If Hillary Clinton does somehow lose the 2016 US presidential election, FBI director James Comey might turn into one of the most hated people on earth — hated even more, perhaps, than the incoming Commander-in-Chief, Donald J Trump.
Comey’s curious intervention against Mrs Clinton – in case you missed it, the FBI has announced that it is reviewing newly discovered emails that might be related to her notorious private server – will be seen as ‘the October surprise’ which rattled the Clinton campaign and handed momentum back to the Trump Train. Comey has already enraged senior Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has said that he thinks Comey has violated the Hatch Act, which is meant to stop Federal officials from interfering in the political process.
But the polls were tightening before Comey’s announcement, and there are good reasons to think that the whole episode is something of a distraction. The email scandal is complicated and a bit boring: it doesn’t grip the public’s imagination for long. You can be sure that, with only eight days to go before election day, Trump will manage to make negative headlines over something completely different. And initial surveys suggest that anybody who was not already put off by Clinton’s email scandal is unlikely to be put off now.
In a roundabout way, too, the FBI’s intervention may even help Clinton. The Trumpists big line is that the ‘system’ is rigged in favour of the Democratic candidate — it’s what they said when Comey recommended not pressing charges against Clinton in June — and yet here is the system causing Team Clinton a major headache at a critical time. The latest twist suggests the Clintons are not obnoxiously above the law, even if in fact they are.
Unless the FBI publish some sensational email evidence against Clinton in the next few days, the Comey intervention can easily be brushed aside.