Donald Trump is president today in large part because of voters’ concerns about protecting classified material. There are several layers of nuance to that point, of course, including that those concerns were generally a subset of critiques of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server as secretary of state. But the sticking point for conservative critics of Clinton’s behavior was that her use of a private server included the transmission of classified information, per the FBI — thereby putting that information at risk of being intercepted by foreign agents, should her server have been compromised. (Clinton’s team repeatedly insisted that the server hadn’t been breached; the FBI said there was no evidence that it was.)
While Trump campaign events were powered by chants of “lock her up,” the reason for the locking up was generally a pastiche of concerns about Clinton’s purported transgressions. On occasion, though, the rationale for that urgent demand crystallized over concerns about the release of classified information. For example, there was former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s speech at the Republican convention in July.
“I have called on Hillary Clinton to drop out of the race,” Flynn said, “because she, she put our nation’s security at extremely high risk with her careless use of a private email server.” He then joined in the chants: “Lock her up! Lock her up!”
Given The Washington Post’s report on Monday that, as president, Trump himself revealed classified information in conversation with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, it’s worth revisiting what he himself said about Clinton’s email security — a subject that came up regularly in his freewheeling stump speeches.
Redding, Calif., June: “She could have used the government stuff, assume everybody’s listening to you — I always do. Every time I pick up a phone, I assume people are listening, you know. Now, you sue their a — off if they are. If you can find them, you drop a little lawsuit on them and make them pay, bigly. For her to do what she did puts our country at risk. She’s secretary of state.”
New York, June: “We can’t hand over our government to someone whose deepest, darkest secrets may be in the hands of our enemies.”
Doral, Fla., July: “So how can Hillary Clinton be briefed on this unbelievably delicate information when it was just proven that she lied and that her server shouldn’t have had it and that they’re missing 33,000 emails and that’s just the beginning. … I don’t think that it’s safe to have Hillary Clinton, in light of what just happened, and in light of what we just found out, I don’t think it’s safe to have Hillary Clinton be briefed on national security because the word will get out.”
Portland, Maine, August: “Her email scandal put our entire country at risk. Made our sensitive secrets vulnerable to hacking by foreign adversaries.”
Greenville, N.C., September: “This is really, if we bring it up, this is like Watergate, only it’s worse, because here our foreign enemies were in a position to hack our most sensitive national security secrets. We can’t have someone in the Oval Office who doesn’t understand the meaning of the word ‘confidential.’ ”
Geneva, Ohio, October: “Hillary even sold out our nation’s security with her illegal private server, knowing full well it would put you and your family in danger. As moms across this nation put their children to bed each night with a prayer for safety and peace, Hillary was knowingly putting those same families at risk by putting our confidential secrets on this illegal, private server. But for Hillary, it seems anything is okay as long as it increases whatever it was she was looking for.”
Concord, N.C., November: “It’s believed that no less than five foreign intelligence agencies successfully hacked into Hillary’s illegal insecure server. In other words, Hillary’s corrupt criminal scheme put the safety of every American family in danger, that’s what’s happened.”
Trump wasn’t alone, of course. Conservative media and others on the right were quick to question Clinton’s fitness for office.
On at least two occasions, Republicans on Capitol Hill explicitly described Clinton’s email server as treasonous.
There was Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), who made the claim on Fox News.
And there was Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) — who on Monday coincidentally announced plans to run for U.S. Senate in his home state — who suggested impeaching Clinton should she be elected president thanks to her lax use of classified information, since “Hillary Clinton has, in my opinion, committed a high crime or misdemeanor or treason, which is the constitutional standard.”
“She betrayed her country by exposing national security information to risk by our adversaries,” Brooks said. “That is a criminal offense. That makes it an impeachable offense. She probably has committed an impeachable offense, therefore she probably should be impeached. But in all likelihood she won’t be because Congress doesn’t have the political will to do so.”
Whether Brooks feels the same way for Trump remains to be seen — as does Congress’s will to weigh in.