It’s a pattern that’s played out for decades: Republicans go after the Clintons, their investigations fail to turn up real dirt, they insist it’s because the Clintons have somehow fixed the system to avoid accountability, rinse, repeat. That rinse-repeat cycle is probably into the dozens at this point, but it’s still going strong. FBI Director James Comey anticipated it when he closed his announcement that the FBI wouldn’t recommend prosecuting Hillary Clinton over her private email server by saying:
I know there will be intense public debate in the wake of this recommendation, as there was throughout this investigation. What I can assure the American people is that this investigation was done competently, honestly, and independently. No outside influence of any kind was brought to bear.
I know there were many opinions expressed by people who were not part of the investigation—including people in government—but none of that mattered to us. Opinions are irrelevant, and they were all uninformed by insight into our investigation, because we did the investigation the right way. Only facts matter, and the FBI found them here in an entirely apolitical and professional way. I couldn’t be prouder to be part of this organization.
And yet despite Comey’s certainty there, it’s all playing out again. House Speaker Paul Ryan is promising investigations of the investigation. House Oversight Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz, who last month said he would “probably” accept the FBI’s conclusions because “we do believe in James Comey” has decided he doesn't believe in Comey after all. All this Republican outrage that Comey—a Republican they believed in last month—didn’t do what they wanted and therefore is suddenly a suspicious character runs the very real risk of overreach, Greg Sargent argues:
As we’ve already seen with Benghazi, Republicans don’t ever stop, no matter how many investigations fail to turn up that single devastating piece of evidence of Clinton perfidy and lawbreaking they are looking for. The same may prove true in the case of the emails. As Bloomberg Politics puts it, Ryan is basically helping Trump “whip up conspiracy theories over the FBI process” in a manner designed mainly to “rally the base,” but which “may do little to convince general election voters” that the fix was in.
Democratic strategist Robert Shrum predicts that Republicans will overreach once again on the emails: “I think it will go about as well as the Republicans did on Whitewater or Benghazi or anything else. I just think it’s fundamentally over.”
Unfortunately, given the Republican fixation on the Clintons, even if it is fundamentally over we’ll be watching the efforts to make fetch happen play out until November—and probably beyond. And even if it doesn’t appreciably hurt Hillary Clinton with general election voters, it will be an ongoing distraction. Which Republicans will tell themselves is almost as good as finding evidence of actual wrongdoing.