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Hillary Clinton, Servergate, and the Steve Martin Defense

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“Two simple words in the English language” should be a sufficient defense against charges of tax evasion or armed robbery, says Steve Martin in a routine captured on his 1979 standup album Comedy is Not Pretty! The two words? “I forgot.”

Some jokes are funny because they reveal uncomfortable truths. Other jokes, like the “I forgot” routine, tickle our funny bones because they’re absurd. Nobody could possibly get away with armed robbery by informing the judge “I forgot armed robbery was illegal” in the real world, right?

If Hillary Clinton worked in comedy instead of in politics, she’d probably be in court right now defending a suit for stealing Martin’s gag. But she’s no comedienne. She apparently put up the Steve Martin defense with a straight face when questioned by the FBI, as revealed in newly released documents.

The subject: Why, as US Secretary of state, she ignored the briefings she received on handling and safeguarding of classified information, choosing to illegally use a private server for transmission and storage of that information instead of following the rules.

The FBI reports:

“Clinton stated … she did not recall receiving any guidance from State regarding e-mail policies outlined in the State FAM [Foreign Affairs Manual].”

“When asked, Clinton recalled being briefed on [Special Access Programs] information but could not recall any specific briefing on how to handle SAP information.”

“Clinton could not recall any briefing or training by State related to the retention of federal records or handling of classified information.”

Why couldn’t she remember these things?

“[I]n December of 2012, Clinton suffered a concussion and then around the New Year had a blood clot …. Based on her doctor’s advice, she could only work at State for a few hours a day and could not recall every briefing she received.”

The “I forgot” defense is admittedly a new and novel explanation for Clinton’s actions. But I’m not sure it’s a very good one, given her specific personal situation. The possibilities break down to two:

One possibility is that Clinton is a lying felon who, either intentionally or with reckless negligence, compromised classified information which was entrusted to her care, and who knew she could successfully play the “I forgot card” to forestall prosecution because she is Hillary Clinton.

The other possibility is that Clinton suffers from a traumatic brain injury which negatively affects her ability to remember important things. Things like, say, “when meeting with the Russian ambassador, don’t let him play with the briefcase that contains the nuclear strike codes.”

Do either of these possibilities — and remember, they could BOTH be true! — strike you as a strong advertisement for Hillary Clinton’s credibility and qualifications as a candidate for president of the United States?

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Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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