How about Secretary “Extremely Careless” herself, Hillary Clinton? If she had done the same thing Trump did, the media wouldn’t be saying she was grossly negligent in handling top-secret information. We’d be hearing, instead, that what she did was fine because it was communicated in a high-level diplomatic exchange — and that it’s not like she handed the Russians a document that was “marked classified.” Or more likely, we would be hearing nothing at all about her conversation with the Russians, because “current and former intelligence officials” would not be leaking to the Washington Post.
You should read the FBI reports of interviews with Mrs. Clinton’s former State Department staffers sometime. In explaining their actions, in the context of an investigation about the mishandling — the serial mishandling — of classified information, one of the themes that comes through is: Statecraft involves a lot of exchanges of sensitive information with foreign governments; sometimes tough calls about transmitting information have to be made in the heat of the moment, and it’s not always practical to weigh carefully the need to safeguard information against the imperative of getting it into the right hands promptly.
Could there have been more sympathy for Clinton’s aides in the press and official Washington? The lesson appears to be that if administration officials repeat often enough the party line that “we were all working really hard, we all understand that classified information is really important, and we all really did our best to protect it,” the media and intelligence-agency chiefs will forgive the transmission and storage of even thousands of classified e-mails on an unsecured server that was undoubtedly hacked by hostile intelligence services.
Provided, that is, that the administration officials are Democrats.