COLORADO SPRINGS, July 5, 2016 — FBI director James Comey today explained that his FBI has interpreted the law, that breaking the law is not always breaking it, and that there are no grounds to indict Hillary Clinton’s gross negligence in her handling of classified information because she never intended to break the law.
Do you remember that famous soundbite, “What do you mean wipe it, with a cloth?” Clinton took on the persona of a grandma who just did not quite understand all that technology stuff.
Comey said that because there was no evidence Clinton had malicious intent, he could not recommend prosecution. No thinking prosecutor would bring charges against her because there was no precedent and no clear evidence of criminal intent.
But the law, under 18 United States Code 793, refers not to intent, but to gross negligence. It deals with removing classified information from its proper place of custody or allowing it to be moved. Negligent people never intend to cause harm; it isn’t the intent that’s the problem.
Ask Gen. David Petraeus, who ran against the same statute. In his case the matter of his intent was never an issue; he manned, or “generaled” up, and admitted to his wrong doing.
And the big difference in the choice to prosecute Petraeus had everything to do with the coverup.
When questioned by the FBI, Petraeus was untruthful—he lied—to investigating agents. He said that he neither improperly stored nor improperly provided classified information to his biographer. But he had done just that.
Petraeus did not say, “yes I did it, but I did not know it was wrong,” the Clinton defense. Petraeus stored journals containing “highly classified” information at his home, knowing they were stored improperly and accessible to his biographer and lover, Paula Broadwell.
Once a widely celebrated military leader who oversaw successful operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and was touted as a potential presidential candidate, he was sentenced to two years probation and a $100,000 fine. He resigned as director of the Central Intelligence Agency in November, 2012, after the relationship became public, and avoided jail time as part of a plea deal.
He said then, “Today marks the end of a two-and-a-half-year ordeal. I now look forward to moving on with the next phase of my life.”
Clinton doesn’t need to strike a deal; Comey said he was unable to come up with intent on her part, despite 110 classified emails, ranging from “confidential” to “top secret,” on her private server in violation of the law. Pundits suggest that her Saturday interview was to see if Clinton would change her story, which might have lead to a decision to indict if i showed she “knowlingly” acted.
Whether or not one supports the former secretary of state, the discrepancy between how the Petraeus and Clinton cases were handled is striking. Both tossed classified documents around willy-nilly, disregarding their duty to maintain the security of classified documents and the integrity of their organizations.
Petraeus should not have been given a pass, but it is disturbing that Clinton is now free to travel on Air Force One with the president as she seeks the highest office in the land.
Has the law being fairly and equally applied?
Republicans will hound Clinton with clips of Comey’s press conference, and Julian Assange will leak more and more of her hacked communications. Progressives and other “first-woman-president” fetishists will demand that we turn the page and “move on” as they accuse the Trumpists of sexism whenever this subject is broached.
This is the politics of banana republics and Putin’s Russia, where political friends are protected and others are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and then some. This is law in the service of power, not justice.
If you hit a child with your car while drunk, you didn’t intend it. If you play with your new gun and accidentally shoot your neighbor, you didn’t intend it. But for most of us, that doesn’t matter; we intended the actions that produced the results we didn’t want, and those actions were grossly negligent.
But today, it isn’t the negligence that matters, but the intent.
Hillary Clinton is not unsuited to the presidency because she wanted to hand national secrets to China, Russia, or any other nation with a few good hackers. She is not unsuited even because secrets in her possession fell into enemy hands. She is unsuited because she had no care for the secrets entrusted to her. She thought too little of her position of trust.
She is unsuited not because she was wicked, but because she didn’t care. And where no one cares, intent need never matter, nor morals nor virtue. That will be Hillary Clinton’s legacy and blight upon America.
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