- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 18, 2023

The charmed lives of Democrats who mishandled classified documents. No SWAT-style raids by the FBI. No treatment like that of Donald Trump, who as president had broad authority to declassify and take possession of documents, as opposed to an FBI photo shoot that made the files at Mar-a-Lago look like the seized possessions of a South Florida drug dealer.

President Biden, who expressed “surprise” there were top-secret documents in his China-funded office at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, has little to fear from a Justice Department studded with his loyalists. Because Attorney General Merrick Garland named one for Mr. Trump, he had to appoint a second special counsel, Robert Hur, for Mr. Biden

History is on the president’s side if the 2016 case of Hillary Clinton is the precedent. Before her email imbroglio, there were two other celebrated breaches.

If anyone knows the rules of handling classified files, it would be the CIA director — in this case, John M. Deutch, who served as President Bill Clinton’s in 1995-96.

After he left Langley, a security crew removed government computers from his Bethesda, Maryland, and Massachusetts homes and discovered top-secret papers on devices approved only for unclassified work. Alarmingly, Mr. Deutch had regularly created and reviewed sensitive papers on nonsecure machines linked to the Wild West internet.

In 2000, the CIA’s inspector general published a damning report: “The OIG investigation has established that Deutch was aware of prohibitions relating to the use of unclassified computers for processing classified information. He was further aware of specific vulnerabilities related to the use of unclassified computers that were connected to the Internet. Despite this knowledge, Deutch processed a large volume of highly classified information on these unclassified computers, taking no steps to restrict unauthorized access to the information and thereby placing national security information at risk.”

CIA executives would not let the IG interview Mr. Deutch. The CIA inspector general turned the matter over to the Clinton Justice Department, where Attorney General Janet Reno declined to prosecute.

But facing a congressional backlash of letting the top U.S. intelligence official off the hook, Ms. Reno appointed a special prosecutor. As Mr. Clinton’s term was ending, Mr. Deutch agreed in writing to plead guilty to a misdemeanor, The Washington Post reported. But Mr. Clinton intervened and pardoned his old friend.

A second aide to Mr. Clinton, the late Samuel “Sandy” Berger, held the all-powerful post of White House national security adviser. Post-Clinton, Berger visited the National Archives in 2003 to inspect classified papers. He promptly stole them, hiding them in his clothes and stashing them at a construction site for later retrieval.

Archive employees noticed that documents were missing. With a Republican president in office, Berger ended up pleading guilty in 2005 to a single misdemeanor count. He said in court that he deliberately stole the papers. He used scissors to destroy some related to the year 2000 terror threats. He did no jail time but lost his law license.

The Justice Department said: “The documents were different versions of a single document. Berger, who possessed a United States government security clearance and was aware of the laws and rules regarding classified documents, knew he was not authorized to remove the classified documents.”

The National Archives assembled all five documents and provided them to the commission investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Mrs. Clinton stands alone in her bizarre negligence in the way she sent and stored classified material. It was not just her lofty position as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state, where an example of rigorous adherence to protocol must be displayed. She carelessly handled the nation’s secrets in the age of mass internet traffic and foreign enemies and their algorithms constantly on hacking hunts for America’s crown jewels.

She did business on her personal domain, “Clintonemail.com,” and stored them, not at the State Department, but on a private server at her home in Chappaqua, New York. This was a clear breach of procedure if not the law. Even the secretive Mrs. Clinton later expressed consternation at what she had done.

To boot, she ordered her private tech adviser to erase some 30,000 emails her attorneys had filtered as containing State Department business. The “bleach bit” scrub came weeks after a House committee sent her an evidence preservation notice in March 2015. An FBI inquiry it dubbed the “Midyear Exam” began four months later.

We know why she hid her work emails at home. She wanted them protected from open records requests. When Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) bureaucrats searched her files, they could accurately tell the requester that no such records existed. By the way, in her four years as secretary of state, she never selected a State Department inspector general — an independent permanent watchdog — for Senate confirmation. 

Mrs. Clinton resigned her post in February 2013, and her successor, John Kerry, welcomed Steve Linick as a Senate-confirmed IG that October. In 2016, as Mrs. Clinton ran for president against Mr. Trump, Mr. Linick issued a stinging report on her email infractions. She and eight former aides and advisers declined to be interviewed by the IG.

The FBI Midyear team finished its investigation that year. A subsequent Justice Department Inspector General’s report quoted the team’s synopsis: “81 email chains containing approximately 193 individual emails that were classified from the CONFIDENTIAL to TOP SECRET levels at the time the emails were drafted on UNCLASSIFIED systems and sent to or from Clinton’s personal server.”

FBI Director James Comey held a news conference that July to announce there would be no criminal charges.

“Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information,” he said.

Mr. Biden now joins the Democratic lineup of Deutch-Berger-Clinton, who, as top U.S. leaders, failed to adhere to common sense. The Garland Justice Department basically left the chore up to Mr. Biden’s lawyers to find sensitive classified papers at his think tank office and his Wilmington, Delaware, home, including in the garage. No spectacular FBI raid a la the one at Mar-a-Lago.

I find it highly doubtful that Mr. Hur, the Trump-appointed former U.S. attorney for Maryland, will recommend or file charges. And I feel certain he knows that Mr. Garland does not want them.

Legal talking heads say the Hur appointment means Mr. Trump will not face charges for his own alleged mishandling of top-secret documents taken from the White House to Mar-a-Lago. You can’t charge one president without the other, they reason.

There is an odd twist to this unfolding document plot. FBI Director Christopher Wray directed the raid on Mr. Trump’s home. His agents are now investigating Mr. Biden’s handling of the same types of documents.

In 2005, it was Mr. Wray, then an assistant attorney general, who announced the plea agreement with Berger.

The Department of Justice: “WASHINGTON, D.C. - Assistant Attorney General Christopher A. Wray of the Criminal Division announced today that former National Security Advisor Samuel R. Berger has pleaded guilty to a charge of knowingly removing classified documents from the National Archives and Records Administration.”

• Rowan Scarborough is a columnist with The Washington Times.

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