Michael Mukasey, who was the Unites States Attorney General from 2007 to 2009, showed up on Morning Joe today to discuss the Hillary Clinton private server debacle and how it was going to play out. This wasn’t his first cable news hit on the subject and he’d been making the rounds, pointing out that this investigation “is not a witch hunt,” as he said on interviews over the weekend. Most of the information being discussed was nothing new. The panel talked about how Hillary’s decisions to not only have a private server, but to fail to properly classify the contents was a violation of department policy, if not the law. But then, in response to one question from Scarborough, Mukasey went a step further and said that Clinton may have disqualified herself from elected office if the allegations prove to be true.
Now, that’s a phrase we’ve heard before, but generally in a philosophical sense. “If you do this or that bad thing, you’ve essentially disqualified yourself as being the leader of the free world.” But when the former AG was pressed on the question, he informed the panel that he was speaking specifically of federal statute.
Joking that it was a common subject around his family’s breakfast table, he said, “Title 18. Section 2071.”
Let’s take a look at what he’s talking about. The statute starts out like this in paragraph (a):
Whoever willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, or destroys, or attempts to do so, or, with intent to do so takes and carries away any record, proceeding, map, book, paper, document, or other thing, filed or deposited with any clerk or officer of any court of the United States, or in any public office, or with any judicial or public officer of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
That’s along the same lines as things we’ve been discussing all along. But the big news is in paragraph (b). (Emphasis added)
Whoever, having the custody of any such record, proceeding, map, book, document, paper, or other thing, willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, falsifies, or destroys the same, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both; and shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States. As used in this subsection, the term “office” does not include the office held by any person as a retired officer of the Armed Forces of the United States.
Wouldn’t wiping classified records (assuming that’s proven by the FBI) from your private server, or directing others to do that to the server while it’s sitting in a bathroom in Colorado, qualify as removing, obliterating or destroying said records?
This may shed some new light on why Hillary Clinton has been so unwilling to answer some very basic questions when facing the press. She has finally been asked directly (by Ed Henry) if she either wiped the server or directed that it be wiped. She tried to write that one off with a joke, saying, “What? You mean with a cloth?” But her legal team has surely been looking this situation over very closely and are doubtless aware of Title 18, Section 2071, paragraph (b). If the answer to that question is actually “yes” and she admits it in public, she could well be literally ending her presidential bid, not to mention opening herself up to the possibility of a fine or jail time. (Or both.)
Is this what will finally bring Clinton down? Don’t bet the ranch on it. It would require the will on the part of those not only investigating, but prosecuting the case to see it through to the end. And there will be people in the State Department as well as the media fighting tooth and claw the entire way to keep claiming that this is all some grand machination of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy to derail the hopes of an historic presidential candidate. But at some point the evidence has to build up to the point where the public can’t simply ignore it. So what’s next?
Joe Biden… call your office.
UPDATE: (Jazz) MSNBC has posted the video.