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 biggest names involved in the Trump-Russia investigation
The biggest names involved in the Trump-Russia investigation
1/11 Paul Manafort
Mr Manafort is a Republican strategist and former Trump campaign manager. He resigned from that post over questions about his extensive lobbying overseas, including in Ukraine where he represented pro-Russian interests.
2/11 Mike Flynn
Mr Flynn was named as Trump's national security adviser but was forced to resign from his post for inappropriate communication with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. He had misrepresented a conversation he had with Mr Kislyak to Vice President Mike Pence, telling him wrongly that he had not discussed sanctions with the Russian.
3/11 Sergey Kislyak
Mr Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US, is at the centre of the web said to connect President Donald Trump's campaign with Russia.
4/11 Roger Stone
Mr Stone is a former Trump adviser who worked on the political campaigns of Richard Nixon, George HW Bush, and Ronald Reagan. Mr Stone claimed repeatedly in the final months of the campaign that he had backchannel communications with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and that he knew the group was going to dump damaging documents to the campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton - which did happen. Mr Stone also had contacts with the hacker Guccier 2.0 on Twitter, who claimed to have hacked the DNC and is linked to Russian intelligence services.
5/11 Jeff Sessions
The US attorney general was forced to recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation after it was learned that he had lied about meeting with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak.
6/11 Carter Page
Mr Page is a former advisor to the Trump campaign and has a background working as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch. Mr Page met with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Mr Page had invested in oil companies connected to Russia and had admitted that US Russia sanctions had hurt his bottom line.
7/11 Jeffrey "JD" Gorden
Mr Gordon met with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 Republian National Convention to discuss how the US and Russia could work together to combat Islamist extremism should then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump win the election. The meeting came days before a massive leak of DNC emails that has been connected to Russia.
8/11 Jared Kushner
Mr Kushner is President Donald Trump's son-in-law and a key adviser to the White House. He met with a Russian banker appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in December. Mr Kushner has said he did so in his role as an adviser to Mr Trump while the bank says he did so as a private developer. Mr Kushner has also volunteered to testify in the Senate about his role helping to arrange meetings between Trump advisers and Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak.
9/11 James Comey
Mr Comey was fired from his post as head of the FBI by President Donald Trump. The timing of Mr Comey's firing raised questions around whether or not the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign may have played a role in the decision.
10/11 Preet Bharara
Mr Bahara refused, alongside 46 other US district attorney's across the country, to resign once President Donald Trump took office after previous assurances from Mr Trump that he would keep his job. Mr Bahara had been heading up several investigations including one into one of President Donald Trump's favorite cable television channels Fox News. Several investigations would lead back to that district, too, including those into Mr Trump's campaign ties to Russia, and Mr Trump's assertion that Trump Tower was wiretapped on orders from his predecessor.
11/11 Sally Yates
Ms Yates, a former Deputy Attorney General, was running the Justice Department while President Donald Trump's pick for attorney general awaited confirmation. Ms Yates was later fired by Mr Trump from her temporary post over her refusal to implement Mr Trump's first travel ban. She had also warned the White House about potential ties former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to Russia after discovering those ties during the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign's connections to Russia.
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 PostReuse content