Hillary Clinton could lose her security clearance necessary for access to classified government information under a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate this week.
This occurs against the backdrop of FBI Director James Comey formally declining on Tuesday to bring criminal charges against Clinton in the unsecure private server/email scandal, even though he described her handling or mishandling of sensitive and classified intelligence information as “extremely careless” while she was serving as U.S. secretary of State.
In testimony before the House of Representatives yesterday, Comey acknowledged that a federal government employee would likely face disciplinary action for equivalent infractions.
Although Clinton no longer works for the government, presidential nominees are traditionally entitled to national security briefings containing classified information, which puts her security clearance potentially into play.
U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) introduced the bill — titled the Taking Responsibility Using Secured Technologies Act — on Thursday that would prevent any similarly situated government official from holding a security clearance.
“If the FBI won’t recommend action based on its findings, Congress will. At the very least, Secretary Clinton should not have access to classified information and our bill makes sure of it,” said Senator Gardner.
Team Clinton called the Senate measure a blatant publicity stunt by Republicans.
Along similar lines, House Speaker Paul Ryan urged National Intelligence Director James Clapper to revoke Hillary Clinton’s security clearance, according to Politico. “There is no legal requirement for you to provide Secretary Clinton with classified information, and it would send the wrong signal to all those charged with safeguarding our nation’s secrets if you choose to provide her access to this information despite the FBI’s findings,” Ryan’s letter to Clapper insisted.
One of Ryan’s colleagues, Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) has also demanded “that top Obama administration officials bar Hillary Clinton and her former State Department aides from gaining access to classified information for the duration of her presidential campaign,” the Washington Free Beacon detailed.
Separately, 10 Republican senators, including Marco Rubio, have called upon John Kerry, Hillary Clinton’s replacement at the State Department, to suspend the presumptive Democrat presidential nominee’s security clearance along with those of her key aides, if any such clearances are still active, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The Rubio letter argued that this sanction is appropriate given the investigation summary announced by FBI Director Comey.
“There is simply no excuse for Hillary Clinton’s decision to set up a home-cooked email system which left sensitive and classified national security information vulnerable to theft and exploitation by America’s enemies. Her actions were grossly negligent, damaged national security and put lives at risk. Failure to impose any sanctions for these clear violations of State Department procedure undermines the integrity of the State Department’s system for handling classified information and sends the wrong message to the Department’s employees.”
During Capitol Hill testimony on Thursday, Comey declined to say whether Clinton could qualify for an FBI security clearance. A State Department spokesman also avoided answering a question about whether Clinton would be eligible for a security clearance if she applied today, the Weekly Standard noted.
In the meantime, the State Department has reopened its internal probe into her use of the private email server to conduct government business rather than on a presumably more secure dot.gov account.
During the hearing, Comey also wouldn’t comment about whether the Clinton Foundation is still subject to an FBI investigation. Clinton foes have claimed that foreign governments and multinational corporations made huge cash donations to the Clinton family charity in exchange for favorable treatment from the State Department while Hillary Clinton was in office, in what some critics have described as a pay-for-play or money laundering scheme.
Moreover, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told Comey during his testimony that he would submit a request for the bureau to investigate Clinton for allegedly lying under oath to Congress about classified information transmitted or received over the email server.
Writing in the Washington Post, a lawyer who specializes in security clearance cases assessed the issue as it relates to Hillary Clinton.
“My legal practice involves representing clients denied or at risk of losing their security clearances. Facing the same set of facts outlined by FBI Director James B. Comey about Hillary Clinton and her aides, my less-well-known clients — whether an entry-level government contractor or a GS-14 federal employee — would be in serious jeopardy of losing their security clearances. In fact, I cannot foresee a situation in which an ordinary employee facing such allegations would be able to keep a security clearance with the types of concerns raised in the FBI findings.”
Another lawyer with the same practice specialty told the New York Times that “I’ve never seen anything quite like this. You’ve got a situation here where the woman who would be in charge of setting national security policy as president has been deemed by the FBI unsuitable to safeguard and handle classified information.”
Thus, even if the TRUST Act becomes law, should Hillary Clinton be elected president in November, she will have unlimited access to top secret documents and information by virtue of her office, regardless of the status of her security clearance.
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