Donald Trump claimed he did not “pay to play”. Hillary Clinton insisted she played by the rules. And the FBI chief asserted they “don’t play games”.
FBI’s release of a report on the Democratic presidential nominee’s use of a private email server before the long Labour Day weekend was not akin to a “Turkey dump”, as the pundits insinuated to escape the media chatter, averred Director James Comey.
“We don’t play games,” he said in a memo to FBI agents some of whom were reportedly sharply critical of the decision not to charge Clinton despite finding her “extremely careless” in handling the nation’s secrets as America’s top diplomat.
“The case itself was not a cliff-hanger despite all the chest-beating by people no longer in government,” he maintained and the documents were released when they were ready.
And Clinton finding her national lead shrinking from 8 to 3 points in the face of her ever-unfolding email saga on the home stretch of the presidential race acknowledged it was a “mistake” to use a private email server and so was her vote for Iraq war as a US senator.
But that did not disqualify her from serving as the nation’s Commander-in-Chief, she insisted at a TV forum of military veterans.
For while all government systems from the State Department to even the White House may have been hacked, “There is no evidence my system was hacked.”
Quickly negating her brazen claim, fact checkers pointed out that FBI did “assess that hostile actors gained access” to her system but found no evidence simply because it was unlikely hackers would leave a trail.
And in choosing to discuss issues like the CIA drone programme in Pakistan on unclassified mail she relied on the judgement of “hundreds of experienced foreign policy experts, diplomats, defence officials”, claimed Clinton, neatly shifting the blame.
As for her support for Iraq war, her opponent too had done so, she offered lamely.
Not true, averred rival Trump. “I was totally against the war in Iraq” he said, pointing to a 2004 interview with Esquire magazine glossing over his comment two years earlier to an interviewer when asked if he supported the invasion, “Yeah, I guess so.”
The brash billionaire who had not long ago claimed that he knows more than the generals and had a secret “fool proof” plan to tackle ISIS, asserted that the “generals had been reduced to a rubble” under President Barack Obama.
Claiming to be “pretty good with body language”, Trump suggested he had also learnt some shocking things from intelligence briefings given to presidential candidates, saying, “I could tell they were not happy” about “our leaders” not following their recommendations.
He even praised Russian President Vladimir Putin saying while he did not like their system, Putin has “been a leader, far more than” Obama.
Nor did he mind being called “brilliant” by an authoritarian Putin though that would not get the Russian leader anywhere with him, Trump preened.
But a horrified Clinton suggested Trump’s praise for Putin was “not just unpatriotic and insulting to the people of our country, as well as to our Commander-in-Chief — it is scary”.
Meanwhile, the billionaire who had doubled down on his rival over what he called a “pay-to-play” game of giving fat cat Clinton foundation donors fast-track “access” to her, faced scrutiny over his own gifts to some politicians.
Trump had last year boasted that “when you give” politicians “to do whatever the hell you want them to do”. Now he changed tack suggesting that a $25,000 donation to Florida attorney general Pam Bondi in 2013 was a contribution without strings.
While Bondi said Trump’s gift did not influence her decision not to pursue fraud claims against his university, California’s Indian-American attorney general Kamla Harris, who too got $5,000, was still said to be looking into the allegations.
Back on the campaign trail, Clinton told reporters on her plane in the midst of a coughing bout: “Every time I think about Trump, I get allergic.”
And as #Hacking Hillary began trending on twitter, raising questions about her health, Trump shot back: “Mainstream media never covered Hillary’s massive ‘hacking’ or coughing attack, yet it is #1trending. What’s up?”
While people do get to play the last card come November 8, those allergic to both Trump and Clinton face a Hobson’s choice!