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Trump Considers Petraeus – Who Pled Guilty To Classified Leaking – For Top Position

Constantly ranting against the woman he smeared as “Crooked Hillary,” Donald Trump insisted that her alleged disclosures of classified information — although unintentional, harmless, and ultimately deemed innocent — were serious felonies for which she ought to be sent to prison. “Hillary Clinton’s corruption is on a scale we have never seen before,” he sputtered. “We must not let her take her criminal scheme into the Oval Office.”

But now Trump evidently believes that David Petraeus — who pled guilty to charges that he intentionally revealed classified information to his mistress — could be trusted to assume the highest position in the Pentagon or perhaps the State Department, according to news outlets. The retired general, who commanded US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan before serving as CIA director under President Obama, reportedly came very close to a felony conviction that would have sent him to prison for leaking top secrets.

FBI investigators and Justice Department prosecutors wanted to indict Petraeus, and he only escaped that humiliating fate through a plea bargain — a deal achieved, ironically enough, by David Kendall, the same Washington attorney who represented Hillary Clinton.

When Obama accepted Petraeus’ resignation from the CIA four years ago, the ostensible reason was the exposure of an extramarital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell. But a lengthy FBI investigation revealed that he had leaked classified documents to her, which were found on her computer, and that he had also given her access to his CIA email account. The matter never went to trial, so the Justice Department presented no evidence concerning the nature of those documents or the damage their disclosure might have inflicted on US national security.

Trump and other Republicans have wrongly compared Clinton’s alleged offenses with those confessed by Petraeus, claiming that he was treated unfairly while she escaped punishment. But the differences are enormous, and point in Clinton’s favor. Unlike her case, there was no question that Petraeus knew the leaked documents were classified — nor that he gave them intentionally to his mistress, who lacked any security clearance. And Petraeus lied to FBI investigators to cover up his actions, as he later admitted.

Last year, the New York Times reported that career prosecutors and FBI officials were angry because Petraeus was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and avoid trial, although lower-level officials whose offenses were less egregious faced much harsher treatment. In the end, he was sentenced to probation and a large fine.

So while Trump has insisted all year that he wants to lock up Hillary Clinton — who did nothing that remotely resembles the egregious conduct of Petraeus — he now is considering whether to appoint Petraeus to one of the most sensitive jobs in government. It is not at all clear, as The Intercept observed, that the former CIA chief could even qualify for the security clearances required to occupy a cabinet post.

To float Petraeus’ name for such a position represents a new peak of hypocrisy, even for Donald Trump. It is a kind of achievement, perhaps the only kind we can expect from him. Nobody should be surprised if the Senate Republicans who would have to confirm Petraeus go along with this charade, despite their own fervent denunciations of Clinton. They are all capable of the same bogus indignation as their new president-elect.

That doesn’t mean Petraeus wouldn’t face any problems with his fellow Republicans. Just last summer, the former general joined with former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of Gabby Giffords, and a group of veterans from all service branches to form a new organization called Veterans Coalition for Common Sense, which advocates stronger gun laws. Mishandling classified documents is apparently no big deal, unless your name happens to be Clinton. But sane views on gun control are sure to provoke real outrage.

David Petraeus To Plead Guilty To Giving Classified Material To Mistress

By Timothy M. Phelps, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Former CIA director and top Army General David H. Petraeus has agreed to plead guilty to mishandling classified material by giving the information to a woman he was having an affair with, the Justice Department said Tuesday.

The plea deal on one count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material resolves allegations that Petraeus gave government secrets to Paula Broadwell, his mistress and biographer. Petraeus allegedly allowed Broadwell access to his CIA email account and provided her with other confidential information.

The admission marked another chapter in the dramatic downfall of a modern-day military hero, who as commander of multinational forces in Iraq was largely credited with changing the course of the war against al-Qaida there through a surge in U.S. troops and a successful effort to win over Sunni militias to the U.S. side.

Petraeus stepped down in November 2012 as head of the CIA after his affair with Broadwell, an Army reserve officer who was writing his biography, became public.

