April 23, 2015: Petraeus is given a remarkably lenient plea bargain despite his serious security violations.

CIA Director David Petraeus (Credit: public domain)

CIA Director David Petraeus (Credit: public domain)

A federal judge sentences former CIA director and general David Petraeus to two years of probation and a $100,000 fine for giving his biographer and lover, Paula Broadwell, access to notebooks, classified information about official meetings, war strategy, and intelligence capabilities. Petraeus had been the CIA director from 2011 to 2012, but he was forced to quit due to the scandal. (The New York Times, 4/23/2015) 

The FBI seeks jail time for him, but doesn’t get it due to the plea bargain with the Justice Department. The New York Times will later report that FBI Director James Comey made the case to Attorney General Eric Holder that “Mr. Petraeus deserved to face strenuous charges. But the Justice Department overruled the FBI, and the department allowed Mr. Petraeus to plead guilty to a misdemeanor.” (The New York Times, 10/16/2015) The sentence is considered surprisingly light, given the evidence.

In 2016, the Washington Post will report, “FBI officials were angered by the deal and predicted it would affect the outcome of other cases involving classified information.” One former US law enforcement official will complain the deal “was handled so lightly for his offense there isn’t a whole lot you can do.” (The Washington Post, 3/2/2016)

August 17, 2015: A State Department official tells the FBI about 1,000 previously unknown emails between Clinton and David Petraeus.

Obama announces that he will nominate current CIA Director Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense, Gen. David Petraeus as the next director of the CIA on April 11, 2011. (Credit: CNN)

Obama announces that he will nominate current CIA Director Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense, and General David Petraeus as the next director of the CIA on April 11, 2011. (Credit: CNN)

An unnamed State Department official who works in the Office of Information Programs and Services (IPS) is interviewed by the FBI on this day. According to a later FBI summary of the interview, she claims that around August 10, 2015, just a week before the interview, “[redacted] from Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) called [her] and told her Centcom records showed approximately 1,000 work-related emails between Clinton’s personal email and General David Petraeus, former commander of Centcom and former director of the CIA. Most of those 1,000 emails were not believed to be included in the 30,000 emails that IPS was reviewing. Out of the 30,000 emails, IPS only had a few emails from or related to Petraeus…” She “recommended the FBI should talk with [redacted] regarding the alleged 1,000 emails between Clinton and Petraeus.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/23/2016)

On September 25, 2015, the New York Times will report on the existence of 19 work-related emails between Clinton and Petraeus sent in January 2009 that were not turned over when Clinton gave what she said was all her 30,000 work-related emails to the State Department in December 2014. Since that time, neither these 19 emails nor any other of the alleged 1,000 emails between them have been made public.

September 29, 2015: Some former government whistleblowers believe that “the scales of justice weigh differently for [Clinton] and other senior officials than it does” for low-level government employees.

Danielle Bryan (Credit: The Project on Government Oversight)

Danielle Bryan (Credit: The Project on Government Oversight)

This is according to McClatchy Newspapers. Cabinet-level officials like John Deutch, Sandy Berger, Leon Panetta, and David Petraeus were charged with mishandling classified information, and yet all of them escaped jail. Thus, some believe that Clinton “will get off easy,” due to the politically powerful getting special treatment.

Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), says that whistleblowers who reveal confidential or classified information have “lost their livelihoods, have been prosecuted, have even had their homes raided for heroically trying to stop wrongdoing. This is a far cry from how politically connected senior officials who have actually mishandled classified information, either for convenience or for self-aggrandizement, are treated. This double standard is frankly un-American.” (McClatchy Newspapers, 9/29/2015)

December 31, 2015: The State Department hasn’t asked other departments to help find any missing Clinton emails.

In September 2015, the Defense Department gave the State Department some emails between Clinton and former Army General David Petraeus that Clinton had previously not turned over. However, in the months since, the State Department does not appear to have reached out to other departments to determine if they also have copies of emails Clinton failed to turn over. McClatchy Newspapers questioned over a dozen other departments. All of them either said they hadn’t been contacted by the State Department about this or failed to give an answer.

The State Department has not explained why it has failed to ask for help from other departments. It’s unclear how the Defense Department determined it had the emails between Clinton and Petraeus or why it turned them over. (McClatchy Newspapers, 12/31/2015)

January 28, 2016: The Navy’s intelligence chief had his security clearance suspended during an investigation, but Petraeus and Clinton did not.

Vice Admiral Ted Branch (Credit: public domain)

Vice Admiral Ted Branch (Credit: public domain)

Vice Admiral Ted Branch had his security clearance suspended in November 2013, after the Navy learned his name surfaced in a Justice Department-led corruption investigation involving dozens of Navy personnel. No evidence has emerged that he compromised military secrets or committed any crimes. However, over 800 days later he has neither been charged nor cleared. He is the head of the Navy’s intelligence division, but he has less access to classified information than the lowest ranking sailor. He can’t even walk into any office without it being swept by security personnel first to make sure any classified documents are locked up. (The Washington Post, 1/28/2016)

By contrast, news reports indicate that neither Clinton nor any of her top aides have had their security clearances suspended, despite the ongoing FBI’s investigation into the mismanagement of classified information in their unsecured emails. Additionally, when CIA Director David Petraeus came under FBI investigation for mismanaging classified information in late 2012, his security clearance also was not formally revoked. He only had it suspended after he resigned. (Bloomberg News, 2/4/2016)

May 3, 2016: Clinton’s email scandal is likened to the charges that led to David Petraeus’ conviction.

