By Tim Johnson and Marisa Taylor
July 6, 2016 – 5:52 PM
- Recommendation to let Hillary Clinton off the hook may reverberate, lawyers say
- ‘Hypocrisy’ exists between treatment of senior and lower-level officials, some say
- One lawyer says he’ll be using a ‘Hillary defense’
The FBI recommendation not to prosecute Hillary Clinton and her staff on charges of mishandling classified information will give those accused of flouting national security rules a new line of defense even as it highlights a dual standard in how senior government officials are treated, several experts said Wednesday.
FBI Director James Comey recommended Tuesday that no charges be filed against Clinton or her team for their handling of classified information while she was secretary of state, even though she was “extremely careless” in using a private email address and servers. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Wednesday that she agreed with Comey’s assessment.
Lawyers who specialize in representing government and military officials who’ve had security clearances revoked said Comey’s recommendation offered them a new tactic in seeking to rehabilitate their clients, especially if Clinton is elected president in November.
“I intend to use the Hillary defense,” said Sean M. Bigley, a lawyer whose firm handles dozens of cases a year involving national security clearances. “I really question how any agency can say someone is a security risk if the president of the United States did something similar.”
He added, “We’ve had people lose 20-year careers for doing less than what she did.”
Mark F. Riley, a former military intelligence officer who became a lawyer defending those accused of national security violations, said he, too, would invoke the Clinton recommendation.
We have the Petraeus ceiling and the Clinton floor. We have a new standard as to what comprises intent with respect to criminal cases. lawyer Mark Zaid
“I’m going to use it every chance I get, particularly in oral arguments. I’m going to bring it up over and over and over,” Riley said, adding that he thinks Clinton and her team engaged in “an egregious, egregious security violation.”
“Any other person would have had their security clearance revoked,” he said.
Comey will testify Thursday on Capitol Hill about the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s email usage in the latest indication that Republicans will attempt to keep the controversy alive through November’s election.
National security lawyers, however, said the recommendation on Clinton’s email use was likely to affect far more than the election, including possibly the behavior of those with security clearances.
“A lot of people will think, ‘She’s getting away with it. I’ll chance it,’ ” Riley said. “We’re going to have more problems.”
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