Though he admitted the affair and said he had shown “extremely poor judgment,” Petraeus had maintained that he never gave Broadwell classified information. But in January, Justice Department officials said that FBI agents had found classified materials on Broadwell’s computer and that prosecutors had recommended charging the retired general.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Talk Of Petraeus Indictment Raises Legal Questions For His Ex-Paramour

By Michael Doyle, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Former CIA Director David Petraeus is not the only one in potential legal jeopardy for the reported discovery of classified information on his former paramour’s computer.

Unauthorized recipients of classified information, too, can be prosecuted along with alleged leakers. And though these sorts of prosecutions are exceedingly rare and difficult to win, even their remote possibility might merit close tending now by Charlotte, N.C., resident Paula Broadwell.

“It would be very complicated, and I doubt the government would want to go there,” said Mark S. Zaid, a Washington-based attorney specializing in national security issues.

At the same time, Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, noted that “the government takes the position that the unauthorized receipt and possession of classified information can be a violation of the law.”

It is, Aftergood stressed, a “contentious area.”

It’s also a shadowy area that’s back in the spotlight, amid reports that Justice Department prosecutors have recommended bringing charges against Petraeus. The New York Times, citing anonymous “officials,” first reported last Friday that prosecutors have recommended that the retired Army general face charges.

The decision whether to prosecute Petraeus, with its potential ripple effects on Broadwell, will be made at the “highest levels,” Attorney General Eric Holder said Sunday.

“The determination has yet to be made and we will just see how things play out before any final decision is made,” Holder said on NBC.

Broadwell’s attorney, Robert Muse of Washington, declined to comment Monday.

Broadwell co-authored a highly sympathetic biography of Petraeus, with whom she was subsequently revealed to have been romantically involved. In December 2012, federal prosecutors said they would not pursue cyberstalking charges against her, following an investigation into emails allegedly sent by Broadwell to another woman.

“As federal prosecutors, we are guided in the discharge of our responsibilities by considerations of fairness and justice,” William Daniels, spokesman for Tampa-based U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida Robert E. O’Neill, said at the time.

The prosecutors’ December 2012 statement did not deal with the separate issue of classified information. News reports from 2012, citing anonymous sources, recounted that FBI agents, in the course of their alleged cyberstalking investigation, had found classified documents on Broadwell’s computer.

In previous news accounts, Petraeus has been quoted as denying that he provided classified information to Broadwell. Broadwell also previously has denied getting classified documents from Petraeus.

What law, or laws, might theoretically apply to any recipient of classified documents could turn on several questions, including the jobs of those who hold the information.

“Yes, there is potential liability, on paper,” Zaid said, “but there are lots of laws on the books that are never enforced.”

One federal law governs those who are an “officer, employee, contractor or consultant” for the U.S. government. Such an individual who “becomes possessed” of classified documents, “knowingly removes” them without authority and retains them at an “unauthorized location” can face a prison term of up to one year.

Broadwell, a West Point graduate, was a major in the Army Reserves at the time the Petraeus scandal became public. She had a security clearance, a point that Zaid cautioned “could change the dynamic” by increasing her legal liability.

Stricter penalties, including a prison term of up to 10 years, come with violating the Espionage Act’s prohibition against the gathering, transmitting or receipt of defense information with the intent or reason to believe the information will be used against the United States.

But that charge would be difficult to pursue.

“Although reporters frequently gain access to classified information, there has never been a non-espionage case in which a person has actually been charged with unauthorized receipt of classified information,” Aftergood said.

In 2005, Justice Department prosecutors brought charges against two former officials with the American Israel Political Action Committee. The men were accused of receiving classified information and transmitting it to lobbyists, journalists and diplomats.

But four years later, underscoring the courtroom complications, prosecutors dropped all charges against the two men. The trial judge had set a high bar for conviction, saying prosecutors would have to prove the defendants knew distributing the information would harm the United States.

“It was wrong to apply the Espionage Act to people who clearly were not spies,” defense attorneys Abbe Lowell, John Nassikas and Baruch Weiss said in a statement at the time.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons