FBI Lawyer: Hillary Clinton 'Should’ve Been Charged,' Behavior Was 'Appalling'
Closed-door testimony reveals counsel thought Clinton abusing 'classified' information
A lawyer, who was the FBI's top attorney in 2016, says he believed that former secretary of state Hillary Clinton should have quickly realized she was abusing "highly classified" information because of the sensitive content in her emails.
Former FBI general counsel James Baker thought Clinton should have been prosecuted until "pretty late" in the investigation, according to his closed-door testimony transcript, which was before congressional committees last October.
Baker stated that high-level officials at the bureau were "arguing about" whether they should bring charges against Clinton or not, right "up until the end" of their investigation.
Mr. Baker added that he initially thought Clinton should have been charged, describing her behavior as "alarming" and "appalling."
Following to the "statutes that we were considering at the time," Baker told lawmakers, it was "the 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.”
Portions of the congressional transcript of Baker's remarks were later confirmed by Fox News.
Those in the room considered Baker's testimony as 'credible.'
But Clinton said in a TV interview on July 3, 2016; she had "never received nor sent any material that was marked classified" by use of her email system
Later, Clinton admitted she regretted using the setup after her private servers where revealed to be containing classified materials from Special Access Programs, or SAP --- considered some of the most closely held U.S. government secrets.
According to Fox News: The revelations from Baker follow a December letter by former House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy and former House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, who stated the resolution not to prosecute Clinton was not unanimous.
In July 2016, then-FBI Director James Comey publicly announced that Clinton had been "extremely careless" in handling classified information, but emphasized that "no reasonable prosecutor" would make a case against her.
Comey said that "although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, we judge that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case."
He added that "prosecutors necessarily weigh some factors before bringing charges," including "the strength of the evidence, especially regarding intent."
In testimony later that month, Comey told lawmakers, "We did not find the evidence sufficient to establish that she knew she was sending classified information beyond a reasonable doubt to meet the intent standard."
Catherine Herridge does a deep dive on what former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and former FBI lawyer James Baker said about how far 25th Amendment discussions went with the DOJ.
Federal law states that "gross negligence" in handling the nation’s intelligence can be punished criminally with prison time or fines, and there is no requirement that defendants acted intentionally or recklessly.
Nevertheless, Baker suggested that high-level officials convinced him that Clinton did not have the necessary "knowledge or criminal intent" to be charged.
"I have reason to believe that you originally believed it was appropriate to charge Hillary Clinton concerning violations of law — various laws about the mishandling of classified information," a lawmaker asked Baker, according to the transcript. "Is that accurate?"
"Yes," Baker replied.
"And I understood that, that you had to be persuaded, and stated as a basis that ultimately you were persuaded there was a lack of evidence establishing knowledge or criminal intent, correct?" the lawmaker asked.
Again, Baker replied, "Yes."
Pressed on when exactly he was changed his mind, Baker responded: "Sorry. Pretty late in the process, because we were arguing about it, I think, up until the end."'
Internal FBI memos released in 2017 showed that language was softened between an early draft and the final copy of Comey’s July 2016 statement closing out the Clinton email case.
Initially, Comey accused the former secretary of state of being “grossly negligent” in handling classified information in a draft dated May 2, 2016, but that was modified to claim that Clinton had been “extremely careless” in a draft dated June 10, 2016 -- a significant legal distinction.
In an early draft, Comey also said it was “reasonably likely” that “hostile actors” gained access to Clinton’s private email account.
That was changed later to say the scenario was merely “possible.”
"Well, I know there’s been a lot of public discussion about that," Baker said, referring to Comey's memos.
"I believe if I had been persuaded that she had the intent, I would have argued that vociferously with him [Comey] and maybe changed his view. And I think he would have been receptive to changing his view even after he wrote that thing.”
He added: "My original belief — well, after having conducted the investigation and towards the end of it, then sitting down and reading a binder of her materials, I thought that it was alarming, appalling, whatever words I said, and argued with others about why they thought she shouldn’t be charged."
Baker acknowledged, "I was struggling with the facts about even just ascertaining what literally did she know and what was reasonable to infer about what she knew."
The email from Clinton's lawyer David Kendall to FBI General Counsel James Baker came after then-FBI Director James Comey reopened the investigation into whether classified information was mishandled by former of Secretary of State Clinton; chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge reports
Comey himself has come under investigation for potentially mishandling classified information.
In 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported that the fired FBI Director gave four of his seven memos documenting his private interactions with Trump -- which he has described as a kind of "diary" -- to two lawyers and friend Daniel Richman, a professor at Columbia Law School.
Richman provided at least one memo to the New York Times, and Comey testified he intended to kickstart Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.
The Journal reported that at least two of those Comey memos have been to found to contain material now deemed classified, prompting a Justice Department inspector general investigation.
Comey redacted classified information in one memo before giving it to Richman, while officials later determined that a separate memo contained unredacted classified information after Comey had sent it.
Comey later revealed in closed-door testimony with House Republicans last December that he deliberately concealed an explosive memo he created about his one-on-one Oval Office meeting with Trump in February 2017 from top Department of Justice officials.
"James Comey’s Memos are Classified, I did not Declassify them," Trump tweeted last April.
"They belong to our Government! Therefore, he broke the law!"
Asked by Fox News in December whether he had mishandled classified information, and whether the FBI had conducted a detailed containment operation after Comey sent the memos to his lawyers to limit the spill of information, Comey declined to answer.
"I'm not going to talk about something like that," Comey answered.
"I'm not going to talk about it one way or another."
But there was a time when Comey, by his accounting, didn't think of himself as the kind of person who would leak information behind the president's back.
In a Jan. 28, 2017, dinner with Trump in the White House's Green Room, Comey wrote in a since-released memo that he told the president: "I don't do sneaky things, I don't leak, I don't do weasel moves."