FRIDAY, AUGUST 19, 2022
How about Donald J. Trump? Last week, over at Slate, veteran journalist Fred Kaplan returned to a high-profile theme.
Kaplan returned to the topic of Hillary Clinton's emails. More precisely, he returned to the question of how much top-secret material Hillary's emails contained.
Donald J. Trump was pimping this theme as an instant reaction to the search of Mar-a-Lago. Within a matter of days, complaints about a certain "double standard" began to appear in phone calls to C-Span's Washington Journal.
Allegedly, Clinton hadn't been forced to pay a price for her 30,000 emails. Now, the jack-booted thugs had descended on Mar-a-Lago, beating on Donald J. Trump.
At issue was the amount of "classified material" exposed by Hillary Clinton. Over at Slate, Kaplan recalled what he had reported back in real time, when the endless "Emailgate" scandal helped sent Trump to the White House.
KAPLAN (8/12/22): While we’re on the subject, what about Hillary’s email? Of the 30,000 emails that the FBI examined, eight were found to contain Top Secret information. Seven of them were about CIA drone strikes, which had been reported in the newspapers (but were still technically classified). The other one was an account of a telephone conversation with the president of Malawi. (All conversations with foreign leaders are, by definition, Top Secret.) In other words, she revealed nothing remotely about nuclear weapons, signals intelligence, or anything that might have enlightened a foreign spy.
In that brief paragraph, Kaplan revisited the information he'd presented in real time. To wit:
Under the heroic James Comey, the FBI had indeed examined "30,000 emails" in its pursuit of Emailgate. That said, of the 30,000 emails, only eight (8) contained material technically marked "Top Secret."
According to Kaplan, the whole thing got a great deal dumber from there. Seven (7) of those "Top Secret" emails concerned drone strikes which everyone with access to newspapers already knew about.
The eighth "Top Secret" email included an account of a telephone conversation—a conversation with the president of Malawi. "In other words," Kaplan now said all over again, "she revealed nothing remotely about nuclear weapons, signals intelligence, or anything that might have enlightened a foreign spy."
That's what Fred Kaplan reported again last week. Two days later, the very first phone call to Washington Journal included a complaint about the soft treatment Clinton received concerning her "30,000 emails," followed by the claim that the search of Mar-a-Lago was reminiscent of "Gestapo tactics" and of the East German Stasi.
That first caller voiced a bitter complaint about the "double standard" involved in the soft treatment Clinton received, as opposed to the Gestapo tactics now being employed against one Donald J. Trump.
We're going to take a guess:
We'll guess that the caller, John from New York, had never heard the summary provided by Fred Kaplan. He'd never heard it said that, of Clinton's 30,000 emails, only eight (8) involved "Top Secret" material, and none (0) of the eight revealed "anything that might have enlightened a foreign spy."
How much top secret material did Donald Trump have in his Mar-a-Lago storage areas? As we've noted again and again, we still can't tell you that.
Did he have a lot of top secret material, or did he have just a little? Some day, we'll probably have an answer to that. At present, we rubes don't actually know.
That said, Kaplan was giving a six-year-old assessment of the amount of such material found in those 30,000 emails, and of their fatuous nature. We'll guess that John from New York had never heard that account.
There are several reasons for that. Briefly, one key point:
As with Kaplan, to too here. We're focusing on material classified as "top secret" because of the what Michael Gerson recently said.
American intelligence circles are famous for so-called "over-classification." According to assessments which were fairly standard when Kaplan wrote his original report, materials classified as "Confidential" are barely worth considering at all as a national security matter, and materials classified as "Secret" aren't worth much more than that.
Only materials classified as "Top Secret" are likely to present a challenge to national security. According to Kaplan, Clinton's 30,000 emails contained only eight (8) which bore such markings, and those eight (8) emails didn't contain anything of interest to any foreign spy.
For the record, Kaplan's inventory largely tracks that provided by FBI director James Comey on July 5, 2016, when he offered his famously ill-advised Overreach Heard Round the World.
Big-footing his way past his boss, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Comey had offered a long, remarkably pompous address concerning his view of Clinton's email.
According to policy, he shouldn't have made any statement at all. But when he did, he said this:
COMEY (7/5/16): FBI investigators have also read all of the approximately 30,000 e-mails provided by Secretary Clinton to the State Department in December 2014. Where an e-mail was assessed as possibly containing classified information, the FBI referred the e-mail to any U.S. government agency that was a likely “owner” of information in the e-mail, so that agency could make a determination as to whether the e-mail contained classified information at the time it was sent or received, or whether there was reason to classify the e-mail now, even if its content was not classified at the time it was sent (that is the process sometimes referred to as “up-classifying”).
