Clinton cash — “not a shred of evidence”?

Team Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon responded to the New York Times Clinton Foundation/Russian uranium deal story by asserting that there is not a “shred of evidence” Hillary Clinton approved the deal to reward donors of the Clinton Foundation.

The “shred of evidence” cliche is not a happy one for Hillary. After all, she has admitted, in essence, that she shredded tens of thousands of State Department emails, and the server that housed them apparently has been destroyed. If smoking gun evidence were to be found, one imagines that it would be in shreds, literally.

But smoking gun evidence isn’t the only form of evidence. Let’s consider another potential “Clinton cash” scandal — the one involving Clinton Foundation supporter Frank Giustra and his interests in Colombia:

Assume the following facts, which have been publicly reported, at least some of which are not disputed: (1) As a candidate for president Hillary Clinton opposed a free trade deal with Colombia, (2) as Secretary of State she supported such a deal, (3) in the interim, Frank Giustra made large contributions to the Clinton Foundation, and (4) Giustra’s interests benefited from the agreement Clinton supported.

If evidence supports each of these propositions, then this is evidence that Clinton changed her position to reward Giustra. To be sure, the evidence is circumstantial, not direct. But such circumstantial, i.e., inferential, evidence is commonplace in civil litigation.

For example, if an employee in good standing complains about racial discrimination and is fired soon thereafter, a jury can infer that the complaint caused the firing. There need not be a document, or other smoking gun, that establishes a causal relationship.

Moreover, as Jennifer Rubin points out, in political corruption cases the government wouldn’t even need to prove a quid pro quo relationship between Giustra’s donations and Clinton’s decisions to support a free trade deal (or to sign off on a uranium deal). It is enough, the government argued successfully in the case of former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell, if a public official is inclined to look more favorably on a donor’s interests because of a financial contribution.

Hillary Clinton is not going to be prosecuted for political corruption. Nor is it realistic to think that the issue of her corruption will arise in civil litigation.

The real question is how the public will view the facts in deciding on her fitness to be president. One would hope that, as Rubin puts, “you can’t prove I’m a crook” will not be the standard.

It certainly wouldn’t be if we were talking about a Republican candidate — the mainstream media would see to that. Since we are talking instead about a liberal Democrat trying to become the nation’s first female president, it’s quite possible that “you can’t prove I’m a crook” will end up being the standard, and that the bar for proving this will be higher than in the criminal law.

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