The Clinton Email Scandal Is About Double Standards, But Not In The Way House GOP Defines It

When FBI Director James Comey testified in front of the House Oversight Committee last week, Republicans decried double standards for the rich and powerful but said nothing about America’s war on whistleblowers

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Story Transcript

THOMAS HEDGES, TRNN: Last Thursday, FBI Director James Comey testified in front of the House Oversight Committee in an emergency hearing after he announced earlier in the week that Hillary Clinton wouldn’t face any charges for keeping her emails on a private server instead of an approved server.

MARCY WHEELER: They were trying to understand how she could at once be very reckless but in some way not be responsible enough to be charged.

HEDGES: While in his original statement last Tuesday, Comey said that Clinton was extremely careless in how she handled her email set up. He also said there wasn’t any evidence that she had violated the law with intention.

JAMES COMEY: And so when I look at the facts we gathered here, as I said, I see evidence of great carelessness but I do not see evidence that is efficient to establish that Secretary Clinton or those with whom she was corresponding both talked about classified information on email and knew when they did it, they were doing something that was against the law.

WHEELER: He said basically, given that I can’t prove that she had the intent to receive classified information on that server in her basement, I can’t get to the gross negligent standard. So that’s where he used the intent not to charge her.

HEDGES: Lawyers said that intention isn’t necessary to prosecute and that negligence itself is enough to warrant an indictment. But Marcy Wheeler, a national security expert, says this misses a broader point. Not necessarily the use of the Espionage Act in a case like this but also about the context surrounding the case and the fact that Clinton is running for President of the United States.

WHEELER: The short explanation for why Hillary was not charged is because that particular part of the Espionage Act has only once been used in an actual spying case. And so Comey basically said, if we charged her for this when we had never used it before, it would be singling her out. This is Hillary Clinton, and at least 50% of any jury pool or at least 45% of any jury pool is going to refuse to prosecute her because they want her to be president. So those realities make the decision not to charge her understandable, even though I think people still have real reason to question why she didn’t get charged.

HEDGES: But that doesn’t mean this will be the last investigation. The just-closed FBI investigation focused on Clinton’s handling of classified information. But House Republicans plan on opening up a new investigation that delves into potential violation with regards to withholding information from the public, as well as the FBI.

WHEELER: The State Department Inspector General and this same committee and the Benghazi Committee examined something else. They were asking her not just are you doing this, hid classified information, but more importantly, are you doing this to evade oversight? Are you doing this to evade FOIA?

HEDGES: In a report published in May for example, the State Department’s Inspector General said worries over the email becoming public through FOIA or the Freedom of Information Act were another significant motive for setting up a private server. When in 2010, Clinton’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations suggested she put herself on the State email system, Clinton refused, writing back I don’t want any risk of the personal being accessible.

WHEELER: I do think that the evidence against Hillary as trying to evade FOIA and other kinds of oversight is much stronger, and the State Department IG would agree with that. I mean he basically said, Hillary never turned over her emails so she was evading the federal records act.

HEDGES: The issue is, there really isn’t a precedent or criminal penalty for violating the Federal Records Act. Wheeler says that the House may finally go after her for lying under oath, but even that’s unlikely to go anywhere.

WHEELER: Almost nobody gets prosecuted for lying to Congress anymore. Which is a big problem because we should’ve tried James Clapper for lying to Congress, too. And I don’t think most members of Congress, particularly the people that were in this hearing today, understand that. And that’s something I think we need to go back and strengthen because far too many–in both parties, far too many administration officials think they can go into Congress and just lie.

HEDGES: House Republicans have repeatedly called the Clinton email scandal for how there are double standards for those that are rich and connected and those who aren’t. That the law in fact is not distributed equally in this country. Wheeler agrees with that but on a different front. She says the legal discrepancy, rather, is between those who serve Washington’s interest; people like Hillary Clinton, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who lied to Congress about the scoop of the NSA’s surveillance, or General Petraeus, and those who change the system. Especially whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, Kiriakou who shed light on America’s torture program, and former Senior Executive at the NSA Thomas Drake who blew the whistle on wasteful spending at an agency whose budget is mostly hidden from the public.

WHEELER: What was interesting is Comey addressed a couple of other cases and explained how they’re different from Hillary’s and usually they involved people admitting they should not have done what they did. But he didn’t mention–no one asked, and he should’ve been asked to address what happened with Thomas Drake. Because in his statement the other day he suggested there’s always some distinction between Hillary and these other people and one of his claims was these other people were disloyal. And you know, the best I can understand is he thinks Thomas Drake was disloyal, when in fact what Thomas Drake was doing was trying to save the NSA something like $3 billion for a program that didn’t work very well. That’s now being painted as disloyalty.

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