Own Goals, Email Servers and Classified Documents
Own Goal: A goal scored inadvertently when the ball is struck into the goal by a player on the defensive team.
Back when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, it was discovered that she was using a much quicker but less secure server at her New York home to handle State Department email. At the time she and her staff denied any wrong doing, and pushed back harshly on any criticism that she had mishandled classified emails in this way.
After a years-long FBI investigation, it was determined that Clinton’s server did not contain any information or emails that were clearly marked classified. Federal agencies did, however, retrospectively determine that 100 emails contained information that should have been deemed classified at the time they were sent, including 65 emails deemed “Secret” and 22 deemed “Top Secret”. An additional 2,093 emails were retroactively designated confidential by the State Department.
The controversy was a major point of discussion and contention during the 2016 presidential election, in which Clinton was the Democratic nominee. In May, the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General released a report about the State Department’s email practices, including Clinton’s. In July, FBI director James Comey announced that the FBI investigation had concluded that Clinton had been “extremely careless” but recommended that no charges be filed because Clinton did not act with criminal intent, the historical standard for pursuing prosecution.
On June 14, 2018, the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General released its report on the FBI’s and DOJ’s handling of Clinton’s investigation, finding no evidence of political bias and lending support for the decision to not prosecute Clinton. A three-year State Department investigation concluded in September 2019 that 38 individuals were “culpable” in 91 instances of sending classified information that reached Clinton’s email account, though it found “no persuasive evidence of systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information”.
A notable exception was during the Bush administration, when dozens of senior White House officials conducted government business via approximately 22 million emails using accounts they had on a server owned by the Republican National Committee.
This all came against two important backdrops – Clinton was running against Donald Trump for President, and there was documented evidence of prior Republican Secretaries of State using private emails accounts to conduct public business. And in the world of using sports metaphors for political situations, it was certainly an own goal.
Now, it appears Team Center has scored another such goal with President Biden’s classified document handling.
Here’s the story Garland laid out today: On November 2, Biden’s lawyers found a batch of documents from the time of the Obama-Biden administration when they were cleaning out Biden’s office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, the Washington, D.C., think tank where Biden worked after his time as vice president. They immediately contacted NARA, which took possession of the documents the next morning. On November 4, NARA’s inspector general contacted the Justice Department to notify it of the document exchange, and on November 9 the FBI began to assess whether Biden had illegally mishandled classified information.
According to journalist Matthew Miller, classified documents often get taken from government facilities by accident. Those errors are reported, the documents recovered, and a damage assessment made to determine whether further action needs to be taken, all of which took place here.
As one might expect in a functioning Administration, Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed a Special Counsel to look into all of this. That hasn’t stopped House Republicans from promising to run a few flags up the flag pole, most likely in their handily named but probably useless Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Government.
So far, what we know suggests that while the outcomes are the same in both Biden and Trump’s incidents – Classified Documents in places they shouldn’t be – the mechanisms of getting them there, the responses of each President to the discovery, and the level of cooperation are different.
And that may well make Trump and Biden’s handling of these document NOT ALIKE legally.
It doesn’t change that fact that neoliberal Democrats have savaged themselves unnecessarily at a critical juncture. It is likely that the DoJ will soon begin indicting people close to Donald Trump for their involvement in the January 6th Insurrection. It is likely that the State of Georgia will also indict the former President for election interference. Its also true that the clown car of a House GOP “Majority” clearly intends to keep thumbing their noses at the American people who elected them to deal with inflation.
None of that however gives Democrats (which my smart phone loves to correct to Demi rats) reason to throw caution to the wind and prance about crowing as if they are somehow superior in every way. They are not. As we saw with the railroad strike threat last year, Democrats are not really the party of labor anymore. Their support of Ukraine is noteworthy, but so is their history of war mongering in the Middle East.
It’s unforced errors like these – own goals – that break faith, and lead us to the low institutional trust situations that Jaybird is always crowing about (mostly wrongly IMHO). They prove that old white men, and sometimes old white women, need to get really invested in the 21st Century where most anything you do online will exist until the end of time. They also reinforce the idea that the left really has no good options left in terms of national leadership, because in driving ever rightward trying to out Republican the GOP (with things like making the Patriot Act surveillance programs permanent under President Obama), Democrats are leaving the left behind.
Mostly though, they remind us that the nation’s so called “leaders” are no good at policing themselves, and we the voters take our management and oversight duties far too lazily.