The following is an excerpt from the opening statement delivered in United States District Court for the District of Columbia on January 24, 2017, the first day of Hillary Clinton’s criminal trial.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the story you are about to hear is the story of a powerful person who believed her needs and her desires trumped federal law, who believed rules are for the little people. It’s a story of a woman who was running the State Department with one eye on the White House and — because of her own political needs — established a private means of communication that placed America’s national security at risk.
The fact that she sent and received classified information on her civilian account is now beyond dispute. Audits have revealed that hundreds of her e-mails contained classified information, including information deemed Top Secret and information from U.S. Africa Command detailing “Libyan troop strength and movements.” She stored this information on a private, unsecured server, and transmitted it on a private, unsecured smartphone, never having been issued the State Department’s standard, secure device.
In her defense, Mrs. Clinton will no doubt claim that this case is all politics, that she’s innocent of any legal wrongdoing because she never sent or received e-mails with information that was “marked” classified, which is “the way you know” how to handle such information. Yet this statement is false, and she knows it’s false.
Every single federal employee who handles classified information — from the secretary of state to administrative assistants and Army sergeants — is required to protect both “marked and unmarked” classified information. Indeed, they are each required to sign a document — called the Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement — that clearly states this responsibility, a responsibility that’s not just a legal mandate but also a matter of sheer common sense.
Federal employees — especially high-level federal employees who respond to real-time events — often receive information before it has an opportunity to be marked. In fact, Mrs. Clinton even had the power to classify unmarked information herself. She was, in other words, one of a handful of people in the United States government charged with having the expertise to know and discern when information is or should be secret. The evidence in this case will show — and expert testimony will confirm — that Mrs. Clinton knew that satellite intelligence, information about troop movements, and other sensitive materials on her personal e-mail system were exactly the kinds of knowledge she’d been charged by law to protect.
Now, let’s turn to the law. 18 U.S.C. Section 793(f) says this:
(f) Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense,
(1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or
(2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
The “proper place of custody” for the classified and even unclassified national defense information in Mrs. Clinton’s custody was a secure government server, computer, or smartphone. She displayed “gross negligence” in placing classified information on civilian servers. She displayed gross negligence in keeping classified information on her personal smartphone. And she displayed gross negligence when she handed that same information to her own lawyer.
Mrs. Clinton — working with key aides — ran for her own political convenience a communications system that wasn’t just shoddy or sloppy, but illegal.
You will hear testimony of the extraordinary precautions that other government officials take to protect information vital to America’s national security, which include using entirely separate e-mail systems and storing servers in secured rooms guarded with thick walls and armed personnel. You will also hear expert testimony about the extreme challenges of guarding that same vital information from foreign powers. These same experts will tell you that Mrs. Clinton’s private server was far less secure than the State Department’s systems. Indeed, they have “no doubt” her server was compromised, and it may take years to determine the full extent of the damage she did to our national defense.
But Mrs. Clinton isn’t just guilty of gross negligence. Her actions were intentional. 18 U.S.C. Section 1924 says this:
(a) Whoever, being an officer, employee, contractor, or consultant of the United States, and, by virtue of his office, employment, position, or contract, becomes possessed of documents or materials containing classified information of the United States, knowingly removes such documents or materials without authority and with the intent to retain such documents or materials at an unauthorized location shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.
(b) For purposes of this section, the provision of documents and materials to the Congress shall not constitute an offense under subsection (a).
(c) In this section, the term “classified information of the United States” means information originated, owned, or possessed by the United States Government concerning the national defense or foreign relations of the United States that has been determined pursuant to law or Executive order to require protection against unauthorized disclosure in the interests of national security.
There is no question that Ms. Clinton’s private server and her personal smart phone were “unauthorized locations” for classified information. Her only defense is the specious claim that she didn’t know the information was classified when she stored and sent it, because it wasn’t marked. Yet, as I’ve already stated, Mrs. Clinton was charged by law with protecting even “unmarked” classified information, and we will prove beyond any reasonable doubt that her claims to somehow not have known that satellite intelligence, information about troop movements, and information about diplomatic movements were classified are simply not credible. You will hear from witness after witness who will describe the sensitivity of this information and the standard operating procedures for handling it — procedures that Mrs. Clinton knew quite well.
The bottom line is quite simple, Mrs. Clinton — working with key aides — ran for her own political convenience a communications system that wasn’t just shoddy or sloppy, but illegal. She placed American secrets at risk, and in so doing placed American national security — and thus American lives — at risk. For what purpose? So that she could insulate herself from accountability? So that she could delete messages she didn’t want the public or other government officials to read? Mrs. Clinton claims she’s protecting the privacy of her “yoga routines.”The people of the United States don’t care about their former secretary of state’s exercise habits. They do, however, care deeply about our national security and our rule of law.
Ladies and gentlemen, you have a sacred duty in this case — to put aside your political preferences, to ignore the incredible wealth and power of the defendant, and to simply apply the law. And when you do, we are confident that you will find Hillary Rodham Clinton guilty of each and every count in the indictment. Thank you.
— David French is an attorney, a staff writer at National Review, and a veteran of the Iraq War.