Nathan Sales (Credit: Syracuse University)

Nathan Sales (Credit: Syracuse University)

Law professor Nathan Sales compares a possible indictment of Clinton with the conviction of former CIA Director David Petraeus in 2013.

He notes that Petraeus did not ultimately plead guilty to sharing classified information with his mistress and biographer, but to charges related to keeping the information in a desk drawer inside his house. “The conduct that is being investigated [in Clinton’s case]—keeping the documents on an unclassified server—that’s kind of the digital equivalent of locking it in your desk drawer, which is ultimately what did in General Petraeus. […] Based on what we do know so far, I think there is a not insignificant chance that a grand jury could look at the facts and say, ‘Actually, she may have violated various laws protecting classified information.’” (Rolling Stone, 5/3/2016)

July 1, 2016: Attorney General Loretta Lynch will accept whatever recommendations the FBI and career prosecutors give in the Clinton investigation.

Jonathan Capehart interviews U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the Aspen Ideas Festival on July 1, 2016. (Credit: MSNBC)

Jonathan Capehart interviews Attorney General Loretta Lynch in Aspen, Colorado, on July 1, 2016. (Credit: MSNBC)

Attorney General Loretta Lynch says of the FBI’s Clinton investigation, “The recommendations will be reviewed by career supervisors in the Department of Justice and in the FBI, and by the FBI director, and then as is the common process, they present it to me and I fully expect to accept their recommendations.”

She doesn’t completely recuse herself from the process, saying that if she did that she wouldn’t even be able to see the FBI’s report. She says, “While I don’t have a role in those findings, in coming up with those findings or making those recommendations as to how to go forward, I will be briefed on it and I will be accepting their recommendations.” (Politico, 7/1/2016)

The New York Times comments, “Her decision removes the possibility that a political appointee will overrule investigators in the case.” The Justice Department supposedly had been moving towards the arrangement since at least April 2016, but a private meeting on June 27, 2016 between Lynch and Hillary’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, “set off a political furor and made the decision all but inevitable.” (The New York Times, 7/1/2016)

Lynch claims that she had been planning to essentially recuse herself for months, although there is no evidence of this. But it seems clear her controversial meeting with Clinton played a role. She says of the meeting, “I certainly wouldn’t do it again. Because I think it has cast a shadow.” (Politico, 7/1/2016)

The Times says that the US attorney general often follows the recommendations of career prosecutors, so she “is keeping the regular process largely intact.” However, when the FBI, led by Comey, wanted to bring felony charges against former CIA Director David Petraeus in 2013, Lynch’s predecessor Eric Holder arranged a plea deal, reducing the charge to a misdemeanor and no jail time. The created a “deep and public rift” between the FBI and the Justice Department. (The New York Times, 7/1/2016)

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest says President Obama didn’t play a role in Lynch’s decision, nor did he offer input on her decision to make that announcement. (Politico, 7/1/2016)

July 7, 2016: The non-prosecution of Clinton could make it more difficult to get convictions in other cases.

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Gregory Greiner (Credit: public domain)

In the wake of FBI Director James Comey’s decision not to recommend Clinton’s indictment, the Washington Post reports, “The extraordinary case of Hillary Clinton and her emails raises intriguing questions for federal employees facing charges related to classified materials. … Because she has escaped prosecution, will others, too?”

Mark Zaid, a lawyer who specializes in national security employment cases, says that after former CIA Director David Petraeus got what was seen as a very generous plea deal, resulting in no prison time despite pleading guilty to mishandling classified material, he used that case to push for leniency for one of his clients “right away. I mean, literally, the ink was not dry.” Zaid’s client also was charged with mishandling classified information, but “We talked to the prosecutors and said, ‘We want the Petraeus deal.’ We got it.” Zaid plans to use Clinton’s case to push for leniency in future cases.

National security lawyer Gregory Greiner similarly argues that after Clinton’s non-prosecution, defense lawyers will try to raise the bar for prosecutors. He says that it only takes one person on a jury to argue that “this guy didn’t do anything different than what Hillary Clinton did.” (The Washington Post, 7/7/2016)

July 7, 2016: FBI Director Comey claims David Petraeus’ security violations were more serious than Clinton’s.

160707PetraeusComeyClinton

David Petraeus (left), James Comey (center), Hillary Clinton (right) (Credit: public domain)

At a Congressional hearing, FBI Director James Comey is asked to compare the cases of Clinton and former CIA Director David Petraeus. Petraeus pled guilty to a misdemeanor in 2015 and served no jail time. Comey says that Petraeus’ case “illustrates the categories of behavior that mark prosecutions that are actually brought. Clearly intentional conduct. Knew what he was doing was violation of the law. Huge amounts of information if you couldn’t prove he knew, it raises the inference he did it, and effort to obstruct justice, that combination of things making it worthy of a prosecution. A misdemeanor prosecution but a prosecution nonetheless.” He says he stands by the FBI’s decision to prosecute Petraeus and not Clinton. (Politico, 7/7/2016) (CNN, 7/7/2016)