Below is a longer version of my New York Post column on the recent claim of Hillary Clinton that she has been the subject to a long-standing and unfair “Clinton standard” while denying that there was any classified information found on her private server. In a signature move, Clinton is focusing on the actual classification of emails as opposed to the use of the unsecured server for communications with aides that revealed classified information — the reason why such unsecured servers are dangers to national security.
Here is the column:
“I can’t believe we’re still talking about this, but my emails. . .” The expression of utter incredulity was classic Clinton — she’s selling hats reading “But her emails” for $30 a pop. Hillary Clinton’s disbelief this week was shared by many critics left dumbfounded by her claim her private server contained “zero” classified documents.
But Hillary’s denial of what was found on her server exposes something far more serious than a simply false claim. It reflects establishment figures’ sense of license that they can literally rewrite history with little fear of contradiction by the media.
While calling for limits on free speech over “disinformation,” Hillary has no qualms about falsely denying what published government reports detail.
“As Trump’s problems continue to mount, the right is trying to make this about me again. There’s even a ‘Clinton Standard.’ The fact is that I had zero emails that were classified,” her but-my-emails tweet continued. “Comey admitted he was wrong after he claimed I had classified emails. Trump’s own State Department, under two different Secretaries, found I had no classified emails.”
Virtually everything about that claim is breathtakingly untrue.
Let’s quickly deal with the light lifting before getting back to the “Clinton Standard.”
“Zero emails” were “classified.”
A 2018 Department of Justice inspector general report revealed “81 email chains containing approximately 193 individual emails” were “classified from the CONFIDENTIAL to TOP SECRET levels at the time.” Clinton is echoing her allies’ recent spin that there were only three documents with classification markings among 33,000 emails. It is utter nonsense.
The lack of classification markings in the Clinton email scandal was due in part because these were emails. There is no classification automatically stamped on text being typed out and sent within minutes by aides. While attachments and some emails can have classification markings, the whole point of using secure servers is that emails are created in the moment with inevitable slips in referencing classified material.
Nevertheless, the emails had classified information, including top-secret information tied to “Special Access Programs.” Yet some allies emphasize the inspector general also noted that in some cases there was “conscious effort to avoid sending classified information, by writing around the most sensitive material.” It failed. The emails still contained classified information.
That’s why she was reckless to use her own server: That does not mean that it warranted criminal charges or the mantra “lock her up.” Such mistakes on private servers are more vulnerable to capture by foreign intelligence services. Indeed, according to the FBI, “hostile actors gained access” to some of the information through the emails of Clinton’s associates and aides.
“Comey admitted he was wrong.”
It’s not entirely clear what Hillary is referencing here. But Comey never said there was no classified information in her emails — he said the opposite. He condemned her handling of the classified material while saying it didn’t warrant prosecution.
Comey did backtrack later, but not on this point. He said his “mistake” was in how he described her conduct: “I should’ve worked harder to find a way to convey that it’s more than just the ordinary mistake, but it’s not criminal behavior, and find different words to describe that.”
However, she had “dozens of conversations on email about secret topics” and “I think eight about top-secret topics,” he added. “So if I’m gonna be honest, I have to say somehow it’s more than ordinary sloppiness.”
Hillary has previously referred to different accounts over the precise markings on three emails with actual classification markings. Comey did state later that the classification markings on marked emails were “confidential” rather than one marked “secret.” (Clinton claimed not to know what a “(C)” classification even meant on a document). However, once again, they dealt with marked emails not the disclosure of classified information in the course of communications on the unsecured private server.
“A Clinton Standard.”
Clinton objects that she’s held to a different standard. That’s true — but not for the reason she cites. She’s long been subject to her own standard in brushing off alleged criminal conduct. Indeed, her husband Bill Clinton, personifies a family immunity from such charges. A federal judge and even Democrats concluded that he committed perjury in his sworn statements but he was never charged. Some of those who have clamored for criminal charges against Trump and others for an array of crimes were adamant that Bill Clinton should not be impeached, let alone charged, for the federal crime.
Hillary Clinton has repeatedly avoided criminal charges even as close associates were charged. Many believe she used insider information from a friend at Tyson Foods to reap a huge windfall on cattle futures in the 1970s. No charge. Then there was Whitewater. Bill Clinton later pardoned Susan McDougal, who went to jail in connection to the fraudulent land scheme that involved both Clintons. For Hillary, no charge.
Then there were the key long-sought Whitewater documents. After the case was effectively over, they suddenly appeared. The New York Times called the documents “elusive,” as if they moved by free will. Investigators specifically sought those records, and Clinton’s team denied possession only for them to be found later outside her office. Sound familiar? No charge.
The Clinton Standard is most evident in the email scandal. Clinton’s staff unilaterally destroyed thousands of emails with BleachBit despite being aware in 2014 that Congress and the State Department were seeking the evidence. I know few clients who would have the temerity to order such a unilateral destruction. Her lawyers turned over about 30,000 work-related emails to the State Department and deleted 33,000 others, unilaterally deeming them “personal.”
For a surprisingly long period, Clinton and her staff did not fully cooperate with investigators in refusing to turn over her emails and other evidence to State and DOJ investigators, including laptops holding suspected classified information. That delayed efforts to estimate any national-security damage, but there was no raid.
The FBI cut deals with her aides to secure their cooperation, and even then more classified material was found on the laptop of former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), who was married to top Clinton aide Huma Abedin — 49,000 emails potentially relevant to the Clinton investigation. Again, no charges.
So Hillary inadvertently hit upon one demonstrably true statement. There is a Hillary Clinton Standard, and that’s not good for anything other than hat sales.
Jonathan Turley is an attorney and professor at George Washington University Law School.