American Spectator; Last week the FBI announced that it was reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private unsecured email system while she was secretary of state and separately reviving the investigation into possibly illegal actions by her and her staff related to donations to the Clinton Foundation in those same years.
It’s no wonder that the FBI wants to “take a Mulligan” on both. The FBI’s — meaning then-FBI director James Comey’s — bizarre exoneration of Clinton in the former and the Bureau’s burial of the latter investigation have done more damage to the FBI’s reputation than any other incidents in its history.
A Justice Department Inspector General investigation into the Clinton email mess will soon highlight the ugly facts. That is probably the reason for the revivals.
Each set of facts — one certainly describing criminal conduct and the other likely so — are worth revisiting.
When Obama chose Clinton as his secretary of state she ordered the creation of a separate “Clintonmail” system on a server left over from her abortive 2008 presidential campaign. The reason for it was obvious. Government emails are archived and eventually released to reporters and historians. Clintonmail, a non-government system, was intended to prevent the public — and prosecutors — from ever seeing her communications.
Although she was told not to do so by State Department IT people, Clinton used her private system to conduct State Department business. Thousands of the emails sent and received on the “Clintonmail” system contained highly classified information, including SI/TK (top-secret satellite intelligence) and SAP (top secret information on covert operations).
The U.S. criminal code, specifically 18 US Code Section 793(f), makes it a felony, punishable by up to ten years in prison, to handle classified information in a “grossly negligent” manner. Clinton and her staff did this routinely by sending and receiving secret and top-secret information over the Clintonmail system.
We don’t know but have to assume that then-President Obama discussed highly classified information in emails with Clinton on her private system. We know, from an email from one of the executives at the Platte River company, which had been hired by Clinton to run her Clintonmail system, that the server on which it ran was totally unsecured and vulnerable to even the least-skilled hacker who wanted to penetrate it.
Obama, in an October 2015 60 Minutes interview, said that Clinton’s private emails didn’t endanger national security. In short, he was telling the FBI how its investigation should turn out. And it obeyed.
Flash forward to Comey’s infamous July 2016 press briefing in which he told the media that although Clinton and her staff treated classified information with “extreme carelessness,” there was no intent to harm national security and thus no prosecutable case. Section 793(f) has no intent requirement in its definition of the crime.
We know that Comey began drafting the memo he read in that July statement long before the key witnesses — and Clinton herself — were interviewed. We also know that at the suggestion of Peter Strzok, one of the FBI’s top agents assigned to the matter, Comey’s original draft had been changed. Comey had used the term “gross negligence” and changed it to say “extreme carelessness.”
Strzok was the agent later fired by Robert Mueller for writing emails to his mistress, an FBI lawyer, that showed his anti-Trump bias.
We also know that, in earlier stages of the investigation (which then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch ordered Comey to refer to as a “matter” instead of an investigation), immunity agreements were handed out to Clinton staffers as freely as Halloween candy.
Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, received an immunity agreement as did others including John Bentel and Heather Samuelson. Clinton’s State Department IT employee Brian Pagliano, who had been paid separately by Clinton to run the Clintonmail system, also received an immunity agreement as did Paul Combetta, an employee of the Platte River company.