Conservatives Know That Emailgate Is Bullshit, and Game Theory Proves It

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Conservatives crack me up sometimes. Here is NR’s newest writer, Dan McLaughlin:

Now that President Obama has formally endorsed his former Secretary of State for President, it’s no longer possible for him — or a Justice Department directly answerable to him — to rule impartially on whether she or her close associates should be indicted over her mishandling of classified emails….The problem of an Administration investigating itself is an intractable one, and we should not want a return to the unconstitutional, abusive runaway prosecutorial system that existed under the Independent Counsel statute during the Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton years.

So what’s the answer? To appoint a special prosecutor, of course.

This is transparent special pleading. Obama has always supported both Hillary and Bernie. He’s a Democrat. Nothing in his official endorsement of Hillary today changes that. Nor does the nonpartisanship of the FBI change in any way. If their investigation produces evidence of lawlessness but Loretta Lynch decides not to prosecute Hillary regardless, that would be far more damaging than anything a special prosecutor could ever do.

But appointing a special prosecutor does accomplish one thing: it stretches out the investigation. So how does that work out? We elite blogger types are fond of pseudo-sophisticated stuff like “explaining” things in terms of game theory, so let’s give that a try. Here’s a simple game theory matrix that shows the possible outcomes of the email investigation:

The thing to note is that the DOJ investigation is clearly better for Republicans if the current FBI investigation indicates that Hillary is guilty. Either she’s indicted and her campaign is over, or Loretta Lynch refuses to file charges and produces a massive backlash that almost certainly wrecks Hillary’s campaign. By contrast, a special prosecutor produces very little that would harm Hillary during the campaign.

But if Hillary is innocent, then the special prosecutor is a better choice because there’s no prospect of a clear exoneration during the campaign. Regardless of the evidence, a special prosecutor would stretch things out for many more months, leaking lovely tidbits along the way.

In game theory terms, then, a DOJ investigation is the dominant conservative strategy if Hillary broke the law. A special prosecutor is the dominant conservative strategy if Hillary did nothing illegal. (Dumb, maybe, but not illegal.) So the fact that conservatives like McLaughlin want a special prosecutor is pretty good evidence that they know perfectly well she’s innocent. If they really thought she was guilty, they’d be salivating over the upcoming FBI report and utterly opposed to anything that might delay it.

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FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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