Lawyers are now asking for the ‘Clinton Deal’ for their clients in similar secrecy violation cases. Is the Comey decision going to cause a snowball effect? Give us your thoughts below.
Attorneys for people who allegedly mishandled classified information say the outcome of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton could be good news for their clients.
Though many see a double standard in FBI Director James Comey’s decision not to recommend charges against the former secretary of state who used a personal and unsecured email system for official business, others see possibilities.
Mark Zaid, a defense attorney for national security whistleblowers and people accused of mishandling secrets, says he plans to ask for “the Clinton deal” in the future.
And Zaid says he probably can get it.
In 2015, shortly after former CIA Director David Petraeus received a plea deal featuring probation and a fine for sharing highly classified information with his mistress Paula Broadwell, Zaid says he called the Justice Department on behalf of a client accused of taking classified records home.
“We absolutely got on the phone to the prosecutor and said, ‘We want the Petraeus sentence. We want the commensurate, parallel sentence.’ And we got it!” he says, winning a $5,000 fine and a short probation term instead of possible prison for a now-retired intelligence agency employee.
Zaid says if that case still were still pending, he probably could have gotten the client, who he refused to name and asked not be identified, the same deal as Clinton, as their “carelessness,” a term used by Comey to describe Clinton’s email practices, was similar.
“In some ways, [the Clinton and Petraeus cases] now create a glass ceiling and a glass floor,” Zaid says. “By Comey’s wording [about Clinton], now we have a floor as to what constitutes intent that deserves prosecution.”
Clinton did intentionally use a private and unsecured email system for her official business, but during his Tuesday speech Comey avoided the words “gross negligence,” which could qualify her for prosecution, instead calling her conduct “extremely careless.”
Comey said Clinton’s email system featured more than 100 messages with classified information. He said foreign spies could have gained access, though the FBI found no evidence that happened. Unlike Petraeus, who received two years of probation and a $100,000 fine, Clinton was not accused of lying to the FBI, though she did publicly claim she had not sent or received classified information.
The argument that a free pass for Clinton should allow leniency for others soon will be tested in federal court as attorney Michael Bowe argues Marine Reserves Maj. Jason Brezler should not be separated from the military.
Brezler used a personal email account to send a classified report about an alleged child-raping, drug-dealing Afghan police official to a fellow Marine as a warning, two weeks before one of the man’s apparent rape victims murdered three Marines. He reportedly knew the document was classified, but felt its status may have changed with time.
Bowe intends to argue that Brezler deserves leniency and that his recommended punishment is arbitrary and capricious, particularly in light of Clinton’s conduct. He expects a ruling this fall.
“We intend to cite the treatment of Secretary Clinton as one of the many — and most egregious — examples of how the severe treatment of Major Brezler was the very definition of an arbitrary and capricious double standard,” Bowe says.
He adds: “It is impossible to reconcile the commander-in chief’s statement [in April] that Secretary Clinton’s intentional act of setting up a secret, unsecured server on which rested the most sensitive classified information did not ‘detract from her excellent ability to carry out her duties’ with the completely opposite finding for Major Brezler based on an allegedly inadvertent mistake involving infinitely less sensitive and limited information.”