Don't Compare 'Her Emails' With Trump's Brazen Misconduct

Don't Compare 'Her Emails' With Trump's Brazen Misconduct

Hillary Clinton at the House Benghazi Committee hearing on October 22, 2015

Ever since the FBI searched Donald Trump’s premises at Mar-a-Lago on August 8 to retrieve the boxes of files he kept there unlawfully, he has tried to distract attention by reviving his bawling about "her emails."

For years, Trump has insisted that Hillary Clinton somehow escaped the punishment she merited — amid shrieks of "Lock her up!" from the likes of Rudy Giuliani and Mike Flynn— and now complains that he is somehow the victim of a "double standard" because the FBI is investigating his apparent theft of national security materials. "Absolutely nothing has happened to hold her accountable," he whined earlier this month.

In fact, the former secretary of state endured many months of an intrusive investigation that cost her heavily in legal fees and personal demonization —although she was finally and fully exonerated of any criminal wrongdoing or intent by the Justice Department.

Rather than benefiting from favorable treatment by the FBI, Clinton was the target of a concerted smear campaign by Trump allies within the bureau instigated by Giuliani. Their internal operation pushed then FBI director James Comey to brazenly violate strict Justice Department political guidelines by discussing her case publicly twice, the last time only weeks before the November 2016 election — while at the same time concealing the counterintelligence probe of the Trump campaign's collusion with the Kremlin. The sanctimonious Comey, who claimed to be above politics, cowered under threat from right-wingers lodged within the Bureau.

So, while the differences between the Clinton and Trump cases are vast indeed, they leave little space for the feigned indignation of the former president and his flunkeys.

What we know about Hillary Clinton's emails is that of the many thousands examined by the FBI, only a tiny proportion — a number in the low single digits — were deemed to have been "classified." Of those, none disclosed sensitive information that could have jeopardized national security, such as nuclear weapons secrets, but instead involved drone strikes that had already been prominently reported in national news outlets. Most of the emails deemed secret had either been classified after the fact or were improperly marked in the first place.

As Comey explained at the time, the FBI found no evidence that Clinton, her aides, or her attorneys had intentionally withheld any information from the State Department, the National Archives or the Justice Department, or obstructed the investigation in any way.

We know far less about the documents that Trump allegedly removed from the White House, but what has been reported so far draws a sharp contrast with the Clinton emails episode. According to the search warrant and receipt released by Attorney General Merrick Garland, Trump evidently absconded with hundreds of hard copies of highly classified documents — all properly marked — that implicated serious national security and defense matters.

The Justice Department plainly suspects him of violating the Espionage Act, of hiding or destroying those sensitive documents, and of obstructing the government's efforts to locate and retrieve them.

In other words, Trump acted with purpose and in direct violation of the law, including the Presidential Records Act. He continued to defy the law even after the Justice Department issued a subpoena for documents he had withheld — which was why the FBI went to Mar-a-Lago to recover them.

Despite the excessive and obsessive media coverage that contributed to Hillary Clinton’s loss, the more we learned more about the substance of Clinton's emails, the more their importance diminished, ultimately to the vanishing point. The opposite is true of Trump's purloined documents, whose significance only seems to be increasing. And we are still at the very beginning of this scandal.

In panic, Trump and his henchmen now insist that he had "declassified" all those papers, and many others too, supposedly for the sake of transparency. But top officials of his administration have openly ridiculed that assertion, which is absurd on its face, as a brazen lie. Much like his election lies, it is a hollow claim, devoid of any supporting facts or evidence. Donald Trump lie? What a surprise!

Protecting the nation requires a careful declassification process, even when the president wishes to alter the status of specific documents. For Trump to void secrecy with a wave of his hand would create a state of chaos, gravely damaging national security. And since he believes in exercising presidential power so recklessly, he must never be allowed anywhere near the nation's secrets again.

Trump and his minions only bring up Hillary Clinton as a ruse. Keep in mind that "her emails" only became an issue because House Republicans were trying to damage her politically, bring down her poll numbers, as the perpetually stupid Kevin McCarthy blurted out, by concocting a pseudo-scandal from the Benghazi attack. She put that to rest when she testified before the House Benghazi committee for 11 hours, answering every question posed by her inquisitors.

Three days after the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago, on August 11, Trump invoked the Fifth Amendment more than 440 times in response to questions from the New York Attorney General investigating his crooked business practices. In 2016, Trump said, “If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?" We should expect that if he is ever compelled to testify about the potential crimes involved in swiping and concealing White House documents, we will hear him repeat the Fifth Amendment many more times.


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