In the months following President Donald Trump’s election, more has been revealed about Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information. More has come out about the FBI’s bias in the investigation, and more reporting has shed light on former FBI Director James Comey’s manipulative nature. So, does the Clinton email matter need a fresh look? Yes.
Before Trump’s election, we didn’t know about FBI deputy counterintelligence chief Peter Strzok or his role in changing Comey’s Clinton testimony from “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless”; we didn’t know that he was not apolitical and that he would reveal his anti-Trump bias in texts to others; we didn’t know, as recent reports now confirm, that the FBI believed there was evidence that laws were broken when Clinton and her aides improperly transmitted classified information; and we didn’t know that Comey had drafted an exoneration of Clinton before she was even interviewed by the FBI. And, oh, by the way, when Clinton was eventually interviewed, her statements were not recorded and she was not under oath. Hmm.
There are plenty of fair questions about whether favoritism and a willful desire to ignore material violations of the law occurred during the Clinton email investigation. As I’ve written before, if an assistant secretary of state had done what Clinton did, they would have been prosecuted. And in Clinton’s case, she specifically warned State Department employees against doing exactly that. Some suggest that none of this is relevant because Clinton lost, but America doesn’t work that way.
We either have laws and enforce them, or we don’t. On the one hand, we want to avoid slipping toward third-world status where incumbent regimes use their power to prosecute their enemies. But we also must not allow fame and power to shield individuals from prosecution. To pursue an unbiased and fully informed inquiry into the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails would not be partisan or mean-spirited. But to not pursue it would suggest a systemic favoritism that is contrary to the American system. The fact is, we don’t need another special prosecutor to uncover what happened with Clinton’s emails and who knew about them. We need existing prosecutors with proper oversight to do their jobs.
Remember, the email investigation took place at a time when everyone thought Clinton was going to win - meaning that many involved in the affair believed they were probably auditioning in front of their future bosses. Obviously, Clinton defenders will want to say that a renewed inquiry into her mishandling of classified information is all about payback and perhaps a distraction from the Russia investigations. And I’ll admit, Trump’s bombastic taunts only add to that appearance. But serious law enforcement should not be deterred just because Trump is too loud and Clinton will have collaborators and defenders in the media.
The Justice Department should get to the bottom of this and set the record straight. Americans need to be assured that Hillary Clinton not only operated lawfully, but that she was not treated differently than anyone else would have been. Besides, if Trump thought it served the greater good, he could always pardon Clinton and her aides. The American people should not be expected to tolerate that the rules just don’t apply to the Clintons.
Ed Rogers is a Washington Post columnist.