The GOP’s “But Her Emails” Crowd Has Had No Problem Defending Trump Over Classified Docs

The same top Republicans spent years obsessing over Hillary Clinton’s handling of sensitive material.

Kyle Mazza/Sipa USA/AP

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The latest indictment against Donald Trump marks an unprecedented moment in American history. But for some, the history-making federal charges over his mishandling of classified documents also carry an element of comeuppance, as the same Republicans who railed against Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server now complain that a “miscarriage of justice” has been committed against the former president.  

The two cases, of course, are wildly different. Clinton used a private email system during her time as secretary of state largely out of convenience; a thorough FBI investigation eventually concluded that she did not break the law. Meanwhile, Trump is accused of taking hundreds of classified documents on his way out of the White House and blocking multiple efforts by the federal government to get them back. As Trump’s former attorney general Bill Barr said Sunday, the evidence against Trump is “very damning.” 

So what are Republicans who pummeled Clinton now howling? Let’s take a look.

Ron DeSantis

The Florida governor and 2024 presidential hopeful tweeted Thursday night about what he believes to be the “weaponization of federal law enforcement”:

However, back in 2015 at a Florida GOP quarterly meeting, DeSantis made it clear then that “nobody should be above the law in the United States.” In a recap of the event from Flordia Politics, DeSantis is quoted saying that if he had sent classified documents during his time in the US Navy, “I would have lost my job, been court-martialed, and I likely would have done time at Fort Leavenworth.”

Mike Pence

The former vice president spoke with CNN’s Dana Bash on Wednesday at a live town hall event to launch his 2024 presidential bid. When Bash pushed Pence for his reaction to a potential Trump indictment, Pence tried to split the difference.

“Let me be clear that no one’s above the law,” Pence told Bash during the town hall. “But with regards to the unique circumstances here…I would just hope that there would be a way for them to move forward without the dramatic and drastic and divisive step of indicting the former president of the United States.”

During an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation in 2016, Pence, then a vice presidential candidate, said it was “troubling” that the FBI chose not to pursue charges against Clinton.

“The original decision was really incomprehensible,” he said in the interview. “To arrive at a place where even in his testimony before the Congress, and in that long press conference that he gave…that literally Hillary Clinton had classified information on a private server that she said she didn’t have…that, to me, is the kind of double standard that the American people are weary of.”

Tim Scott

The South Carolina senator and 2024 candidate also released a statement that echoed DeSantis about the “weaponization of the Department [of] Justice.” Scott appeared on Fox News on Thursday to denounce the federal indictment, saying, “You don’t have to be a Republican to see injustice and want to fix it. You don’t have to be a Democrat to see injustice and want to fix it. You just have to be an American and stand up for the right thing.”

Notably, Scott was part of a partisan effort in 2016 to introduce the TRUST Act to Congress. The bill was designed to revoke Clinton’s security clearance. At the time, Scott told the Charlotte Observer that action has consequences and that the legislation was a “realistic response” to the situation. He further stated that “in the past people who’ve done similar things, but not even to this magnitude, have seen their clearance suspended or revoked temporarily.”

Ted Cruz

Parroting DeSantis’ and Scott’s comments about weaponizing the DOJ, the Texas senator tweeted Thursday night that the indictment is “the culmination of what Merrick Garland has been pushing for since he became Attorney General.”

At an Orlando rally in 2016, Cruz made it clear that if Clinton were to be elected he’d go after her: “This country was founded on the principle that no one is above the law, and whether it is the Clintons or whether it is some in the Republican Party who think they are above the law, that the law doesn’t apply to them, that’s not how it works.”

Matt Gaetz

In 2017, the Florida congressman appeared on Fox Business Network and said, “We cannot live in a world where just because Hillary Clinton lost an election she gets a de facto immunity deal.”

After the federal indictment of Trump, Gaetz tweeted that the charges were a “hoax” and that Trump would be back in the White House and “Joe Biden will be Hunter’s cellmate.”

Kevin McCarthy

House speaker McCarthy tweeted Thursday night after the indictment that it was a “dark day for the United States of America.

 

But in an official statement he made in 2016 as House Majority Leader, McCarthy spoke differently about the “rule of law” when it came to Clinton. “Every investigation thus far makes one conclusion abundantly clear,” the statement reads. “Secretary Clinton’s fundamental lack of judgment and wanton disregard for protecting and keeping information confidential raises continued questions about the exposure of our nation’s diplomatic and national security secrets.”

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