Jun 12, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Republicans try to re-insert Hillary Clinton into 2024 discourse

Hillary Clinton in 2016 election with three of her aides, including Huma Abedin (R). Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images.

It's not just Donald Trump: Republicans across the country are bashing Hillary Clinton, making her a central figure in the 2024 race by renewing their intense criticism of her alleged handling of sensitive information.

Why it matters: It's much harder to run against yourself than a foil — and Trump's federal indictment sets him up for a fight against his own words.

  • "We can't have someone in the Oval Office who doesn't understand the meaning of the word confidential or classified," he said in September 2016.
  • That was one of five examples cited in the indictment detailing instances in which Trump told voters that he understood the importance of protecting U.S. secrets.

What's happening: From failed Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake to Fox News hosts insisting Trump's indictment "has everything to do with" Clinton's emails case, Republicans are parroting an outdated and false equivalency.

  • Trump has issued dozens of statements on his Truth Social website: "Joe Biden won't be charged for anything," he wrote in all caps. "Crooked Hillary ... wasn't even close to being charged!"
  • "Most Republicans believe we live in a country where Hillary Clinton did similar things and nothing happened to her," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos.
  • Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson said that as president, Trump "decided not to pursue any kind of prosecution of Hillary Clinton" and suggested President Biden should do the same now.

The backdrop: In his first run for the presidency, Trump constantly railed against Clinton for her use of a private email server — through which she exchanged tens of thousands of emails containing classified material — when she was secretary of state.

Between the lines: Investigators charged Trump for "willful retention" of classified records — a key finding missing from Clinton's case.

  • Then-FBI Director James Comey didn't pursue criminal charges against Clinton in 2016 because investigators didn't find sufficient evidence that she had intended to mishandle the material exchanged through her server.
  • Another crucial difference is that although her email chains included highly classified issues, they weren't classified documents, per the Washington Post, particularly those "with extensive markings and acronyms."

The bottom line: It is a stunning moment in American politics when the same issue that thrust Trump to the White House could now be what keeps him from going back there.

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