Out: FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. In: Lawsuits against Hillary Clinton’s actions and public comments. NBC’s Pete Williams reports that two of the four families of those killed in Benghazi have sued Hillary for their wrongful deaths, and for defamation regarding her public comments afterward:
The parents of two Americans killed in the 2012 terrorist attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court Monday against Hillary Clinton.
In the suit, Patricia Smith and Charles Woods, the parents of Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods, claim that Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server contributed to the attacks. They also accuse her of defaming them in public statements. …
“The Benghazi attack was directly and proximately caused, at a minimum by defendant Clinton’s ‘extreme carelessness’ in handling confidential and classified information,” such as the location of State Department employees in Libya, the lawsuit said.
While no such connection has ever been established, their lawsuit called it “highly probable” that Clinton sent and received information about the activities of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
The wrongful-death lawsuit doesn’t appear to have much chance as anything other than a particularly stinging form of protest. Public officials have qualified immunity from lawsuits regarding the performance of their jobs, which bars most lawsuits except those that accuse an official of infringing “clearly established” statutory or constitutional rights of the plaintiffs. That includes retired public officials when the acts in question took place during their tenure in office.
Wrongful death almost certainly will not fall outside of qualified immunity, given that the government has to send its employees into dangerous areas and that they are not constitutionally or statutorily guaranteed safety as a result. Hillary’s handling of classified material would be a criminal, not civil, matter, and the connection to the Benghazi attack is entirely unknown. Besides, even if there was a connection to the email scandal, it still wouldn’t directly impact the victims’ clearly established constitutional or statutory rights.
However, the defamation suit is another matter. Some of the interviews in which the allegedly defamatory comments were made may have taken place after Hillary left office in February 2013. If so, qualified immunity no longer applies. Whether or not the defamation can be proven to the point of awarding damages is another matter, but any comments she made after leaving the State Department belong to her as a private citizen and are therefore potentially actionable.
Either way, the lawsuits could be a real nuisance to Hillary on the campaign trail. She’s just spent the last week scolding Donald Trump for attacking a Gold Star family, and now she’ll have to answer the allegations from two of the four families who lost their relatives on her watch. That is, Hillary will have to answer those questions if the media takes as much interest in the Smith and Woods families as they have in the Khans. Anyone want to bet they will? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?