In an opinion piece for USA Today, Ronald Sievert, an attorney with 25 years of experience in the Department of Justice, said that Hillary Clinton’s email defense was little more than a political smokescreen. Without making assumptions about her guilt or innocence, Sievert said that one thing was certain: Whether or not the emails were marked classified at the time is not relevant to the law.
“The applicable statute, 18 USC 793, however, does not even once mention the word ‘classified,'” Sievert wrote. Rather, he said, the law is explicit as to the responsibilities of a government official:
The focus is on “information respecting the national defense” that potentially “could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.” 793 (f) specifically makes it a crime for anyone “entrusted with … any document … or information relating to the national defense … through gross negligence (to permit) the same to be removed from its proper place of custody.”
Sievert argued that few in the media had challenged Clinton’s “they weren’t classified at the time” defense. He said that even if that remains true, it has no bearing on the legal consequences of her mistakes. Instead, the many Clinton emails that have been marked classified in retrospect prove that she may have indeed been careless with national defense information. By leaving it on an unprotected server, she was jeopardizing national security.
“Why has everyone bought into the ‘marked classified’ rabbit trail?” he asked. “One suspects that many reporters and commentators have not bothered to read the actual law or are hesitant to blow the central defense of the Clinton campaign out of the water.”
Yeah, it’s the latter, in case you were wondering. When the subject is Donald Trump’s tax returns or the cost of his wall, reporters will travel to the ends of the galaxy to fact-check every “Um” that comes out of the man’s mouth. But if we’re talking about Hillary Clinton, they mostly just take the campaign’s word for it. They know that if Clinton is badly damaged by this scandal, there is no viable backup. Unless they’re forced into a corner by independent journalists, the mainstream media is not going to help Republicans take the White House.