Nothing to See Here

GOP Leaders Giving Trump a Pass on Careless Handling of Classified Info

Written by Sruthi Palaniappan and Kaelin Delaney on May 16, 2017


Editor's note: Sruthi Palaniappan and Kaelin Delaney are Common Cause interns

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Republicans routinely criticized Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for using a private email server to do official business as Secretary of State. They accused her of mishandling classified information and even demanded her indictment.

On his website, Rep. Tom Marino, R-PA, condemned Clinton’s “extremely reckless manner with regards to classified information.”  She “[hid] her actions and continuously fed a false narrative to the public,” Marino added, and should “have to answer for her complete disregard for the truth.”

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-TX, asserted that Clinton committed treason by exposing sensitive information to potential hacks by foreign agents. “This is why you have security protocols — to protect classified information,” he said. “She exposed it to our enemies, and now … our adversaries have this very sensitive information that not only jeopardizes her and national security at home, but the men and women serving overseas.”

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-WI, suggested that Clinton should be impeached if elected. Anyone who mishandles classified information should “forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States,” he argued.

Last but not least, House Speaker Paul Ryan suggested that when someone “recklessly handle[s] classified information” we should “suspend all classified briefings...until [the] matter is fully resolved.”

But today, amid reports the President Trump shared classified information with Russian leaders during a meeting in the Oval Office, Republican lawmakers are in a more forgiving mood. Some are calling on Trump to provide more information about what he told the Russians, but none are talking about impeachment or indictment.

Asked about Trump’s interactions with Russia, Speaker Ryan voices no objection to the president’s continued receipt of classified briefings. He argued last week that an independent federal investigation of the president’s possible Russia connections is not a “good idea” and cites investigations already underway in the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, and by the FBI. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also is opposed to an independent investigation or the appointment of a special prosecutor.

A double standard clearly is at work here. Clinton was accused of handling classified information carelessly, leaving it open to discovery by computer hackers. Trump has admitted sharing classified information with Russia, a foreign adversary. Sharing of classified information, regardless of who does it, is dangerous and unethical but Trump’s acknowledged actions surely are at least as serious - and arguably more so - than the accusations against Clinton.

Office: Common Cause National

Issues: Ethics

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