On Sept. 2, 2022, readers requested that we confirm a quote meme titled “Unequal Justice” that bore the picture and identify of former FBI Director James Comey. It additionally confirmed an image of FBI Director Christopher Wray doctored onto Comey’s shoulder. The meme included a purported quote from Comey on the topic of the previous federal investigation into former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s dealing with of categorized data on private electronic mail servers. No felony fees have been ever introduced towards Clinton, who served beneath former U.S. President Barack Obama from 2009 by 2013.
At the time that the meme was being shared, the U.S. Department of Justice was investigating one other outstanding politician concerning the dealing with of categorized data: former U.S. President Donald Trump. This was what the meme was referencing with the title, “Unequal Justice.” Clinton, a Democrat, and Trump, a Republican, beforehand confronted off in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, with the latter being victorious.
In this story, we’ll break down the textual content of the meme, which we discovered to be at the very least considerably deceptive. We’ll additionally mirror on real statements made by Comey and can element a few of the variations between the federal investigations of Clinton and Trump. Instead of offering readers with a easy fact-check score for such a big topic, we’ve got as an alternative chosen to solely publish detailed, factual data. This means, readers will likely be inspired to totally perceive the fact of the matter.
The quote meme in query was riddled with grammatical errors. It learn as follows:
James Comey as Former FBI Director.
And I Quote.
“Even although Mrs. Clinton saved categorized paperwork on a unlawful server
Then destroyed the supeoned categorized paperwork and units they have been on
And used hammers and BleachByte to destroy the arduous drives?
No prosecutor would contact this
So we aren’t recommending any Charges.”
We discovered no proof that Comey ever mentioned these actual phrases. Parts of the quote meme gave the impression to be sourced from considered one of Comey’s previous statements, then modified for the meme with no context in sight.
Comey’s July 2016 Statement
On July 5, 2016, Comey made a public statement concerning the FBI investigation into Clinton’s dealing with of categorized supplies on her private electronic mail servers.
Readers are free to observe the video and look by the transcript from his assertion.
Clinton and Classified Documents
The starting of the quote meme mentioned that Comey mentioned Clinton “saved categorized paperwork on an unlawful server.”
According to the transcript of Comey’s July 2016 assertion, it was true that FBI brokers discovered categorized data on Clinton’s private electronic mail servers. (Comey confirmed in his assertion that investigators discovered multiple private electronic mail server.)
The assertion included the following particulars about the numbers of emails that both included categorized data or “bore markings indicating the presence of categorized data”:
From the group of 30,000 e-mails returned to the State Department, 110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains have been decided by the proudly owning company to include categorized data at the time they have been despatched or obtained. Eight of these chains contained data that was Top Secret at the time they have been despatched; 36 chains contained Secret data at the time; and eight contained Confidential data, which is the lowest degree of classification. Separate from these, about 2,000 extra e-mails have been “up-classified” to make them Confidential; the data in these had not been categorized at the time the e-mails have been despatched.
With respect to the 1000’s of e-mails we discovered that weren’t amongst these produced to State, businesses have concluded that three of these have been categorized at the time they have been despatched or obtained, one at the Secret degree and two at the Confidential degree. There have been no extra Top Secret e-mails discovered. Finally, none of these we discovered have since been “up-classified.”
Separately, you will need to say one thing about the marking of categorized data. Only a really small variety of the e-mails containing categorized data bore markings indicating the presence of categorized data. But even when data isn’t marked “categorized” in an e-mail, members who know or ought to know that the subject material is classed are nonetheless obligated to guard it.
The quote meme included the phrase “unlawful” in reference to Clinton’s electronic mail servers. However, Comey didn’t use this phrase in his assertion.
Hammers and “BleachByte”
The subsequent a part of the quote meme mentioned that Comey mentioned Clinton “destroyed the subpoenaed categorized paperwork and units they have been on” and that she used hammers and “BleachByte” to “destroy the arduous drives.”
First, BleachBit (not “BleachByte”) is software program that goals to unlock disk area, in response to the firm’s website. The program additionally “consists of superior options equivalent to shredding recordsdata to stop restoration” and “wiping free disk area to cover traces of recordsdata deleted by different purposes.” The firm as soon as addressed the FBI investigation in a blog post.
Previously, false rumors mentioned that Clinton poured precise bleach on emails or on arduous drives related to the private servers. According to the Washington Post, the confusion stemmed from the identify of the software program, BleachBit.
