Millions of Americans, mostly Democrats but a few sourball Republicans, tell pollsters and anyone who doesn’t want to listen that they’re preparing themselves to ignore the stink and shame of Hillary Clinton when they vote in November. They’re advised here to prepare themselves for a protracted season of malaise and buyer’s remorse.
But it’s an ill wind — often of gale force — that blows nobody good, and lawyers for a Navy petty officer charged with doing pretty much what Hillary did with her email lies are expected to argue Friday, at his sentencing in a federal court, to plead for mercy on the grounds that, if its good enough for a well-stuffed goose in a pantsuit, it ought to be good enough for a gander in the uniform of his country.
The petty officer first class, Kristian Saucier, 29, will be sentenced on a charge of retaining “national defense information without permission.” He pleaded guilty to taking six forbidden photographs while on duty aboard the USS Alexandria, a nuclear submarine, which showed parts of the sub’s propulsion system. He knew, he admits, that information about the propulsion system was classified.
His defense lawyer, Derrick Hogan, argued in a filing earlier this year that Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of State and the Democratic nominee for president, “has come under scrutiny for engaging in acts similar to Mr. Saucier[‘s],” he wrote. He reminded the court that a long and expensive investigation by the FBI found that 110 email messages and 52 email “chains” found on Hillary’s private email server — which she used for official business to avoid the email servers that were perfectly satisfactory for other government officials — were classified at the time she sent them — eight “chains” with “top secret” information and 36 messages classified as “secret.”
“In our case,” the lawyer argues, “Mr. Saucier possessed six (6) photographs classified as ‘confidential/restricted,’ far less than [Mrs.] Clinton’s 110 emails. It will be unjust and unfair for Mr. Saucier to receive any sentence other than probation for a crime those more powerful than he will likely avoid.”
There are distinctions between Hillary’s crimes and misdemeanors and Mr. Saucier’s felonies, but they’re distinctions without much difference. He admitted that he knew from “training and his specialized work” on the submarine that he was not supposed to take them, and he admits that he destroyed his laptop computer, camera and a memory card containing the images. Hillary pleaded the defense of the little lady who just didn’t understand all that guy stuff.
She would have batted her eyes at James Comey, the director of the FBI who conducted the investigation, but she never learned how to do that flirty stuff with guys, either. Nor did she know about all that guy stuff at the State Department, but Mr. Comey concluded that secretaries of State are expected to know a lot of guy stuff, and that included the little lady formerly from Little Rock.
Besides, she had batteries of lawyers at hand, all paid by the government, and Mr. Saucier was just a guy.
Mr. Saucier was not accused publicly of spying, or of taking the photographs to sell to nefarious outsiders. Two other sailors aboard the USS Alexandria were cited for taking photographs in classified spaces aboard ship, perhaps for personal souvenirs, and dealt with leniently. This might be more persuasive than establishing a new “Hillary rule.” One of the two other sailors was reduced in rank and fined $560, the other fined $560 with no reduction in rank.
These two men were punished by a Captain’s Mast, which is short of a court-martial and is used for relatively minor infractions. Politico, the Washington political daily, reports that letters submitted from his crewmen on Mr. Saucier’s behalf cite what they call “command climate for junior sailors aboard the sub” and lax policies of that time about electronics for his harsh treatment.
“Kris does not deserve what he is going through,” one of his mates wrote. “If you look at the Navy records you will see countless mishandling classified material cases where many people are still in the Navy and many more people were asked to get out.”
Mr. Saucier could be sentenced to five years and three months in military prison, though his probation officer has recommended a more lenient sentence. The moral of the sad tale is either that Hillary can be glad she’s not in the Navy or that Kris Saucier is unlucky that he didn’t have the FBI on his trail. Life is not fair, as John F. Kennedy famously said, but Hillary wouldn’t agree. She gets so many breaks there just aren’t enough left over for anyone else.
• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.
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