A vendetta by the FBI against Hillary Clinton played a key role in Donald Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton. Or so  you might conclude from a review of a new book by James Stewart, “Deep State: Trump, the FBI, and the rule of law.”

The book is reviewed by Jonathan Chait for the New York Times, which (he doesn’t mention) played its own key role in playing up the Clinton e-mail investigation while giving far less attention to Donald Trump’s reliance on Russian help in business and politics.

James Comey, the former FBI director, comes in for a beating for his mishandling of the matter. All this has a certain irony with Trump and his defenders bashing Comey and the FBI as untrustworthy. He owes them a thank-you, to hear Stewart tell it.

Leaks from the FBI meant the public heard a lot about Hillary, not so much about Russia. (Again, thanks NYT.)

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Stewart writes that the FBI concluded it didn’t have a case against Hillary Clinton. She might have mishandled some email, for convenience or because of lack of tech expertise, but there was no intent to misuse information as is usually the case in prosecutions over handling of classified material. But could the FBI drop its pursuit? No. Writes Chait:

You might think this decision made life easier for the F.B.I., which would be spared the ordeal of having to insert itself into a presidential campaign. Instead, it made life harder. The reason for this: The bureau contained what some Department of Justice officials considered “hotbeds of anti-Clinton hostility,” especially in the Little Rock and New York offices. Stewart describes how F.B.I. officials encouraged colleagues investigating the Democratic nominee with messages like “You have to get her” and “You guys are finally going to get that bitch.” James Comey, the F.B.I. director during the Clinton email probe, went so far as to tell Attorney General Loretta Lynch, “It’s clear to me that there is a cadre of senior people in New York who have a deep and visceral hatred of Secretary Clinton.” Those agents leaked regularly to right-wing media sources that the bureau was turning a blind eye to what they saw as Clinton’s criminality.

Don’t forget all the loose talk by Rudy Giuliani, long suspected to be related to his ties with FBI.

It’s over, but the harsh criticism of Comey, in addition to being justified, is important context in Trump’s continuing tirade and his worldwide pursuit of the half-baked notion that the real scandal in 2016 wasn’t Russia but Ukraine. William Barr figures in Stewart’s tale of pursuit of Clinton, too.

Reviewer Chait says Stewart details lots of suspicious stuff related to Trump’s reaction to the Russian probe, but produces no smoking gun. In Clinton’s case, the gun is smoking and the target — electorally speaking — was long ago pronounced dead.

If the name of Times columnist James Stewart isn’t familiar, take yourself back to 1996 and his “Blood Sport,” a chronicle of the Clintons and Whitewater that was praised by Rush Limbaugh and scored by Gene Lyons as “chronically inaccurate.” Maybe this latest is something of a makeup.

 

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