Attorney General Loretta Lynch said she’d abide by the FBI’s conclusion on whether or not to indict Hillary Clinton for her sloppy handling of classified information. FBI director James Comey today said that Clinton was a bit incompetent, and that yes, some emails were classified, and eight of them contained Top Secret info.
However, no charges were recommended because, uh, well, Clinton didn’t do it in on purpose. Even though she should have known better, as any “reasonable person” would have. But then, Comey also said that a “reasonable prosecutor” would decline to bring charges. And also that he can’t find a similar case where they brought charges against the person, yet “this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now.” So there’s no precedent, but someone else who did what Clinton did might well have been indicted. Got it.
Conservative news, pundits and Twitter erupted with scorn and disgust. So did Bernie Sanders and the generally farther-left-than-Clinton corners of the internet. Presumptive Republican nominee for president Donald Trump tweeted with frothy rage.
FBI director said Crooked Hillary compromised our national security. No charges. Wow! #RiggedSystem— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 5, 2016
The reactions to the conclusion of this one-year investigation were as predictable as the fact that Clinton would escape any kind of punishment for how she handled the piles of data on her private server while she served as Secretary of State.
However, the implication that something different would have happened to someone not named Clinton is wrong. Trump tweeted that “General Petraeus got in trouble for far less.” Petraeus, the four-star general and former CIA director, directly leaked classified information to his mistress/biographer. He also lied to the FBI. For that much juicier scandal, the general was sentenced to probation and fined. He is still a four-star general, though he left his CIA job in the midst of the scandal. Petraeus could have been hit with five years in prison just for his FBI fibbing. He wasn’t even charged with that.
Less famous folk whose crimes were not so deliberate also suffer for their careless handling of state secrets. Many of the outraged are arguing with examples of how a lesser being would have had her security clearance revoked. But then you can’t exactly do that to a would-be president. Presidents need security clearance, so why bother with that whole indictment mess?
Comey served as deputy attorney general under George W. Bush. He’s not known as a Democratic lackey. He’s had awful moments in power, and at least one noble one where he battled against NSA spying years before anyone knew the name Snowden. But he is also a powerful man with a powerful job, and he has no reason to push on Clinton.
This is not a story of the slippery Clintons or bias against Republicans.
This is not a story of the slippery Clintons or bias against Republicans. This is the story of there being different types of expectations and a much, much longer leash for the powerful. And Clinton is powerful enough to have the Oval Office in her sights. Indicting her would throw an already bewildering campaign into utter chaos. It’s too much to risk if you’re a player of the game. Comey literally said that in some cases, with some people, he would go for an indictment. But Clinton, like some daughter of the mayor who was pulled over for speeding, is being let off with a warning. And it’s true that many of us would not be given that same leeway. November 2016 is not going to change that fact. And Donald Trump may be tweeting in fury over a rigged system right now, but he’s hungry to run that system himself.