When presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton declared in early June that an FBI recommendation she be indicted for improper handling of classified material as secretary of state was “not going to happen,” many Americans likely believed that was just false bravado.
Turns out it was prescient – almost as if she knew then that FBI Director James Comey would announce sometime soon that his agency wasn’t going to make such a recommendation to the Justice Department.
Since Comey’s announcement there have been howls of protest, mostly from opposing Republicans but also from former FBI investigators and federal prosecutors, claiming that the case against her – which Comey outlined in his July 5 announcement – was pretty much a slam-dunk.
Based on what Comey said his investigators found, critics of his decision say Clinton’s behavior met the standard for prosecution under Title 18 United States Code 793(f) which states:
Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
Comey mentioned “intent” on several occasions, but as the statute plainly notes, the far lower standard of “gross negligence” – or in Comey’s parlance, “extremely careless” – is a prosecutable offense.
So it would seem as though Hillary Clinton has once again dodged a legal minefield. But is it over yet? Not necessarily.
As reported by Breitbart News, Clinton, during her sworn testimony before the House Benghazi Committee, may have perjured herself at least three times.
In response to questioning from Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a committee member, Clinton appears to have given false testimony regarding the sending and receiving of classified emails (which she said under oath she did not do); that she and the State Department provided all of the relevant emails from her private servers she used while secretary of state (not all of them were handed over); and that nothing on any of the emails was “marked classified” (which is untrue, according to Director Comey).
It is a federal crime to lie under oath; it is also a crime to lie to Congress.
Not that it matters to the Obama administration, which just protected the president’s hand-picked successor, but there are two statutes in U.S. Code that cover perjury before Congress. The first is Sect. 1621 of Title 18, which is often referred to as the “general perjury” statute; it prohibits individuals from lying to Congress while they are under oath. Next, Sect. 1001, known as the “false statement” statute, pertains to testimony provided while not under oath. A person convicted of perjury before Congress could face fines of up to $100,000 or as many as five years in jail.
There are two statutes of U.S. Code that govern perjury before Congress. Section 1621 of Title 18, often called the “general perjury” statute, prohibits individuals from lying to Congress while under oath, while Section 1001, also known as the “false statement” statute, covers testimony given while not under oath. A person convicted of perjury could face fines up to $100,000 or up to five years in jail, or both.
Either way, whether Clinton was under oath or not, it looks clear that she lied to Congress. But will anything actually happen to her?
House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday, the day after Comey’s announcement, that the Republican majority will pursue other options for holding Clinton accountable, including the appointment of a special prosecutor. Stay tuned.