Former FBI General Counsel James Baker originally believed Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of highly classified information was “alarming” and “appalling.” At the time, he believed her use of a private server to send the classified emails was sufficient enough to secure an indictment to possibly charge her for violations under the Espionage Act, for mishandling sensitive government documents.
Baker held onto that belief until shortly before his former boss FBI Director James Comey made the public announcement not to charge Clinton on July 5, 2017. He said he changed his position only after arguing and discussing the situation over a period of time with senior colleagues at the bureau, to include Comey. Comey, however, had already written an early draft in May, exonerating Clinton and changing “grossly negligent,” a legal term for mishandling classified information to “extremely careless,” according to drafts obtained by the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2017.
Baker “argued with others about why they thought she shouldn’t be charged.”
Ratcliffe Questions Baker
Under questioning by Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, Baker spoke extensively about the back and forth arguments. Baker is currently under a DOJ investigation for allegedly leaking information to the media and he steered clear of answering any questions regarding leaks.
“As the FBI general counsel, you originally believed it was appropriate, it was appropriate to charge Hillary Clinton with violation of the law for mishandling classified information,” asked Ratcliff, who is with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Baker answered. He described reviewing a classified “binder” containing material related to Clinton’s investigation that contained sensitive and highly classified emails she was transmitting over her semi-secured server.
“My original belief after, well, after having conducted the investigation and towards the end of it, then sitting down and reading a binder of her materials,” said Baker.
“I thought that it was alarming, appalling, whatever words I said,” he said. “And argued with others about why they thought she shouldn’t be charged.”
The lawmakers and committee investigators then questioned Baker as to what legal standard he based his original opinion on.
“Well, it was the statutes that we were considering at the time,” said Baker. “It was the nature and scope of the classified information that, to me, initially, when I looked at it, I thought these folks should know that this stuff is classified, that it was alarming what they were talking about, especially some of the most highly classified stuff.”
Baker Tells DOJ IG The Same
Baker also discussed an interview he had with Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who is currently investigating the FBI’s handling of Russia probe and alleged collusion with President Trump’s campaign.
“You told the Inspector Gen. that the conduct of Hillary Clinton and her associates was appalling with respect to the handling of classified information, right,” Ratcliffe asks Baker.
“I believe that’s correct,” Baker answers.
Stunningly, Ratcliff asks Baker if he still believes Clinton’s mishandling of the classified information is appalling.
Baker answers with one powerful word “yes.”
But what made Baker change his mind by July, 2017. In another back and forth questioning with Ratcliff, Baker states that Comey, along with others, eventually convinced him that they couldn’t prove Clinton’s intentions in mishandling the classified information.
“I had that belief initially after reviewing, you know, a large binder of her emails that had classified information in them. And I discussed it internally with a number of different folks and eventually became persuaded that charging her was not appropriate because we could not establish beyond a reasonable doubt — we, the government, could not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that she had the intent necessary to violate (the law)….
He said he changed his mind “pretty late in the process” because he had been arguing with those opposed to charging Clinton until the very end.
Here’s part of that discussion:
Ratcliffe: All right. Are you a reasonable prosecutor?
Baker: Not anymore. I’m not a prosecutor anymore.
Then there is a quick exchange of questions and answers. Ratcliff pivots back to Baker’s decision to change his mind regarding Clinton.
Ratcliffe: You were persuaded, and stated as a basis, that ultimately you were persuaded there was a lack of evidence establishing knowledge or criminal intent, correct?
Ratcliffe: When were you persuaded?
Baker: Sorry. Pretty late in the process, because we were arguing about it, I think, up until the end.
Ratcliffe: Yeah, So Jim Comey had reached the opposite conclusion as early as – or I guess as late as May the 2ndof 2017, as reflected in the memo that he created, correct?
Baker: I know there’s been a lot of public discussion about that – this way I experienced that interaction and other interactions with Jim Comey is he would throw things out like that to get people to start talking and thinking about it and test his conclusions against others and get them to push back. And so, it was – I believe it was in that process that I read these emails and we had these discussions and arguments.