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Comparing the Trump Case to The Clinton & Biden Cases
Why they are profoundly different.
I think it's crucial to address, in an impartial manner, the Whataboutism between the Trump Documents case, the Hillary Clinton classified email allegations and the Biden documents case. I have witnessed numerous Trump supporters attempting to criticize the DOJ because Trump has been indicted while Clinton wasn't, and Biden likely won't be held accountable.
The Trump Case
The allegations in the 37-count indictment against Trump are remarkably blatant. Thirty-one counts pertain to the illegal and deliberate retention of classified documents. However, it doesn't end there. The indictment provides a concise overview of the contents of many of these documents, which range from nuclear secrets of foreign nations to national security secrets of the United States and its allies. Here is what the DOJ claims was found in Trump's documents:
"The classified documents Trump stored in his boxes included information regarding defense and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries; United States nuclear programs; potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attack; and plans for possible retaliation in response to a foreign attack," states the indictment. "The unauthorized disclosure of these classified documents could jeopardize the national security of the United States, foreign relations, the safety of the United States military, and human sources, as well as the continued effectiveness of sensitive intelligence collection methods."
While these allegations may appear extraordinary on the surface, it is actually the remaining six counts in the indictment that compound matters for those defending the former president. These charges include "conspiracy to obstruct justice," "withholding a document or record," "corruptly concealing a document or record," "concealing a document in a federal investigation," "false statements and representations," and "scheme to conceal."
However, the names of the charges themselves fail to do justice to the allegations presented within the indictment. The government asserts that Trump knowingly relocated and concealed classified material in various areas of Mar-a-Lago, including a ballroom and bathroom. Moreover, he was captured on recording stating that he could no longer declassify documents.
Lastly, the indictment claims that Trump showed classified documents to other individuals and, on multiple occasions, emphasized the importance of protecting classified information, both during his 2016 candidacy and his presidency.
The Clinton Email Case
In the realm of political scandals, few have garnered as much attention and sparked as much debate as Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server during her tenure as United States Secretary of State. This controversy thrust her into the spotlight, triggering a protracted FBI investigation aimed at uncovering the truth behind her unorthodox choice.
Rather than utilizing the official State Department email accounts hosted on federal servers, Clinton opted for a private email server to handle her official public communications. This decision raised eyebrows and generated widespread criticism as it deviated from established protocols and raised concerns about transparency and security.
Following public outcry and mounting pressure, an FBI investigation was launched to determine whether Clinton's private server contained any classified information. After a comprehensive examination, it was ultimately established that her server did not house any information or emails that were explicitly marked as classified. However, this did not absolve Clinton entirely, as federal agencies later discovered that a subset of emails did contain information that should have been classified at the time of their transmission.
Out of the scrutinized emails, 100 were identified as having contained information that warranted classification. Of these, 65 were labeled as "Secret," and an additional 22 were designated as "Top Secret." Moreover, the State Department retrospectively deemed 2,093 emails as confidential. It is important to note that only three emails out of 30,000 were found to be marked as classified, albeit lacking classified headers and being only marked with a small "c" in parentheses, described as "portion markings" by Comey.
While the FBI investigation concluded that her server did not contain explicitly classified information, it did uncover a significant number of emails that were retrospectively classified.
Comparing the Two
After comprehending the allegations against Trump, it is now crucial to better understand why Clinton was not charged with a crime in this matter. The FBI director at the time of the Clinton scandal, James Comey, addressed the four elements that he stated need to be present to prosecute someone under the espionage act:
1. “Clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information.”
2. “Vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct.”
3. “Indications of disloyalty to the United States.”
4. “Efforts to obstruct justice.”
Since the emails were not classified at the time they were sent (except for three emails described by the media as inconsequential and only marked with a "c"), it would be nearly impossible to prove that Clinton intentionally and willfully possessed classified information on her server. The intent is absent. There is also no evidence to suggest that her actions were disloyal to the United States, as intent could not be proven. While many argue that she obstructed justice due to her attorneys deleting emails after a Congressional subpoena, the evidence at the time raises questions about the intent behind the deletions. Here's why.
In 2014, well before the public was aware of Hillary Clinton's private server, her chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, and attorneys sorted through the server to identify work-related emails that should be preserved for the State Department. After completing this process, in December 2014, Mills instructed Clinton's computer services provider, Platte River Networks (PRN), to change the server's retention period to 60 days. Consequently, approximately 31,830 older personal emails that Clinton deemed unnecessary were automatically deleted. However, the technician responsible for carrying out this deletion failed to do so.
Several months later, the Select Committee on Benghazi issued a subpoena for emails related to the Benghazi attack. On March 9, Mills informed PRN about the committee's request to retain the emails. This prompted the PRN technician to realize that he had not deleted the personal emails as instructed several months earlier. Subsequently, he used a free software called BleachBit to erase the emails between March 25 and 31. In September 2015, it was reported that the FBI had managed to recover some of the deleted emails.
Although Republicans have used this incident to claim that Clinton attempted to obstruct justice, there is no evidence that she intentionally did so or ordered others to do so. Without evidence, there is no case.
On the other hand, according to the indictment, Trump knowingly retained classified documents, had them moved throughout his residence and public areas of his resort, and repeatedly lied about their existence. The intent to obstruct justice could not be clearer if the allegations are true. It is also evident that he intended to possess documents he knew to be classified, as evidenced by the recording submitted by the DOJ. Lastly, in the case of Trump, the government will likely need to demonstrate "indications of disloyalty to the United States." I would argue that merely harboring nuclear secrets within his residence, where foreign nationals frequently visited, would be disloyal to the United States.
The Biden Documents Case
While a Special Counsel is still investigating the circumstances surrounding the documents that Biden kept in his garage and office, unless they can prove that he knew he had them and deliberately deceived the government by retaining those documents, Biden is unlikely to be found liable, similar to the case of Mike Pence. On the other hand, if there is evidence that Biden knew the documents he possessed were classified and purposely concealed them from the government, it will be a different story. It is unfair to compare these cases because we do not know what the investigators will uncover. However, there is no evidence in the public domain to suggest that this was anything other than an accident.
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