Let’s get down to brass tacks: Hillary Rodham Clinton should be criminally charged for failing to turn over her government emails as mandated by law.
It’s not a hard call. While she nominated to be Secretary of State by President Obama, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, she’s just like any other government employee — there were documents she was required by law to sign over upon her departure.
When she stepped down from her post — in the midst of the Benghazi scandal — she would have been required to sign the State Department’s “Separation Statement,” AKA Form 109.
“I have surrendered to responsible officials all classified or administratively controlled documents and material with which I was charged or which I had in my possession, and I am not retaining in my possession, custody, or control, documents,” the form says.
And “I have surrendered to responsible officials all unclassified documents and papers relating to the official business of the Government acquired by me while in the employ of the Department or USIA.”
Here’s the nut graf: “I have been advised by the interviewing officer whose signature appears below and fully understand that Section 1001 of Title 18, United States Code, provides criminal penalties for knowingly and willfully falsifying or concealing material fact in a statement or document submitted to any department or agency of the United States Government concerning a matter under its jurisdiction.”
That’s exactly what Mrs. Clinton did: She “knowingly and willfully” concealed documents from the State Department, namely thousands and thousands of emails she had sent and received on a nongovernment email address — which she ran via a private server in her own home.
Her last day as Secretary of State was Feb. 1, 2013. Yet last week she held a press conference to say that she had just recently turned over some 55,000 documents. Thus, it’s cut and dried that she violated the law. She left the State Department without turning over documents as required by law, which makes her in violation of the law and subject to criminal charges.
Many people have been prosecuted under this statue, most notably I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and TV star Martha Stewart. Mr. Libby, who was chief of staff to then-Vice President Dick Cheney, who was charged under Section 1001 with two counts of making false statements.
Now, no one yet knows if she actually signed the form upon departure. Reporters aren’t asking, the State Department’s not saying. But there’s no question that the government is a stickler for forms and proper procedure, so it’s highly likely that she did.
But there’s more than just the legal form. The House Select Committee on Benghazi has demanded Mrs. Clinton’s email regarding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack that left four Americans dead. Rep. Darrell Issa, who has led the probe, said last week “it will be a crime if she knowingly withheld pursuant to the subpoena.”
And even though Mrs. Clinton has cooperated on the emails, Mr. Issa commented that her “voluntary cooperation does not guarantee that it’s not a crime to deliver all” of the documents.
“If you use a non-government e-mail, you forward it to your official account or you print it out and that preserves them,” Mr. Issa said. “She left office with her documents.”
He added that three subpoenas were issued while he chaired the House Oversight Committee, but there were documents that were “never produced.”
What’s more, journalist and watchdog groups have sought documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). But because the State Department was searching only its own database for compliant documents — not Mrs. Clinton’s private server in her home — many documents were never handed over.
“Countless Freedom of Information Act requests would have gotten those documents had they been in the public domain,” Mr. Issa said. “We may never get many of them, because we don’t know what we don’t know when it’s on a server where the click of a button can delete records forever.”
Mrs. Clinton says she deleted nearly 32,000 emails that she and her lawyers deemed private.
Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, has tried for years to get documents.
“We had hundreds of requests. The State Department knew from the beginning these records weren’t being searched, and no one told us about it, no one told the courts about it,” Mr. Fitton said.
The Associated Press has filed a lawsuit to get to Hillary’s emails, so the matter will one day go before a judge. And Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who was held in contempt of Congress but refused to turn over documents anyway, will be replaced soon, perhaps by someone who might adhere to the law.
But either way, voters will get to weigh in far sooner than the law does. They’ll get a say on whether they trust the disgraced secretary of state in just nine months. My guess is the result won’t be pretty.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @josephcurl.