Here’s what Comey needed to say on this topic in his July 2016 assertion:
I ought to add right here that we discovered no proof that any of the extra work-related e-mails have been deliberately deleted in an effort to hide them. Our evaluation is that, like many e-mail customers, Secretary Clinton periodically deleted e-mails or e-mails have been purged from the system when units have been modified. Because she was not utilizing a authorities account—or perhaps a business account like Gmail—there was no archiving in any respect of her e-mails, so it’s not shocking that we found e-mails that weren’t on Secretary Clinton’s system in 2014, when she produced the 30,000 e-mails to the State Department.
It can also be doubtless that there are different work-related e-mails that they didn’t produce to State and that we didn’t discover elsewhere, and that at the moment are gone as a result of they deleted all e-mails they didn’t return to State, and the legal professionals cleaned their units in such a means as to preclude full forensic restoration.
We additionally beforehand reported on this topic involving hammers and BleachBit, discovering that an aide to Clinton instructed the FBI that, in the previous, he twice disposed of her undesirable cellular units by breaking or hammering them.
‘No Prosecutor Would Touch This’
The finish of the quote meme claimed that Comey mentioned, “no prosecutor would contact this,” referring to the case towards Clinton’s dealing with of categorized supplies. It ended with, “so we aren’t recommending any fees.”
We discovered no proof that Comey ever mentioned the actual phrases, “no prosecutor would contact this.” However, he did say that “no affordable prosecutor would convey such a case,” which was very comparable. It was additionally true that he mentioned that the FBI’s view was that no fees have been acceptable in the case:
Although there may be proof of potential violations of the statutes concerning the dealing with of categorized data, our judgment is that no affordable prosecutor would convey such a case. Prosecutors essentially weigh a variety of components earlier than bringing fees. There are apparent concerns, like the energy of the proof, particularly concerning intent. Responsible selections additionally contemplate the context of an individual’s actions, and the way comparable conditions have been dealt with in the previous.
In wanting again at our investigations into mishandling or removing of categorized data, we can’t discover a case that will help bringing felony fees on these info. All the circumstances prosecuted concerned some mixture of: clearly intentional and willful mishandling of categorized data; or huge portions of supplies uncovered in such a means as to help an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to impede justice. We don’t see these issues right here.
To be clear, this isn’t to counsel that in comparable circumstances, an individual who engaged on this exercise would face no penalties. To the opposite, these people are sometimes topic to safety or administrative sanctions. But that’s not what we’re deciding now.
As a consequence, though the Department of Justice makes ultimate selections on issues like this, we’re expressing to Justice our view that no fees are acceptable on this case.
Trump’s Handling of Classified Information
Again, this meme about Comey and Clinton was being shared in September 2022. Its title was “Unequal Justice,” which appeared to reference the separate federal investigation into Trump’s dealing with of delicate paperwork. At the time, the investigation of Trump was making the information on an nearly every day foundation. Weeks earlier, it grew to become public that federal brokers had searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in Florida for categorized supplies. They discovered hundreds of them.
In Comey’s assertion about the Clinton investigation, he mentioned that the FBI discovered no proof of the following: “clearly intentional and willful mishandling of categorized data; or huge portions of supplies uncovered in such a means as to help an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to impede justice.”
Here’s how Trump’s case was totally different.
On Aug. 26, The New York Times reported on the particulars present in a Justice Department affidavit. The affidavit “asserted that there was ‘possible trigger to imagine that proof of obstruction will likely be discovered at’ Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago compound, indicating that prosecutors had proof suggesting efforts to impede the restoration of presidency paperwork.”
Further, on Aug. 31, The New York Times additionally reported on a courtroom submitting by the Justice Department that mentioned it had “sought a search warrant of former President Donald J. Trump’s residence in Florida after acquiring proof that extremely categorized paperwork have been doubtless moved round and hid and that Mr. Trump’s representatives had falsely claimed all delicate materials had been returned.”
The investigation into Trump is ongoing and we are going to proceed to offer reporting on the topic.
Bump, Philip. “Analysis | BleachBit Typifies How Trump’s False Claims Enter GOP Rhetoric Unchecked.” Washington Post, 11 Aug. 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/08/11/trump-fbi-search-hillary-clinton/.
Comey, James B. “Statement by FBI Director James B. Comey on the Investigation of Secretary Hillary Clinton’s Use of a Personal E-Mail System.” FBI, 5 July 2016, https://www.fbi.gov/information/press-releases/press-releases/statement-by-fbi-director-james-b-comey-on-the-investigation-of-secretary-hillary-clinton2019s-use-of-a-personal-e-mail-system.
FBI Director James Comey FULL STATEMENT on Hillary Clinton Email Investigation. C-SPAN, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghph_361wa0.
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Tucker, Eric, and Michael Balsalmo. “Trump Says FBI Searched Estate in Major Escalation of Probe.” AP News, 8 Aug. 2022, https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-mar-a-lago-government-and-politics-9e8d683afe87389407950af7ccfdbdd6.
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