Reversing Roles: The Clinton Presidency that Wasn’t

636325546921131441-ap-comeyNearly one month into the young presidency of Hillary Clinton, The Wall Street Journal publishes reports that Huma Abedin, now working as a Senior Advisor in the White House, is currently under investigation by the FBI for unreported ties to Iran and Iranian lobbyists. It is also reported that the Iranians knew certain payments and meetings were left off of Abedin’s security clearance application, thus compromising Abedin and opening her to a threat of blackmail.

Allegedly, Abedin made several contacts with key Iranian diplomats to suggest offers during the transition to renegotiate the Iran deal with the promise of lessing even more sanctions and helping to rebuild their economy. There are also reports of her contacts or ongoing relationships with Iranian surrogates during the 2016 campaign. Finally, The Journal notes that the White House was informed of this information two weeks prior, but that there appears to be no change in Abedin’s position within the White House.

After the report is published, Vice President Tim Kaine is embarrassed and enraged, for he had spoken on Sunday morning talk shows regarding concerns about Abedin last month when he publicly denied any efforts by the Clinton Transition Team to discuss sanctions with Iran. Abedin had lied to him. The Vice President is so upset by these reports and his damaged credibility that President Clinton decides she has no choice, regrettably, but to fire Abedin. She releases comments a few days later blaming the press for reporting about these leaks and suggests she already misses having Abedin – who in her view has done nothing wrong – as part of her team.

In the following weeks, the concern about Iran and potential ties to the Clinton administration grows. Congress opens multiple investigations into the possible connections and conflicts of interest between the campaign and Iran. It is leaked to the press that the NSA believes that an Iranian hacker was behind the release of sensitive financial information about Donald Trump a week before the election, widely speculated to have contributed “Bigly” to his loss. Multiple members of congress, both Republicans and Democrats, confirm this report to the press.

Tensions between President Clinton and the FBI Director remain high. The White House continues to insist that there has been no wrong doing on the part of either the Clinton Campaign or the Clinton Transition Team.

After failing to get key legislation through Congress, and one week after Director Comey testified that there was an open investigation into ties between the Clinton Campaign/Transition and Iran, Hillary Clinton fires James Comey. In an abrupt letter released to the public, she thanks him for informing her three times that she is not under investigation by the FBI for any ties to Iran.

An accompanying statement says she made this decision on advisement of a memo authored by the newly confirmed Deputy Attorney General. Director Comey finds out about this decision from a cable news ticker while addressing FBI agents in LA.

The White House appears caught off guard by the actions of President Clinton, briefing reporters among the WH bushes in the early evening hours and suggests they have no immediate plans to announce a replacement. White House aides, the Vice President, and the Assistant Press Secretary claim the next day that the rationale behind this decision was related to how Director Comey handled public statements during the 2016 campaign season and that she took acted under advisement of the memo from the Justice Department.

The next day, Presdient Clinton hosts the Iranian ambassador and foreign minister at the White House where they hold a private meeting in the Oval Office closed to American journalists. Within 24 hours, pictures emerge from the meeting on Iranian State television. President Clinton appears down right giddy.

Several days later, under a public backlash to the decision of firing Director Comey, Presdient Clinton has a sit down interview with Lester Holt where she insists that she has no ties to Iran, that she was very frustrated by the investigations, and that she decided to fire Comey on her own, before receiving the memo from the Justice Department. She notes her frustrations over how the FBI Director handled her email investigation, but implies her decision was linked to frustrations about the growing Iran investigation. She goes on to insult and question Director Comey’s character in her defense.

Over the next several weeks, information is leaked to the press nearly every day. More Clinton associates are reportedly linked to Iran or Iranian associates, including daughter Chelsea who is now working in the White House and receiving intelligence briefings. Evidence mounts that Iran did seek to meddle in our election. A special prosecutor is eventually appointed to investigate the entire Iran controversy, including efforts to influence the election and any possible collusion with the Clinton campaign.

