Clinton, Benghazi and the FBI

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Steffen Schmidt, guest columnist

The House of Representatives has released it’s Benghazi Report and there was nothing new after millions of dollars spent on numerous investigations into the death of the Americans in that Libyan fiasco.

Critics of the report, all of them conservative Republicans, bitterly complained that the presentation of this investigation did not more forcefully point out the negligence and lack of action by the Department of State and specifically then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

At the very least, they said, the House Report should have mocked Clinton because, as one of my focus group Republicans said, “when the phone rang at 3 a.m. at the White House, Clinton did not answer it because she was at some elegant Democrat fundraiser with French white wine and Russian caviar hors d’oeuvres.”

This week the log-awaited FBI report on the Hillary Clinton email case was issued. FBI Director James B. Comey said the agency was not recommending charging Hillary Clinton in her use of a private email server while Secretary of State.

But, the report was a scathing indictment of the State Department and he rebuked Mrs. Clinton for being “extremely careless” in the use of an insecure server. Comey also said there was no evidence that “ … Mrs. Clinton intentionally transmitted or willfully mishandled classified information.”

But the report revealed that contrary to Clinton’s assertions there were 110 emails or email threads with classified information — apparently some of it Top Secret.

“The FBI discovered “several thousand” work-related emails that were not in the original trove of 30,000 turned over by Mrs. Clinton to the State Department.”

Comey also noted that while no charges would be recommended against Clinton others who committed acts like these could or would be charged. So in other words, what Clinton did and for which there would be no charges against her was a very, very bad thing and the lesson is all of you others out there had better not think it’s ok to send classified information by email in an unauthorized way.

Besides the case of General David Petraeus who shared classified information with his girlfriend, as one commentary noted, “There are others in the military who have been prosecuted or severely punished for doing far less to damage national security in comparison to the Democrat presidential candidate.”

Take the case of Marine Reserves Major Jason Brezler, who exposed classified information in 2012 in order to warn fellow Marines about a corrupt and violent Afghan Police Chief. He faced a dishonorable discharge from the Marine Corps.

While the Democrats and the Clinton campaign in particular hope the email scandal is behind them, I would argue it is not and in fact that it will metastasize.

First of all the media has treated the FBI report as more damning than meets the eye.

Second, Bill Clinton’s meeting with the US Attorney General in a private jet on the tarmac in Arizona has added alarm to the notion that Clinton will, indeed, now not be charged with anything.

Third, Donald Trump and the Republicans plan to push hard on the fact that the FBI let Clinton off the hook and on whether it was appropriate for the FBI Director to state there should be no charges filed.

Fourth, Congress will hold hearings until Nov. 9 (the day after the election).

Fifth, the State Department is reopening its investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was Secretary of State.

Finally, I guarantee that the Republicans will find and feature Marine Reserves Major Jason Brezler (see above) in TV interviews and ads.

Here is the language suggested by one member of my focus team: “The tax cheating Washington and Arkansas big shot gets off with a scolding. The little people get severely punished. This is Clinton justice.”

This will be a very long fall.

• Steffen Schmidt is professor of political science at Iowa State University. Comments:

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