By Jon Dougherty
The former lead counsel for the FBI told congressional investigators that he was of the mindset that then-Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton should have faced charges for criminal mishandling of classified emails.
James Baker said he was “appalled” at the amount of “highly classified” information that passed through Clinton’s unsecured email server, adding that he believed she should have been criminally prosecuted for that conduct, Fox News reports.
Baker testified in October before two congressional committees that he and others within the bureau argued “I think up until the end” over whether charges against Clinton should have been recommended to the Justice Department.
Led at the time by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, it would have been up to her, ultimately, whether to act on the FBI’s recommendation.
“(T)he nature and scope of the classified information that, to me, initially, when I looked at it, I thought these folks should know that this stuff is classified, that it was alarming what they were talking about, especially some of the most highly classified stuff,” Baker told lawmakers.
A former first lady and U.S. senator from New York, Clinton should have been well aware of what materials were and were not classified, her critics argued at the time. Plus, they said, she signed a classified information nondisclosure agreement — standard for any government official who would come in contact with it — when she took over as Barack Obama’s secretary of state.
She told the FBI that she hadn’t signed an NDA, however — which was a crime in and of itself.
Clinton also told reporters after news broke about her private server during the run-up to the 2016 election cycle that her server did not contain any classified information.
But she later changed her story, claiming that no information was classified at the time she handled it and it went through her private server — which Obama claimed he only heard about through “news reports” though he regularly communicated with her over it.
In fact, her server contained information at the highest levels of classification — SAP, or Special Access Programs, the most closely-held U.S. secrets.
Despite Baker’s sentiment, then-FBI Director James Comey held a highly irregular press conference in early July 2016 in which he essentially accused Clinton of violating espionage laws governing the handling of classified information but then said the bureau wouldn’t recommend charges.
“Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case,” Comey said. “Prosecutors necessarily weigh a number of factors before bringing charges. There are obvious considerations, like the strength of the evidence, especially regarding intent.”
He added, “Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
Legal analysts and experts noted that espionage laws do not require that prosecutors prove or that suspects demonstrate criminal intent. Rather, the law states that anyone can be charged, prosecuted, and convicted for “gross negligence” in mishandling classified materials because they are that sensitive.
During Baker’s testimony, he reaffirmed that he believed Clinton should have been charged.
“I have reason to believe that you originally believed it was appropriate to charge Hillary Clinton with regard to violations of law — various laws with regard to the mishandling of classified information,” GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas asked Baker, according to the transcript. “Is that accurate?”
“Yes,” Baker replied.
During his program Wednesday, Fox News host Sean Hannity interviewed investigative reporter Sara Carter, who said that Comey was among those officials Baker was arguing with.
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10
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