After many weeks of speculation and shocking leaks, Fmr. Director Comey confirmed via congressional testimony that shortly after the inauguration Hillary Clinton asked – in a closed door, one on one meeting – for the FBI Director’s loyalty, saying “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty.”

On a separate occasion, also alone with him, she brought up the Abedin investigation, saying that Abedin hadn’t done anything wrong in speaking with the Iranians, noted that she was such a nice and loyal friend, and told him, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Abedin go.”

In subsequent phone calls, she requests that he “lifts the cloud” on this whole Iran investigation and strongly and repeatedly presses him to make public statements clearing her name of any wrongdoing in the situation. He chose not to do this during the public hearing before Congress and instead confirmed the existence of ongoing investigations. One week later he was abruptly fired.

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No big deal, right? What a witch hunt.

 

First published here.

Learning from the Women of Buckhannon: A Conservative’s Reflection on the Legacy of the Women’s March

huddlegroupPBS NewsHour feature published this week focuses on the small but growing movement of women protesting the policies of the Trump administration in the heart of self-proclaimed Trump country: Buckhannon, West Virginia. I find this article inspiring for two reasons.

First, it is a heartening example for anyone who finds themselves holding a minority position within their community, or to those who fear they are the only one.

Second, it is illustrative of some of the most powerful aspects (in a good sense) of what we saw and heard at the Women’s March. You don’t have to agree with all their policy preferences to value or be touched by their courage, tenacity, and desire – in the case of some – to finally have a voice.

What I feel like so many of my conservative friends missed at that time, while busy feeling insulted by cat ears – yes, cat ears – for hats and widely sharing memes and posts declaring that pro-life women are more beautiful (and often apparently whiter and blonder) than pro-choice women, was this widespread sense, a groaning of sorts, of helplessness in the face of a genuine moral wrong.

It was never really about Hillary Clinton losing (although some turned it into that for sure), rather it was about Donald Trump winning. It was a collective grieving for all that had transpired in the 18 months leading up to that moment and how so much was sick and twisted and reprehensible and yet somehow that didn’t matter in the end.

I realize it got all muddled – I realize it is a message that will likely continue to get muddled – by a buffet of DNC pet policies, some of which I would certainly label as moral wrongs in their own right.

But what I think really drove so many people out that day, what I think compels people like these women to speak up even now, is a sense that something was condoned and empowered in this country which is not right. That somehow this past election said to the world that the bullies and abusers and mockers and hurters and liars of the world were just fine.

In fact, it said they were more than fine, it said that they were admirable. It said that so long as you keep on winning, so long as you are successful, so long as you promise the right people the right things, you too can say and do whatever you want to whomever you want and you will not have to pay any consequences for even the worst behavior.

And so what I saw in January, what I see in these people in WV, is a collection of the bullied, and abused, and mocked, and hurt, and lied to, all coming together to just say “this is wrong, and we won’t stay silent anymore.”

I don’t think you have to join the Resistance, or even approve of it, to hear that message and have some compassion. To know that even amidst the politicization of their response there is something deeply human here, something we could all take some time to listen to and learn from. To understand that some of their points need to be heard, and to cry for the brokenness of this world and the yearning inside us to be whole once more.

Maybe we look for this wholeness and healing in all the wrong places. Maybe no matter who won this last election there would have been an outpouring of collective grief (I certainly think so). But to understand each other we need to try to look past the political talking points and look at the people, look at their stories. We have things to teach each other. We have people to find and get to know. And we have work to do together.

“At first we all felt like we were little creatures crawling out from under rocks, just reaching out to each other,” said Hollen. “Then we found a few, and a few more.”…

…An older woman speaks up next, her voice trembling a little. “I was sitting here earlier thinking, I never really had a voice before.” She begins to cry, and another woman comes over and takes her hand. “I was raised to be seen and not heard. Then I got married right out of high school and it was the same thing. And I was abused for 14 years. [You all] gave me a voice again.” The woman touches her chest. She is still crying. “So sorry.”

“Don’t say sorry,” Hollen says.

“It’s like we were all sleeping,” says Howard-Jack. “Now I think we’re awake.”

This post originally appeared here on my Facebook account