From the group of 30,000 e-mails returned to the State Department, 110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received. Eight of those chains contained information that was Top Secret at the time they were sent; 36 chains contained Secret information at the time; and eight contained Confidential information, which is the lowest level of classification. Separate from those, about 2,000 additional e-mails were “up-classified” to make them Confidential; the information in those had not been classified at the time the e-mails were sent.
According to the book, Comey shouldn't have been discussing this matter at all. If anyone had discussed this matter in public, it should have been his boss, Attorney General Lynch.
Despite all this, Comey proceeded to offer a long, extremely pompous speech in which he savaged Clinton for her "extremely careless handling of very sensitive, highly classified information." The very next day—on July 6, 2016—Kaplan presented this alternate report in Slate, making the same points he recalled on Friday last.
In that original report for Slate, Comey agreed with Kaplan's basic count. Of the 30,000 emails (or email chains), only eight included material classified as "Top Secret."
According to Kaplan, those eight emails (or email chains) contained nothing of interest to any spy. They contained "Top Secret" information only in the narrow technical sense. That represents Fred Kaplan's account of Hillary's 30,000 emails.
By way of contrast, how much top secret material may have been stored at Mar-a-Lago? At present, no one knows outside the Justice Department, except of course for Donald J. Trump (perhaps).
How much top secret material did Donald Trump have? As a point of basic fairness and basic integrity, we're prepared to wait a while until we all find out. Others have excitedly plowed ahead, offering thrilling accounts.
Meanwhile, though, the obvious occurred:
Donald J. Trump began to shout about Clinton's "30,000 emails." Within a matter of days, John from New York was calling C-Span, speaking with urgency about the double standard on display in the FBI's Gestapo tactics.
We have no reason to doubt the fact that John from New York is a good, decent person. We feel quite sure that he fully believed the various things he said in that call.
Why does John believe the things he believes? The reason for that tracks back to Trump, but also to a wide range of multimillionaire "corporate liberals," including such widely-trusted tribal leaders as Rachel Maddow.
Comey went all pompous on Candidate Clinton on July 5, 2016. From Day One, it was widely noted that he had gotten way out over his skis by making any statement at all.
The very next day, Kaplan appeared with an inventory of the emails in question. And then, a giant silence settled over the world—the Silence of the Corporate Liberal Lambs.
Gack! From July right through to late October, Maddow never mentioned Comey's name on her nightly program—not once.
Kaplan appeared on zero MSNBC shows to discuss the taxonomy he had reported. For reasons which have gone unexplained, the corporate lambs of The One True Channel kept their mouths tightly shut.
We discussed this silence again and again back at the time it occurred. Why was Comey granted this pass? Why wasn't Kaplan interviewed on The One True Channel?
To this day, we can't tell you that. That said, that first phone call to Sunday's Washington Journal helps us see where corporate silence of this type has taken us down through the years.
(We would date this liberal silence at least to early 1992. No one spoke as the bullshit rained down on Clinton and Clinton, and then on Candidate Gore.)
Back in 2016, everyone understood, from Day One, that Comey had been out of line just by making that pompous address—but so what? Until he did it again in late October, Comey was granted a total pass by Maddow and her various "friends" on The One True Liberal Channel, the friendliest place on Earth.
In large part for that very reason, very few people have ever heard the inventory Kaplan presented. He presented it again last Friday. Once again, it disappeared.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But our nation, such as it has been, has started to disappear.
People like John are being misled. But so are we Over Here, locked inside our own blue tribal lands.
On cable news, the various stars, and their very good friends, have routinely shown poor judgment down through the many long years. This dates back to the endless liberal silences of the Clinton-Gore years.
In our view, MSNBC's latest recruit has been showing that same poor judgment in the 9 o'clock hour this week. But as we listened to John's phone call on Sunday last, we recalled what Fred Kaplan said.
Kaplan is a veteran reporter. His report about The Hillary 30,000 was met with total silence, back then as well as now.
First in July 2016 and then again in late October, Comey's inappropriate conduct sent Donald J. Trump to the White House. To this day, the pitiful story behind the story has pretty much never been told.
John from New York has never heard it. Neither has anyone else!