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Comparison of Hillary Clinton’s emails and Donald Trump’s file boxes

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Shortly after FBI agents raided his Mar-a-Lago estate, former President Donald Trump released a statement decrying the “militarization of the justice system.” He called the research “political targeting at the highest level” and compared what happened to him to what happened to his 2016 Democratic opponent.

“Hillary Clinton was authorized to delete and acid wash 33,000 emails AFTER they were subpoenaed by Congress,” Trump said Aug. 8 on his social media platform, Truth Social. “Absolutely nothing has happened to hold her accountable.”

During the 2016 presidential campaign, the chants of “lock her up, lock her up” featured regularly at Trump rallies.

Although she was never charged, Clinton’s use of a private email account for communication with her staff during her tenure as secretary of state prompted an FBI investigation.

Now, according to press accounts, the Justice Department is investigating Trump and the classified documents he took with him to Mar-a-Lago after leaving office. The Justice Department didn’t respond to questions about the search, so we don’t know if anything was removed from the property.

We explore the legal risks Trump faces in a related article. Here we ask, how do the situations of Clinton and Trump compare?

Clinton’s email troubles began in 2014, when the House Select Committee on Benghazi asked the State Department for all of her emails. The department didn’t have them all because, instead of just using the State Department’s email system (with an email address ending in @state.gov), Clinton used a personal email address ( @clintonemail.com) hosted on private servers located in his Chappaqua, New York, home.

In 2014, Clinton’s attorneys combed through the private server and forwarded about 30,000 work-related emails to the State Department and deleted the rest, which Clinton said related to personal matters, such as her daughter’s wedding plans.

Clinton has repeatedly stated that she has no classified email on her server, but the results of an FBI investigation revealed otherwise.

Of the tens of thousands of emails reviewed by investigators, 113 contained classified information, and three of them had classification markers. Former FBI Director James Comey said in 2016 that Clinton should have known some of the 113 were classified, but she might have missed others. In a sign of the uncertainty surrounding the classification, in 2018 a Department of Justice report found that the classification marks were unclear.

In the end, Clinton paid a political, not legal, price for her email practices. Republicans brandished the episode against her as proof that she was untrustworthy. Trump said she was “guilty as hell” and often raised the specter of what the roughly 30,000 personal emails she deleted might have contained. Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy said she showed a “fundamental lack of judgment and complete disregard” for national security matters.

The FBI released its findings in July 2016. Basically, it said classified information was passed on improperly, but the cause was negligence, not intent to circumvent the law. The issue started to fade, but it resurfaced in late October 2016, just before the election. Many believe that in a very thin election, this moment torpedoed his campaign.

Details of the warrant behind the search of Trump’s residence remain unclear. We know that Trump crossed swords with the National Archives when it became known that he took official documents with him when he left the White House. The Presidential Archives Act requires that everything go to the archives.

National Archives chief David Ferriero told the House Oversight and Reform Committee in February that his agency recovered 15 boxes of presidential records from Mar-a-Lago. Ferriero said they “identified items marked as classified national security information in the boxes.”

In an echo of Clinton’s email practices, Ferriero also said that “certain White House personnel conducted official business using unofficial email accounts that were not copied or forwarded to their official electronic mail, as required by Section 2209 of the Presidential Records Act.”

In 2018, about halfway through Trump’s presidency, the National Archives learned that Trump was tearing up documents, another violation of the rules. They contacted the White House attorneys office and things got better.

“White House staff were trying to glue them back together,” Ferriero told the House committee. “Although White House staff during the Trump administration recovered and saved some of the torn documents, a number of other torn documents that were transferred have not been pieced together by the White House.”

It is not clear from Ferrieros’ letter whether the documents torn up before the intervention of the National Archives have been preserved. Trump said his staff cooperated with the National Archives at the time of the raid.

Bradley Moss, a Washington-based attorney who works on national security cases, said Clinton’s and Trump’s cases are very different.

“Trump took properly marked classified paper documents from the White House, shipped them to Florida and stored them in an unsecured location at his residence,” Moss said.

The presence of classified information in Clinton’s emails was less obvious.

“The emails were never marked as classified because they were communications from unclassified government accounts,” Moss said.

In three cases, the email strings included information with classification markers. It was never clear that Clinton was aware of the presence of this marked information, or whether the classification marking was clear.

Tagged information should not be confused with emails containing untagged information that could be considered classified. It is a more flexible definition and can be applied retroactively. Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archives at George Washington University, said in one instance, an email in a chain passed on a New York Times front-page story about a drone strike. According to its rules, the CIA called it classified, Blanton said.

When classified information was clearly involved, Blanton said “Clinton’s briefings were conducted on a different system, a classified Blackberry that was run by State Department IT people.”

Clinton’s emails included times when staffers wrote that to get into specifics, they would have to go through a secure State Department system.

Moss warned that while some Mar-a-Lago documents were clearly marked as classified, many questions remain, such as “where the documents were originally located, who boxed them, when Trump became aware of the existence of the Mar-a-Lago documents, and what efforts, if any, Trump made to rectify the situation once he was made aware of them.

The answers to those questions, he said, would help determine whether anyone could be held criminally liable and whether Trump himself faces legal risk.

As for the personal emails Clinton erased, the FBI said its investigation may have found some. Overall, the agency said it was reasonably confident there was no willful misconduct.

RELATED: PolitiFact Sheet: Hillary Clinton Email Controversy

RELATED:FBI findings poke holes in defense of Hillary Clinton emails

RELATED: Can Donald Trump run for president if he’s accused and convicted of suppressing official documents?

This article was originally published by PolitiFact, part of the Poynter Institute. It is republished here with permission. See the sources for these fact checks here and more of their fact checks here.

Sources

1/ https://Google.com/

2/ https://www.poynter.org/fact-checking/2022/comparing-hillary-clintons-emails-and-donald-trumps-boxes-of-files/

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