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Down to the Wire

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In the wake of Bill Clinton’s incredibly sloppy secret meeting (but since made very public) with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on the eve of the Justice Department’s decision concerning his wife’s future vis a vis the FBI investigation into her mishandling of emails on her private server while Secretary of State, we are at last coming down to the wire. With the Democratic and Republican presidential nominating conventions only weeks off, the suspense has become almost too much to bear. The FBI has previously indicated, through Director James Comey, that they will take whatever time is required to do the investigation right. And that’s commendable. But the presidential election is now looming and even the FBI must be aware that they can’t just let this thing pend into the fall campaign. So where is this headed? Will the FBI recommend indictment and will a now sullied Attorney General quash that recommendation, given her closeness to the Clintons and her role as an appointee of President Obama who is supporting Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency? Or is the fix already in at the investigating agency or among higher ups at Justice, itself?

Although it’s still anyone’s guess how this will finally play out, it’s always been unlikely criminal charges would actually be filed against Hillary Clinton for exposing confidential information through her exclusive use of a private, unsecured home-based email server while serving as Secretary of State. Arguably she was negligent and sloppy about this but without any intention to expose the information she was generating and receiving in her role as the nation’s top diplomat at State. (She had no motive to expose the information however blatant she was in disregarding the rules meant to protect it.) But then David Petraeus, the former CIA Director and U.S. General In Iraq and Afghanistan, who was charged with similar mishandling, was in the same boat — and Justice brought charges against him. Despite his long record of exemplary service and accomplishments, Petraeus was forced out of his job, his reputation besmirched, and he was obliged to accept a plea deal merely for having brought a confidential folder to his home and allowing another individual (who also had security clearances) to see the contents.

Surely Petraeus was no more guilty of intentionally exposing government secrets to potential outside prying eyes than Hillary, who did her government business on her private server, outside the secure confines of State’s own server system, and who shared thousands of emails of a confidential nature with staff via that system. No one then or now questions Petraeus’ patriotism, only his judgment, hence the relatively light plea deal. But still charges WERE filed against him and he WAS forced to take a deal and resign. How will that precedent affect Hillary? Will she also be faced with charges under the same standards and offered similar options? Not likely, given her role as the presumptive Democratic nominee for president in this Fall’s election.

The problem with Clinton is twofold: First if they don’t bring charges against her for doing far worse than Petraeus did (she knowingly, if not intentionally, exposed thousands of missives with secret information to foreign hackers), they are presenting a double standard to the nation at large and the world, telling us that some government officials are fair game while others, because of their clout and connections, aren’t. But, second, what Clinton did WAS incredibly arrogant and negligent. It reflected a penchant for concealment which not only flouted U.S. government law (the Freedom of Information Act) and her own agency’s policies (developed to preserve records of government actions to comply with the aforementioned act), it was reprehensible in a government official. That alone ought to disqualify the candidate from a high government office including the presidency. After all, what if it had been a Republican who had done something like this? Would he or she be given a free pass to pursue the presidency without any consequences? Yet here we are, today, with Hillary Clinton the odds-on favorite to win the presidency (at least in part because of a world class Republican failure to nominate a credible alternative), putting her in a position to lay claim to special handling by the Justice Department regardless of how the Department handled others in similar circumstances.

To the extent the question is one of mishandling government secrets without due regard to requirements to safeguard them adequately which the mishandler was responsible to have known and followed, to the extent Hillary is seen to have only been guilty of merely being sloppy — and not a little dumb about this — it would not in the least surprise many of us if the FBI and Justice Department now chose to let her slide. After all, what’s the alternative in November? Donald Trump?

About Stuart W. Mirsky

Profile photo of Stuart W. Mirsky
Stuart W. Mirsky, a former New York City official who last served as Assistant Commissioner for Operations in the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene before retiring in 2002, wrote a column, "The Rockaway Irregular," for The Wave, a south Queens based weekly, for more than a decade (until Hurricane Sandy changed the equation). He is an original founder of the Rockaway Republicans, one of the most active Republican groups in southern Queens, and author of a number of books, including The King of Vinland's Saga, an historical novel of the Norse in 11th century North America, A Raft on the River, a memoir of Holocaust survival, and Choice and Action, a work of contemporary philosophy addressing the implications of relativism and nihilism for our moral beliefs.

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