To be honest, I was never one who put much faith or stock in this investigation. While it did seem from the start that something inappropriate had taken place, I underestimated the veracity and thoroughness of the FBI’s review. My common sense has told me that the justice system rarely acts swiftly or punitively when it involves people with power, money, or access. Secretary Clinton has all three. The Clintons have remained on top of the political landscape despite the numerous accusations and lower level government employees would be facing far greater scrutiny and certain repercussions. Director Comey admitted such at his press conference yesterday.
After an “interview” over the holiday weekend, the Clinton email saga was finally put to rest. Or so we thought. During yeserday’s press conference, Director Comey delivered his recommendation in the email investigation. Before rendering his final recommendation regarding whether or not to prosecute, Director Comey described the scope and results of the inquiry. The primary question before Director Comey was whether classified information was transmitted to Secretary Clinton’s personal email system and did the use of this system as well as her handling of such information rise to the level of wrongdoing supporting criminal charges. Director Comey laid out two key legal issues considered within the scope of this investigation:
- whether there is evidence that classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on that personal system, in violation of a federal statute making it a felony to mishandle classified information either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way or
- a second statute making it a misdemeanor to remove classified information knowingly from appropriate systems or storage facilities.
Presumably, these legal issues provided a framework for evaluating the actions taken by Secretary Clinton and her staff. The first inquiry required either intentional action or gross negligence in the storage, transmission, and handling of classified information as it pertained to a personal email system. In this case, Director Comey found that the information was improperly stored and transmitted on a personal system.
Based on Director Comey’s explanation, there was insufficient evidence present to establish an intentional violation or gross negligence. How did he find she acted without intent or gross negligence? Director Comey ultimately gave Secretary Clinton a pass. He gave a quick explanation of why her case differed from other incidences where lower level individuals were charged. Director Comey also discussed how she and her staff were “excessively careless” but didn’t find the degree of culpability present to recommend charges.
From his comments, he did not consider bringing charges under the second legal issue presented. He stopped his inquiry and did not consider indicting her on the lesser misdemeanor charge. It is clear from the investigation that Secretary Clinton knowingly removed classified information from appropriate systems or storage facilities. We know from emails released that Secretary Clinton did direct her staff to remove headers from communications and send them through non-secure channels. She knew she was directing her staff to send her communications otherwise marked with official designations she alleged did not exist at the time. She lied. Plain and simple. This is more than just hubris. This is the way in which untouchable people act; with clear disregard for the rules and principles of law. Whether for convenience or just because she felt she could, Hillary Clinton evaded the prime directive of protecting sensitive information. How can we entrust someone who is so careless and cavalier with matters of import and national security?
Although he did not find that the Secretary acted intentionally, Director Comey found “there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” Finding himself in a political quagmire, Director Comey publicly admonished Secretary Clinton for her “mishandling” and impermissible removal of classified information. When he spoke of no prosecutor bringing this case, he was alluding to the political nightmare that would be prosecuting the Democratic front-runner and a leader amongst the Washington political elite. Despite the absence of intent, there has been no hesitation to prosecute in other cases where individuals acted with “extreme carelessness.” In the case of Chelsea Manning, as Glenn Greenwald points out, Secretary Clinton stressed the importance of protecting sensitive information while she intentionally disregarded the rules. Last summer Greenwald clearly documented Secretary Clinton’s public attitude toward protecting sensitive information. What Hillary says in public and what she does in private are clearly two different things. She clearly comes from the school of “do as I say and not as I do.”
And now the Clinton spin machine is in full force and effect. Democratic loyalists are lining up to rationalize away what is clearly egregious behavior. When you read the stories about how the big bad Republicans are out to get Hillary Clinton, just remember that President Obama felt comfortable enough in appointing Comey in the wake of Benghazi. He believed in his judgment and professionalism, despite his political party affiliation. Remember that this investigation was upon referral from the Office of Intelligence Community Inspector General (IC IG). Inspector General I. Charles McCullough, III, like Director Comey, is an Obama Administration appointee.
These two men, entrusted by President Obama, suddenly are a part of a Republican conspiracy because not so nice information has been revealed about Hillary Clinton. Supporters and opponents alike have to check their bias at the door and look at the situation for what it is. The real question is why did she need to hide information during her time as Secretary of State? A recent court case found that government officials cannot hide from FOIA requests behind personal email accounts. While it is not clear how or if it would apply in Secretary Clinton’s case, the logic does follow that she sought to shield her dealings from public purview.
Even if Comey has a 30-year vendetta against Secretary Clinton, he did her a solid yesterday. If this were merely a petty Republican attempt to “destroy” her credibility and career, he would’ve continued in his analysis and found evidence to charge her with the misdemeanor violation. He could have recommended prosecution. We have all seen people prosecuted and convicted with far less evidence of bad action or intent. But he did not. He simply laid out all the information and corrected several misstatements of facts, half-truths, and lies told by the Clinton campaign over the course of this investigation. Despite her assertions to the contrary, several thousand work related emails were not returned. One can only guess how many more emails were destroyed. This man prosecuted Martha Stewart. He knows how to handle prosecutions of high powered individuals.
So why should any of this matter? Secretary Clinton’s experience and insider “know-how” are touted as major reasons for why she is the best person to be the next leader of the known “free world.” However, the reckless and careless nature with which she handled high-level information is disconcerting. Bottom line, Secretary Clinton knew she did not have clearance or approval for her home server(s). She knew she directed staff to remove headers from communications, making them seem like good exchanges. There is no excuse for her conduct. The reluctance to recommend indictment sounded more as if it was due to the cumbersome nature of trying to bring charges for something that could not clearly be proven. Since when do criminal prosecutors care about what the evidence can undoubtedly prove to be true?
Director Comey has seemingly created a heightened standard in this case whereby although a bad actor, Secretary Clinton is exonerated of any wrongdoing. Even stating she was extremely careless vs. grossly negligent seemed arbitrary with no real conversation or nuance in his explanation. Comey said that we should look at the context of a person’s actions. How is it not gross negligence to have multiple private servers and email devices which are not adequately screened or supported by the State Department? How is it not gross negligence when Secretary Clinton directed her staff to remove headers from sensitive communications and send them through non-secure channels?
Director Comey clearly wants out of this madhouse. Unfortunately, for him it doesn’t seem like this is over yet. House Republicans are ready to pounce on him. He laid out a clear case and then in the last moments shrugged his shoulders and said it is just too hard cause we can’t prove she meant to do what she clearly meant to do. Although she has been an active proponent of vigorous prosecution of low-level employees link piece, the statement by Director Comey also puts to rest some of the excuses provided by Secretary Clinton and her staff such as I did what was agency policy at the time. The emails were all retroactively classified as “confidential.” The fact that Secretary Clinton and her camp are willing to double down on bad logic even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary is telling of the type of leader she will be. She is reckless, careless, and indifferent to the rule of law when it doesn’t suit her. That is a dangerous combination.