeaks announced a few hours ago that it would be launching “phase three” of its releases next week. Phase three? Julian, Julian, I thought we agreed: none of this till you get your undersea headquarters.

With the Trump campaign looking ever more each day like Led Zeppelin’s chaotic 1971 tour, an aimless 747-based wandering across the nation without rhyme or reason, the weirdest thing about this election is that Wikileaks has essentially given the Republican presidential campaign the only narrative structure it possesses. Without that, it would be nothing but Trump landing in cities and bitching about Rosie O’Donnell and those “lying”, 12, 13, 14 women, to fans baying for blood in “Jew-S-A”.

Win or lose (and the estimable Mr Bowe has a deep dive into the polling to date), the Podesta releases have had their effect, an expose of the cynical, assured and cosy world of elite power on the “progressive” side, the arrogance displayed towards any and all outside the charmed circle of enthusiastic globalisers. Also, and as a by-product, an expose of the bloated, bitchy and ineffectual world of the Clinton campaign, with its layers of managers and party panjandrums, in contrast to the lean, efficient and effective outfit Obama ran in 2008 and 2012. Team Clinton has decided to go in hard on the FBI, having earlier declared that they were taking the “high road”. It’s an … interesting choice.

Fair to say that the WikiLeaks strategy is dividing the left right down the middle, and with a degree of bitterness of the sort that ends in one side putting the other up against the wall. Mainstream progressives have always been pro-Clinton, but there is now a split between left progressives (liberals in US parlance) and the left. Thus, liberals like Bill Maher and Michael Moore, hitherto supportive of Assange, have gone in hard for Hillary, dismissing any notion that the Podesta emails reveal anything — when of course they reveal the full anatomy of ruling-class power on the progressive side. That there is greater and more pernicious corruption on the Trump side, the gangster ruling-class pretending to be peoples’ tribunes, does not alter that picture.

Should Trump get elected — with at least one more October surprise before we get to the November surprises — the pursuit and prosecution of Clinton will be relentless, to the limit of legality and beyond. But, as millions are realising with a sinking feeling, even if Clinton gets elected, barring miracles, she will face a hostile House, which may convene relentless inquiries against her, and go for impeachment proceedings prior to the 2018 midterms.

How far they go would be a question purely strategic, and factional — no sense of decorum or national greater good would enter into it. It would all be about what they can get away with, with independent voters. Fair to say that Clinton’s behaviour as exposed has driven millions in the country to a pitch of fury, and exasperated many of those inclined to defend her. Should she lose, one useful consequence will be an upheaval in the Democratic party, following the utter discrediting of the Clinton machine.

Most likely, Hillary will win. But the lead has tracked into four points, from five or six. This could be a squeaker. Even better! Not impossible that there’d be a split between the popular vote and the electoral college result, running in either direction.

So as I say, mentally prepare yourself for the prospect of President Trump … and Weiner 5: Where you Putin That? Stay tuned for more from the last, best hope of man …


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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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