Clinton vs. Cartwright: Much Worse than a Mere Double Standard
A number of articles have pointed out the blatant double standard applied by the FBI and the Justice Department in the cases of retired Marine Corps general James Cartwright and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Cartwright, dogged by the FBI for years for leaking classified material, pleaded guilty last week to felony charges of lying to federal investigators and faces jail time and a huge fine when sentenced in January. Needless to say, he also lost his security clearance at the start of the investigation when still in uniform, and regardless of the sentencing, he has been publicly ruined. Clinton, who deliberately circumvented U.S. law and regulations for handling classified material, destroyed official government records, exposed thousands of sensitive documents to foreign hackers, obstructed justice, and lied to the American people and Congress, is probably just days away from being elected president.
The apparent double standard is so obvious that commentary about it has not been limited to the right. Even the determinedly pro-Clinton Washington Post noted that two sets of rules were applied by the government, and that Cartwright's fall is at least in part a way for the FBI and Justice to maintain the fiction that they don't play favorites because someone is well connected.
But generally speaking, the treatment of Cartwright and Clinton is so obviously disparate that the left has stayed away from it, concentrating instead on Donald Trump's foibles and describing a virtually inevitable Hillary Clinton victory.
Inevitably, though, somebody had to try, and it came from the War on the Rocks website, a venue that previously tried to excuse FBI director James Comey's refusal to refer the Clinton matter for prosecution. In "Clinton Cartwright Comparisons Don't Hold Up," the authors argue that Cartwright's prosecution doesn't reveal favoritism compared to Clinton. Rather, they contend that Cartwright lied to the FBI while Clinton did not, infuriating the feds and spurring his prosecution. Setting aside for now whether Clinton did lie to the FBI (and also the authors' failure to note her open and obvious lying to Congress and the public), the article unintentionally puts in high relief the real disparity in treatment between Cartwright and Clinton. In fact, the FBI made no effort to catch Clinton in a lie and went out of their way to ensure that such a thing would not happen.
That Clinton is a compulsive liar is no secret, no matter what side of the aisle you're on. For the Obama administration, which desperately wanted to put the Clinton email scandal to bed, both to ensure Hillary's election and to protect the president from his own malfeasance in the affair, avoiding obvious inopportune lies at her July interview was critical. It is a commonplace supposition that had Clinton been caught blatantly lying to the FBI during her July interview, her goose would have been cooked.
Making sure that this did not happen almost certainly was the purpose of Loretta Lynch's furtive meeting with Bill Clinton on an Arizona tarmac. How that was done between Bill Clinton and Lynch, whether through various assurances or pre-screening of questions, remains a mystery. That it was done – despite the participants' own lies about discussing Clinton's grandkids – can hardly be in doubt by any reasonably sentient being.
Hillary was further insulated by her gaggle of attorneys, which preposterously included Cheryl Mills and Beth Samuelson, close aides who were also under FBI investigation. Having been interviewed themselves, and represented through the process by a common attorney (without any objection from the FBI or the Justice Department), they already had a good idea of the nature, extent, and temper of the questions.
All this was still not sufficient to shield Hillary from her own natural mendaciousness. The last safety were the FBI questioners themselves, who were careful not to ask Hillary any particularly difficult questions, and who accepted without follow-up her numerous evasions, mostly attributed by Hillary to memory loss, carelessness, or ignorance.
The reason Hillary, unlike General Cartwright, was not prosecuted is not because she was honest with government investigators. It is because the FBI and the Justice Department bent over backward to make certain that Hillary was not caught in a lie. Thus, what happened with Clinton is not comparable to Cartwright's situation at all. Not because he was dishonest while she is not. Rather, it is because the FBI, the Justice Department, and the Obama administration actively conspired to protect her and find reasons not to prosecute her.
And yet despite all that, Hillary still lied at the interview. As Andrew McCarthy points out, when confronted with a "c" on one the classified documents that went out over her home-brewed server, a document that she insisted to the public could not exist (since she falsely claimed that no documents "marked classified" ever went out), she dissembled, improbably claiming that she did not know what the "c" stood for. This despite the fact that she must have seen thousands of documents so marked during her time as both a U.S. senator and as secretary of state, and that she certified upon taking office at State that she had been briefed on and understood security classifications and their import.
Of course, having made this plainly dishonest statement during the interview, the FBI agents questioning her did not follow up, express any degree of incredulity, or present her with documentation that would have impeached her claim, much less referred the case to Justice for prosecution. It was a minor slip in what was otherwise carefully constructed kabuki. And in typical Clinton form, even that slip might be knotty to a prosecutor, since proving that a person knew something at a specific time that she insists she did not know is inherently subjective. It is different from proving a lie with simple objective contradictory evidence. Still, many prosecutions have succeeded with less. It would have been up to a jury to decide whether to believe Hillary had she been properly prosecuted – or perhaps, like Cartwright, pressured to take a plea.
So is there a double standard between the Cartwright and Clinton prosecutions? No, it is much worse than that. Clinton's case was not one of prosecutorial discretion misused. Rather, it was one of conspiratorial prosecutorial misconduct that ran from the FBI through the Justice Department and up to the White House itself. In Cartwright's case, aggressive and tricky investigators and prosecutors turned a problematic incidence of a security indiscretion – which by Cartwright's unimpeached account was to protect further disclosure of already leaked material – into a solid case of making a false statement to investigators as Cartwright ineffectively sought to protect himself. In Clinton's case, the government deliberately acted to protect the malefactor, and indeed produced a fake investigation to do so. It's not just that Cartwright's probably going to jail and Clinton's not. It's that a rigged system, operated criminally, will likely put her in the White House.