BuT HeR EmAiLs! Why the Trump Documents are Different from Hillary’s Emails

Cameron Lee Cowan


The work of the January 6th committee has basically wrapped up heading into the midterms. They have gone through the entire attack, and their final move was to subpoena Trump to appear before the committee. He is not anticipated to observe that document. In parallel to this, the raid on Trump’s Mar-A-Lago has been the gift that keeps on giving. They keep finding documents, and the reality of the information that he had taken with him and not turned over to the National Archives keeps getting worse. Nuclear secrets regarding Iran and China have also been discovered.

TrumpWorld (I should trademark that) is still on about the classified documents that the FBI raid seized from his resort/home in Florida. A few people, mostly Fox News, are complaining that Hillary Clinton, during the Benghazi email scandal, did the same thing and hasn’t been raided or gone to jail. That alone should describe the difference. However, I wanted to go through some reasons why Trump’s document scandal is far worse than Hillary’s emails.


As it turns out, the classification process isn’t as straight-forward as one might imagine. Much of the rules around classified documents aren’t even strictly set in stone. There are a patch-work of regulations and norms that take place in regard to classified information. I dare say that this is an area where Congress needs to standardize the classification processes. There are a few things that stand out: Under the standing presidential executive order, which Trump did not edit, only an original classification authority (OCA) can change a document classification. Those who derive their authority cannot do that. So, what is missing, is where Trump declassified these documents so that he would take them and sell them off. If he wanted to get away with this crime, he should have declassified them, but that is no easy thing to do because there are offices that oversee this sort of thing. Therefore, I think Trump grabbed what he could as he was leaving the White House, so he could sell it later.

The president, Vice President are original classification authorities, according to the DNI, declassification takes place at the end of 25 yrs unless otherwise notated and should be “coordinated’ with other offices. It does not explain how this is done or why. So your assertion that President Trump could have simply declassified all the documents is true. However, here’s where Trump runs into trouble. 1) transmission of the information, including the nuclear capabilities of a foreign power, is still illegal as he is now a private citizen and isn’t acting in any diplomatic capacity. Now, it is true that former Presidents keep their top-level security clearance for life. Former presidents can also opt to see the PDB or Presidential Daily Briefing if they so choose. It should be noted that the other former presidents who are still alive often don’t bother to read the PDB. This means that Trump can still access classified material and can read classified material. However, it doesn’t seem like he should be able to just take classified documents with him. It should be noted that I couldn’t find an express rule against this. I think this might be an area where the law is lacking.


The main trouble seems to be that the FBI knew/knows what these documents are and where they had been taken and raided Mar-a-lago due to his lack of cooperation. In fact, it could well be said that Trump was provided every opportunity to turn over the documents without a messy, headline-grabbing incident at his home and resort. However, Trump did not bother to comply with any requests from the government. Remember, for a search warrant, especially one as politically charged as this one, to even be authorized required them to name exactly the location and the nature of the items to be searched for and seized. The FBI well-knew what they were going for and what they intended to retrieve.

Hillary Clinton, instead, in concert with her lawyers, turned over the necessary emails. In fact, you can read them. One artist in Austria printed them all out and piled them in a mock-up of the Oval Office. The point is that she turned over material in consultation with the DoJ, Congress, and her lawyers. Trump did not bother to put in any effort for cooperation, and that’s why the FBI had to break down the door and search the premises.


The volume of Trump’s documents is also another factor. Hillary Clinton had one email server that was up to the proper security standards and cleared for use by various authorities. It wasn’t a problem until Republicans made it a problem during the Benghazi hearings. During the investigation, about 50,000 emails were gone through and analyzed for classified material. In the entire trove of communication fewer than 20 classified materials were discovered and several of them were accidentally. There were emails marked classified and comment was often made by her staff that communication needed to change in regard to some information.

Meanwhile, Trump is packing box after box with thousands of files and documents, still classified into pallets and flown down to Mar-A-Lago. This is not just one email server with some minor classification violations. This is the removal of classified documents wholesale from the custody of the government into private hands. This also gets into the next point which as to do with intent.


If he did not declassify these documents, then he is violating, as a private citizen, the security, transmission, and storage requirements would be the same. It is highly unusual for an out-going President to take several documents with him. It has also come out since the raid that Trump typically packed these boxes himself. He was choosing, cautiously, the two pallets of documents that he took with him. Again, I firmly believe that he intended to sell this information to anyone with money who wanted them. Having a hotel full of foreign dignitaries and agents coming to buy documents sounds like it would come out of a spy novel, but the reality is that he needed his ego stroked.

Why the Trump FBI raid is important but won’t move the midterms

The fact that Trump took documents with him that didn’t belong to him and kept them in unsecured circumstances, possibly for private sale, is bad. However, as we’ve seen, it hasn’t been a mover for the midterms. Many democrats over the summer thought that the committee hearings would really turn people off the Republican Party. However, the races have tightened coming into the final stretch to November 8, 2022.

The document’s scandal is bad, but the economy is worse. The reality is that Trump is not on the ballot. And Americans will vote their wallet before anything else. And the reality is that the economy is not in great shape right now. I do wish that this was a bigger scandal. I do wish that this really turned people off the Republican Party but the reality is that for many people, the GOP is still a viable political party rather than riddled with scandal and mismanagement of the government. I wish this were a midterms issue, but inflation has beat the documents to a pulp.



Cameron Lee Cowan

Creative Director of The Cameron Journal. Culture, political commentary, and much more!