Justice, When Your Name Is Not ‘Clinton’

Bill and Hillary Clinton, center, greet people as they exit the funeral for Mario Cuomo at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in New York, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Although FBI Director James Comey declined to recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton, his investigation confirmed an alarming number of statutory violations by the ex-Secretary of State.

Hillary Clinton lied under oath while testifying on Capitol Hill about her email scandal.  (Typically, lying to authorities during a government investigation is a crime – just ask Martha Stewart.)

Hillary Clinton was in unlawful electronic possession of classified government documents that she failed to return to Washington, DC.  (Typically, possessing and disseminating classified government documents without following the proper rules is a crime – just ask General Petraeus.)

Hillary Clinton illegally downloaded and stored classified government documents on her private server.  (Typically, downloading and storing classified government documents on an unauthorized device is a crime – just ask Naval Reservist Brian Nishimura, who was prosecuted and sentenced for doing just that, despite lacking criminal intent.)

Yet Mrs. Clinton inexplicably received a “Get Out of Jail” card, because Director Comey claimed that he lacked iron-clad proof that her extreme negligence, carelessness and gross incompetence was intentional… possibly, perhaps, because her inner-circle refused to cooperate with the government investigation.

Forget about double standards.  Heck, forget about triple and quadruple standards – at this point, Mrs. Clinton’s so-called “standards” need an exponent!

But what’s particularly perplexing about the actions (or lack thereof) of the Department of Justice is that they haven’t always been so accommodating when it comes to emails.

My own emails were successfully subpoenaed by the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice last year.

No, I wasn’t the Secretary of State.  I wasn’t even a government employee.  Nor was I accused of any wrongdoing, or any unethical behavior whatsoever.  But I still had to turn over my emails… and unlike Mrs. Clinton, I had to turn over ALL the emails they requested.

(And by the way, the DOJ considered my “intent” to be irrelevant.)

In 2012, a married woman in Tampa Bay named Jill Kelley inadvertently triggered the General Petraeus scandal when she contacted the FBI after an unknown stalker threatened her family.  The stalker was later revealed to be Paula Broadwell, the mistress of General David Petraeus… and almost immediately, all hell broke loose: Untrue and very, very ugly allegations about Mrs. Kelley were “mysteriously” leaked to the media, and she later filed a civil suit against the federal government.

Mrs. Kelley suspected that key members of the Obama Administration were behind these leaks.

In 2014 – two years after her reputation had been shredded, and after she filed her lawsuit – she asked me to help her, because I’m a branding, marketing and media relations expert who assists clients with crisis communications.  (Note: To read Jill Kelley’s firsthand account of her ordeal, you can purchase her book, Collateral Damage.)

Alas, the Department of Justice wasn’t as accommodating to me as Director Comey was to Mrs. Clinton:

The DOJ demanded I turn over ALL my emails to the media where we discussed Mrs. Kelley’s situation – and the subpoena specifically demanded that I also turn over ALL off-the-record emails (i.e. emails that were intended and agreed-upon to be kept strictly private, and had absolutely no bearing on anything that was printed, published or broadcast).

What relevance any of my emails had on Mrs. Kelley’s lawsuit (particularly off-the-record emails!) is still beyond me, since she was the one claiming that her privacy had been violated by the Obama Administration, and I began helping her long after her reputation had already been dragged through the mud via the malfeasance of others.  So clearly, anything I could’ve discussed with the media would’ve been after she had already been harmed!  Barring a DeLorean-esque time machine, there’s absolutely no conceivable way I could’ve played a role in leaking information to the media during the relevant timeframe.  Indeed, I didn’t overtly – or covertly – place a single story in the press.

But being required to turn over my emails to the government was an intimidating, hardball tactic by the Department of Justice.

Forcing someone in my line of work to violate an off-the-record agreement with a colleague in the media is extraordinarily disconcerting – and that’s putting it mildly.  It comes awfully close to infringing on the free speech protections of the First Amendment, and if the Obama Administration’s conduct becomes the “new normal” it would greatly limit PR professionals from being able to assist private citizens who’ve been victimized by the government.

I believe it was unfair and unwarranted.  I don’t understand why I was compelled by the DOJ to turn over ALL the emails they demanded, but the former Secretary of State was allowed to skate free.

But then again, my last name isn’t “Clinton.”


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