The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee on Monday introduced legislation intended to revoke the security clearances of Hillary Clinton and several of her former State Department aides.
“In November, the American people will have their opportunity to hold [Clinton] accountable for the potential damage her actions have done to the security of the United States,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said in a statement. “Until then, one thing is clear: Hillary Clinton and anyone else who demonstrates extreme carelessness should not have access to classified information.”
The bill — a companion to a piece of Senate legislation introduced last week — is part of a new line of attack by Republicans who are outraged that the former secretary of State was not indicted over her handling of classified material on a personal email server.
FBI Director James Comey said Clinton and her aides were “extremely careless” in their handling of classified information but that their behavior did not rise to the level of criminal offense.
“While the FBI investigation is now closed and Clinton faces no criminal charges, Congress can act,” said Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), a co-sponsor of the House bill. “This information confirms that at a minimum, she cannot be trusted with highly sensitive information.”
Normally, the decision to approve or deny security clearance rests with the employing federal agency, although the guidelines that officials use are standardized across government.
The so-called Taking Responsibility Using Secured Technologies (TRUST) Act would prohibit “any officer or employee of the Federal Government who has exercised extreme carelessness in the handling of classified information from being granted or retaining a security clearance.”
“This is monumentally stupid political theater,” Bradley Moss, a lawyer who specializes in security clearances, told The Hill in an email. “There already are several provisions within the Adjudicative Guidelines pertaining to security clearance adjudications that address mishandling of classified information.”
It is not known whether Clinton or her top aides implicated in the FBI probe now hold active clearances — although several security clearance lawyers who spoke to The Hill think it’s unlikely, since none are currently employed by the federal government.
If Clinton wins the presidential election in November, she would be essentially exempt from security clearance vetting as an elected official. In the short term, Republicans want to deny her clearance to receive the national security briefings typically given to each party’s presidential nominee.
But longtime aides Huma Abedin and Jake Sullivan, both of whom are likely favorites for White House positions in a Clinton administration, would still have to go through a rigorous review process to gain access to restricted information in the future.
Many believe it would be very difficult for either to obtain clearances under normal circumstances, but a President Clinton would have the authority to override an administrative decision not to approve Abedin or Sullivan’s credentials.
“If the president wants somebody cleared, somebody’s gonna get cleared. That’s just the bottom line,” Bill Savarino, a D.C. lawyer who also specializes in security clearances, told The Hill last week.
In addition to the Senate bill, from Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), a group of 10 Republican senators last week also urged Secretary of State John Kerry to revoke any standing privileges held by Clinton, Abedin, Sullivan and former aide Cheryl Mills.