Point/Counterpoint: Comey’s Letter DID Cost Clinton The Election

Kris Ushe, Reporter

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The United States’ Presidential Election of 2016 tops the list as one of the most surprising events in the nation’s history. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a clear difference, but it was the Republican Party’s nominee, Donald Trump, who won the electoral college to make his way into the Oval Office. After a long and exhausting campaign for their nominee, the Democrats and independent political analysts started looking for reasons why the national polls – who predicted Clinton as a clear winner – turned out to be totally wrong.

A lot of factors have been mentioned, including the working class who were upset with their economic conditions and the the division that Bernie Sanders – another Democratic candidate who failed to clinch the nomination – had brought to the party.

However the most controversial topic, that still haunts the Trump administration today, is ex FBI director Comey’s potential influence in the election.

Understanding what the email probe meant to Clinton and Trump is key in understanding the capacity of Comey’s actions that affected the election. The email probe was and still is Clinton’s major weakness when it comes to gaining trust from Americans. Because she had – in an irresponsible way – sent classified information through an unprotected and unsafe server, her image as a strong leader had taken a significant hit. A lot of Americans had lost faith in her because of that and because of how her political rivals had portrayed her as a threat to national security.

On the other side, Trump saw the email probe as the best way to personally attack Clinton’s abilities and potential to serve in the highest office. The topic was brought up in the primaries several times – even by the Democratic candidates. But it was in the final stretch of the campaigns, where the email probe was massively used in Trump’s campaign and propaganda against Clinton. The Republican Nominee wanted to attract the electorate by portraying himself as a more reassuring figure than his rival and by trying to diminish her capacity to protect the nation.

It is clear that Clinton was already significantly injured by what she had done (by accident?). Trump was already winning several voters from that story alone. The electorate was very delicate and would have easily been unbalanced if anything had happened to either candidate that gave voters the impression that one of them was not fit for office. Even if something were to happen, it would take the candidate a long time to recover from it through campaign and propaganda. The timing of what Comey did made his actions have an extremely lethal effect on Clinton.

Only 11 days before the American people would vote for who their president for the next four years would be, Comey sent a letter to the Congress saying that he would reopen the famous investigation on Clinton, regarding the emails she sent that contained classified information, through her personal and unprotected server. The FBI had previously declared Clinton clear in July of that year, but Comey had declared that he had found new information that pushed him to reopen the investigation.

Her ability to be responsible in an important office had been one of the main themes in politics, especially in her rival, Trump’s campaign and speeches throughout the year. The issue had already been a major weakness of Clinton, when the FBI surprisingly decided to remind American voters of that, and perhaps even pushed them away from her. With only a little more than a week before the election took place, the electorate was most vulnerable to news as sensitive as the person who would potentially win the presidency being investigated by the FBI. Even if it may sound like something that could not change the minds of decided voters, it is key to consider the position in which undecided voters were put on that day and the ones to follow. Potentially the next President of the United States, Clinton is again being investigated because information has again been found about her. This kind of news – which was broadcasted 24/7 in every media outlet – creates a lot of pressure for people in the grey area, where every little factor pushes them towards the left or the right. A lot of people panicked and fell on the momentum that Trump (and Comey?) had built. And it is the undecided voters who choose the next President.

Although some Republicans argue that the influence was not that decisive, the importance of Comey’s action could first of all be seen in Trump’s shift of thoughts on the ex director – from criticizing his tolerance to Clinton to praising his ability to step up for “what is right”. Trump knew that Comey had given him a gift – without realizing so – and he wanted to make most of it by portraying Clinton as a target not only to his campaign but of a reliable independent institution as well. He used that to have his voters at least listen to an independent institution doubting Clinton, if they did not wish to listen to him. The rising action by the Trump campaign proves the potential of the letter sent by Comey to decide the next U.S. President.

While it is true that polls indicated an increase of Trump support in swing states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania – which turned out to be the states that sealed Trump’s victory – the trends were in no way strong enough to indicate a Trump victory in all of these states, one of which (Pennsylvania) had not voted for a Republican for a long time.

First of all, the FBI director is not supposed to go public about a Presidential nominee at a critical point of their campaign. What analysts argue is that the protocol tells the FBI to investigate in silence and only go public in case significant proof of guilt is found. The sole purpose of that is the fact that the FBI director does possess the ability to influence an election. The protocol clearly proves that ability and the claims that Comey violated his protocol.

What makes his actions even more decisive is the fact that Clinton was not predicted to win by a huge difference like 70-30. Instead the numbers remained moving at an unpredictable pattern every day – even though Clinton was predicted to win eventually.

By delivering a massive blow on a candidate’s ability to keep the nation safe, the FBI made a lot of Americans doubt her even more and some even fear the dangers that she could bring to their families. The psychological effect and the massive media attention that the story got, were more than enough to overturn a relatively small lead that Clinton had in national polls.

Politics is all about momentum and that is what Trump needed to win the election. James Comey helped Trump build strong momentum in the very last few days before the election. No small trend of increasing Trump support in states can justify the major impact that Comey had in a major political moment for the United States and for the entire world.

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