2016 Archives

FBI announcement on Clinton email server offers plenty of juice but not much impact on presidential race

July 5, 2016

DALLAS (SMU)SMU experts are available for interview on all things related to the current state of the presidential race.

DESPITE PRO-CLINTON OUTCOME, FBI STATEMENT FUELS TRUMP MESSAGE OF CORRUPTION 
 

Matthew WilsonMATTHEW WILSON:
jmwilson@smu.edu

The FBI welcomed the political world back from its Fourth of July holiday on Tuesday with its much-anticipated statement on the Hillary Clinton email investigation. The verdict? The FBI did not recommend pressing charges against Clinton.

“For most people this was the expected outcome, but what it highlights is how unfortunately timed and ham-handed Bill Clinton’s meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch was,” Wilson says. “That image feeds right into Donald Trump’s narrative of a corrupt system that protects favorites.”

What Wilson doesn’t think this story will do is change a significant number of votes.

“I would call it a push,” Wilson says. “To have the specter of criminal charges formally removed, that’s got to be reassuring to Clinton. On the other hand, the FBI director went out of his way to talk about how reckless and irresponsible her conduct was in the handling of emails, and we can expect those remarks will provide fodder for political ads through the fall.”

Wilson is an SMU associate professor of Political Science. He can discuss:

  • religion and politics
  • political psychology
  • •voting behavior of religious voters
  • public opinion and politics
   
INNOCENT, BUT DAMAGED: FBI STATEMENT OPENS WINDOW FOR TRUMP 
 

Stephanie MartinSTEPHANIE MARTIN:
samartin@mail.smu.edu

 

As FBI director James Comey concluded his statement on the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s email server, the good news for Clinton was that she had not been indicted, the bad news was everything else.

“If you made a list of what Clinton said of the email story and wanted to check it off – ‘never sent classified information,’ not true; ‘I turned over everything,’ not true – if you just made that check list, it would be not true, not true, not true, not true,” Martin says. “So when people say, ‘I can’t trust her,’ this is not good.”

Potentially even worse than that is the language that Comey used to describe Clinton’s shortcomings.

“He used terms and phrases like, ‘no reasonable person,’ and, ‘bad judgement,’” Martin says. “You can just imagine the campaign ads that can be made from this.”

Though Comey’s statement undeniably opened a large avenue of attack for Trump, Martin says Trump is mishandling his response, and could be missing a golden opportunity to make hay of a campaign issue that will last until November.

“The narrative of a rigged system is difficult to sell because, look at Comey’s background,” Martin says. “He’s a Bush appointee with a non-partisan reputation. The way he describes how the investigation was done, it doesn’t seem it was rigged. And indeed his statement was highly critical, so I don’t think the rigged system attack sticks.”

“The other thing is the fact where Trump’s campaign doesn’t have any money comes into play,” Martin adds. “If his campaign had money, they could have an ad in 15 minutes. That lack of cash hampers his ability to put a message out.”

Martin is an SMU assistant professor of Communication Studies in the Meadows School of the Arts. She can discuss:

  • economic messages in political campaigns
  • presidential campaign strategy
  • religious voters and evangelical social movements
               

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