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Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker in 2016 opinion piece: ‘I would indict Hillary Clinton’
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With the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday, there is finally a prosecutor at the Justice Department who will hold Hillary Clinton’s feet to the fire for being “grossly negligent” with state secrets.
“I would indict Hillary Clinton,” Whitaker wrote for USA Today. More than two years later, the 49-year-old “Trump loyalist” may finally get the chance to follow through with his pledge.
Matthew Whitaker, Jeff Sessions’s chief of staff, will take over as acting attorney general.
He’s a Trump loyalist who has been privately described as the West Wing’s “eyes and ears” in the Justice Department. https://t.co/YatjdPACA2
— The New York Times (@nytimes) November 7, 2018
Lock her up!
While serving as secretary of State during the Obama administration, Clinton began surreptitiously using a homebrewed, unsecured email server for all of her personal and official digital communications. Investigators only learned about the unauthorized server after the House Special Committee on Benghazi requested Clinton’s email records to ascertain whether she received warning about the security situation in Libya.
Clinton only handed over her unauthorized server after destroying much of the evidence with hammers and auditing her own emails to determine which records were appropriate for FBI review. Despite the attempted cover-up, authorities found evidence that the former first lady repeatedly broke the law.
“Of the emails either turned over or recovered by the FBI, 110 contained information that was classified at the time it was sent or received, of which eight email chains contained information that was top secret at the time it was sent,” Whitaker wrote in his opinion piece.
Matthew Whitaker: a reasonable prosecutor
Whitaker’s remarks were published on July 5, 2016, the same day that then-FBI Director James Comey publicly exonerated Clinton in a now-infamous press conference. “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case,” Comey explained during the televised briefing.
“I disagree,” Whitaker wrote. “I believe myself to have been a reasonable prosecutor, and when the facts and evidence show a criminal violation has been committed, the individuals involved should not dictate whether the case is prosecuted.”
Whitaker served as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa in June 2004, appointed by then-President George W. Bush. In August 2017, he returned to the Justice Department, this time to work as Sessions’ chief of staff.
Based on this experience, Whitaker believes that Clinton could be charged with violating statute 18 U.S.C. section 793(f). To secure an indictment, the attorney general would have to prove that Clinton lawfully possessed “information relating to national defense,” and compromised this classified data through “gross negligence.”
Weeks before the FBI’s investigation was completed, and before key witnesses were interviewed and facts ascertained, Comey drafted a letter effectively exonerating Clinton. In it, the FBI chief wrote that Clinton “used the private email server in a manner that was grossly negligent with respect to the handling of classified information” [emphasis added]
However, Peter Strzok, the special agent-in-charge of the email probe, convinced his boss to change “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless” in his final press briefing on July 5, effectively decriminalizing the language. Strzok would later become the subject of an inspector general inquiry for sending text messages that indicated that he was obsessed with disparaging Trump and described how he planned to “stop” him from getting elected via an odious-sounding “insurance policy.”
Justice at last
While Clinton may have friends at the bureau who could help obscure her misdeeds, Whitaker is not one of them. “The facts also show it was gross negligence when she removed the information from State Department security,” Whitaker concluded.
“A reasonable prosecutor may ask, if on numerous occasions, an unknown State Department employee had taken top secret information from a secured system, emailed that information on a Gmail account, and stored the information on a personal server for years, would that individual be prosecuted?” he asked after Comey’s announcement. “I believe they would.”
If Whitaker’s convictions haven’t changed over the intervening two years, Hillary Clinton may be in for a rude awakening.
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