This is difficult for me to say as someone who tends to vote for Democrats but Hillary Clinton broke the law. It is even more difficult to say that Donald Trump is correct on that fact. But the law, regardless of the crime or injury, in civil cases, is bound by precedent.
What I am talking about is the 20,000 emails Karl Rove deleted from a private server located in the White House which was ostensibly for political uses only. This happened in 2007 and is well-documented. In question is whether there were emails pertaining to the Valerie Plame scandal of the Bush regime. At the time, neither the Justice Department nor its arm, the FBI, start an investigation. Congress, Republican controlled, saw no reason to set up a special committee to investigate what Rove and his accomplices had done. And there you have the precedent.
Good leadership always recognizes that the man, or woman, at the top is ultimately responsible for all things which happen during their watch, good and bad. Our politician, and this is without regard to political affiliation, always takes credit and always deflects blame. Ask yourself when the last time you heard any politician say “I screwed up” and take responsibility either for his erroneous actions or for the actions of those who work for him? I am willing to be you never have.
For many decades I held security clearances of various sorts and levels. It was always made clear to me that should I break any of the rules I faced almost certain jail time. But I was neither a politician nor someone in a high position.
Now there is one thing that has been missing from the Clinton debacle, the word ethics. As a public servant, both in the U.S. Army and the U.S. Department of Transportation, particularly in the latter, I was made aware on a regular basis my absolute responsibility for maintaining a completely ethical position in all my works. Little things like not accepting a gift or other item worth in excess of $25, and never doing anything that even “gives the appearance of” a lack of ethics. To do so meant a punishment of some sort.
What many of you may not know is the fact that every department in the United States government has its own Inspector General. This is the person who upon gaining knowledge of some breaking the rules, or worse, possibly committing a crime, is duty-bound to investigate. Every person in the U.S. Government, political or otherwise, takes an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution. And by extension, that means that they will do all within their power to remain above reproach, to be ethical, to safe-guard the secrets of our government, and to conduct themselves in a manner which is in all respects, ethical.
Now we come to Title 18 of the U.S. Code. This section of Federal Law deals with classified documents and materials. So here is what the code says 18 US Code § 798 – Disclosure of classified information:
“(a) Whoever knowingly and willfully communicates, furnishes, transmits, or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, or publishes, or uses in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States or for the benefit of any foreign government to the detriment of the United States any classified information—
concerning the nature, preparation, or use of any code, cipher, or cryptographic system of the United States or any foreign government; or
concerning the design, construction, use, maintenance, or repair of any device, apparatus, or appliance used or prepared or planned for use by the United States or any foreign government for cryptographic or communication intelligence purposes; or
concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government; or
obtained by the processes of communication intelligence from the communications of any foreign government, knowing the same to have been obtained by such processes—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”
The way dissemination of classified material works is that it is available only on a “need to know” basis. That means the recipient has both a security clearance equal to the classification of the material in question and that that person needs that classified material for the conduct of his job. I suspect Clinton failed to use good judgement in who she shared classified material with. And that she could claim not to know that any particular item was not classified is laughable. In her position she should have had a heightened state of awareness of classified material.
There is another situation which exists which any person who has spent considerable time in government knows: any singular piece of information may not in and of itself be classified, but when many bits of information are put together they must be at the very least be considered sensitive in nature and be treated as classified. On her staff Clinton had someone whose sole purpose was to review material of a sensitive nature to determine the level of classification necessary. It is axiomatically given that you always defer to things being classified until proper authority deems otherwise.
The Bush administration proved fast and loose with its handling of classified material, vis-à-vis Valerie Plame et. Al. No one was ever held responsible for making public knowledge of a person who was in the conduct of her job classified. The Plame incident at the least meets the level of Clinton’s indiscretions if not exceeding them. The FBI could not have gone after Clinton without someone insisting upon an investigation of Bush, Cheney and Rove, and the Republicans know this.
All this is nothing new, sadly, it has been going on for administrations going back as far as anyone cares to go. Politicians typically, and regularly, place themselves above the law, and sadly most get away with it. The only way to change that is for the general public to demand change. Sadly, I do not see that happening any time soon.