Paul Ryan will probably regret saying this about Hillary Clinton after Trump's alleged Russia leak

'Individuals who are extremely careless with classified information should be denied further access to information,' House Speaker said last July in reference to Democrat

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The Independent US

In July 2016, few in Washington, DC, were more incredulous that the FBI decided not to charge Hillary Clinton with a crime for sending and receiving classified information on her private email server than House Speaker Paul Ryan, Republican-Wisconsin.

Ryan issued one of the Republicans' irate statements:

“No one should be above the law. But based upon the director's own statement, it appears damage is being done to the rule of law. Declining to prosecute Secretary Clinton for recklessly mishandling and transmitting national security information will set a terrible precedent. The findings of this investigation also make clear that Secretary Clinton misled the American people when she was confronted with her criminal actions.”

And then he held a news conference, where he asked the Obama administration to stop giving Clinton, who was the Democrats' newly minted presidential nominee, classified briefings. “Individuals who are 'extremely careless,' close quote,” Ryan said, using the term then-FBI Director James Comey used to describe Clinton's email practices, “should be denied further access to information.” (That proposal never got anywhere).

The message was clear: Ryan thought the FBI should have charged Clinton for a crime for sending and receiving classified information on a private email server she used exclusively as secretary of state.

Ryan piped up again about this 11 days before the election, when Comey told Congress his team had found new emails related to Clinton that they were looking into. The FBI did not describe it as a reopening of an investigation, but Ryan sure did:

Here's a statement he tweeted on 28 October.

“Yet again, Hillary Clinton has nobody but herself to blame. She was entrusted with some of our nation's most important secrets, and she betrayed that trust by carelessly mishandling highly classified information. This decision, long overdue, is the result of her reckless use of a private email server, and her refusal to be forthcoming with federal investigators. I renew my call for the Director of National Intelligence to suspend all classified briefings for Secretary Clinton until this matter is fully resolved.”

We're spending so much parsing Ryan's words about a candidate in an election that is now over because suddenly, it's not Clinton who is on the receiving end of criticism about the way she handled classified information. It's President Donald Trump.

The Washington Post's ace national security team reported Monday that while in an Oval Office meeting last week with top Russian officials, Trump told them highly classified information about the Islamic State. The information he told to the Russian ambassador and foreign minister is so secret it's not even relayed to some US allies, let alone a country that most intelligence officials think meddled in the US election.

“It is all kind of shocking,” a former senior US official who is close to current administration officials told The Post. “Trump seems to be very reckless and doesn't grasp the gravity of the things he's dealing with, especially when it comes to intelligence and national security. And it's all clouded because of this problem he has with Russia.”

Reckless. That's exactly the word Ryan used in another statement, issued in September, after the FBI released its report of its interview with Clinton. The FBI's investigation demonstrates, Ryan said, “Hillary Clinton's reckless and downright dangerous handling of classified information during her tenure as secretary of state.”

It's also the exact word that at least one former intelligence official used to describe the fact Trump shared information so secret it requires a code word just to talk about it among US officials.

The Post rounded up some of the comments:

  • “Trump seems to be very reckless, and doesn't grasp the gravity of the things he's dealing with, especially when it comes to intelligence and national security.” - a former senior US official close to current administration officials
  • “Russia could identify our sources or techniques.” - a senior US official
  • “I don't think that it would be that hard [for Russian spy services] to figure this out.” - a former intelligence official who worked on Russia-related issues
  • “He seems to get in the room or on the phone and just goes with it - and that has big downsides. Does he understand what's classified and what's not? That's what worries me.” - a former US official

Perhaps “reckless” is in the eye of the beholder. But it's going to take a lot of explaining from Ryan - and all the other Republicans who bashed Clinton, including Trump - why this situation is somehow less careless and less reckless and less dangerous than the one they lambasted Democrats for just a few months ago.

Copyright The Washington Post