Liberal CNN Guest Skewers Clinton: Pretending to Be 'Village Idiot' on Email

On Friday's Anderson Cooper 360, CNN host Cooper moderated a debate between two liberals, one of whom took a stridently critical position of Hillary Clinton for her flimsy excuses for mishandling classified email when she was Secretary of State. As CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin came to the defense of the Democratic presidential candidate, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley was sharply critical of Clinton as he accused her of "trying to portray" herself as "something of a village idiot" in claiming that she misunderstood the marking of classified email, and calling her explanation "perfectly absurd," and asserting that it "borders on insulting." Turley: "It's bizarre to read her accounts saying that she had no idea what that was. I would put it as virtually impossible that anyone who had a clearance would not know what that type of letter and a parenthetical means. And, you know, it's trying to portray yourself as something of a village idiot -- which no one believes Clinton to be. So it's perhaps the most absurd aspect of this record."

Both Turley and host Cooper recalled being given access to classified information and the thorough explanation of the classification system, with both seeming doubtful that Clinton could be as ill-informed as she claimed. Turley found it "bizarre to read her accounts" of what happened. As he disputed Toobin on the issue of some of the emails not being given classified status until after she sent them, Turley argued that she was still obligated to treat email with care even if they were not marked.

Cooper began the segment by recounting his own experience with being given clearance to view classified material as he turned to the liberal George Washington University professor and posed:

First of all, on this whole issue of the "C" that Secretary Clinton claims that she didn't know what a "C" was. I mean, I had a security clearance for a short time many years ago. You get briefed very extensively on the whole classification system. Does it make any sense to you that the Secretary of State would not know what a "C" was?

Turley found her explanation "perfectly absurd" as he began:

No, it's perfectly absurd. I've had a clearance since Reagan, including a TSSCI, which is a high-level clearance, and it is unimaginable. It's like a baseball pitcher saying he has no idea what ERA means. I mean, these are ubiquitous symbols that are applied to paragraphs to show -- sometimes it's an "S," sometimes it's a "TS," sometimes it's a "C" -- to show the level of classification.

He then continued:

And it's bizarre to read her accounts saying that she had no idea what that was. I would put it as virtually impossible that anyone who had a clearance would not know what that type of letter and a parenthetical means. And, you know, it's trying to portray yourself as something of a village idiot -- which no one believes Clinton to be. So it's perhaps the most absurd aspect of this record.

After Toobin jumped in to dismiss the "C" label as being the lowest level of classification, Turley pushed back:

It's a marking of classification, and anybody who's had a clearance is familiar with those markings. Now, to suggest that, well, "it's the lowest marking that's been abused," doesn't take away from the fact that these are classification markings, and they found 110 emails that were classified, truly classified, and so I think that Clinton can certainly say that she doesn't recall seeing it -- she said that a great deal -- but to say that she really has no idea what that type of marking would be is just incredibly implausible and borders on insulting.

Moments later, Turley alluded to the novel Animal Farm as he complained that the Justice Department has a double standard in not prosecuting some for mishandling classified information:

I have great respect for my friend Jeff, but we disagree on this. You know, the Justice Department seems to have a rather disturbing record of applying a kind of Animal Farm type of standard to these cases where all people are equal, but some are more equal than others. And those others tend to be, you know, people that are not quite as important as General Petraeus or Hillary Clinton or Sandy Burger.

In response to Toobin trying to argue that nearly all of the classified email Clinton handled was not marked as email at the time it was sent, the George Washington University professor hit back at the liberal CNN analyst's excuse-making:

Hillary Clinton signed a standard document that we all signed that it does not matter if something is marked as classified. To say that would create an absurd standard. No one is standing there and stamping statements that the President made in the air. You have to assume that stuff coming out of certain areas are classified, and it's not -- it's simply not a defense to say it was not stamped classified. She signed an agreement that said she understood that's not the standard.

A bit later Turley hinted that FBI director James Comey could have pushed for prosecution as he concluded:

You don't need a confession for these types of prosecutions. And they certainly are not required in other cases. Saying, "I don't recall," 39 times is certainly a good tactic, but it doesn't usually get you out of a grand jury proceeding. So you're not supposed to look for someone to admit, "Yeah, I knew when I created that private server I was going to release classified information. She was told -- her staff was told that this was not approved, something that contradicts her statement. It was never submitted to State. And people raised this very issue of putting national security interests at stake.

Below is a complete transcript of the segment from the Friday, September 2, Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN:

ANDERSON COOPER: Back to tonight's breaking news, the FBI releasing a report this afternoon detailing the interviews they conducted with Hillary Clinton during their investigation into her use of a private email server. Secretary Clinton says she's glad the FBI released the documents, and those who believe she acted improperly sure seem happy with what came out as well. Apart from that, as you've been seeing, there's precious little the two sides agree on. We'll get back to the panel in a moment, but I want to bring in George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley and CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Professor Turley, first of all, on this whole issue of the "C" that Secretary Clinton claims that she didn't know what a "C" was. I mean, I had a security clearance for a short time many years ago. You get briefed very extensively on the whole classification system. Does it make any sense to you that the Secretary of State would not know what a "C" was?

PROFESSOR JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: No, it's perfectly absurd. I've had a clearance since Reagan, including a TSSCI, which is a high-level clearance, and it is unimaginable. It's like a baseball pitcher saying he has no idea what ERA means. I mean, these are ubiquitous symbols that are applied to paragraphs to show -- sometimes it's an "S," sometimes it's a "TS," sometimes it's a "C" -- to show the level of classification.

And it's bizarre to read her accounts saying that she had no idea what that was. I would put it as virtually impossible that anyone who had a clearance would not know what that type of letter and a parenthetical means. And, you know, it's trying to portray yourself as something of a village idiot -- which no one believes Clinton to be. So it's perhaps the most absurd aspect of this record.

COOPER: Jeff Toobin, do you agree with the professor on that?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Jonathan could not be more wrong about this. The "C" does not stand for "classified." The "C" stands for "confidential." There are three levels of classification. There is "top secret," there is "secret," and there is "confidential."

TURLEY: I just said that.

TOOBIN: "C: is -- but in a paragraph that is unconnected to other things could mean all sorts of things. I mean, remember, we're talking about thousands of documents. There is exactly one document that has one "C" on it, and that is what, you know, people are proposing that this is so outrageous. This is the lowest level of classification. It is often wildly overused. So the idea that one document out of 1,000 or many thousands is proof that she didn't know what classified information is ridiculous. It is the lowest level of classification that-

COOPER: Let the professor respond.

TURLEY: Yeah, I just say that much of that is irrelevant. I said it was the lowest level of classification. It could be a "C" or an "S" or a "TS," but the point is, it's a marking of classification, and anybody who's had a clearance is familiar with those markings. Now, to suggest that, well, "it's the lowest marking that's been abused," doesn't take away from the fact that these are classification markings, and they found 110 emails that were classified, truly classified, and so I think that Clinton can certainly say that she doesn't recall seeing it -- she said that a great deal -- but to say that she really has no idea what that type of marking would be is just incredibly implausible and borders on insulting.

COOPER: So, Jeff, in, go ahead.

TOOBIN: Jonathan, you said 110 emails. It's 110 emails that include information that was subsequently declared classified, not 110 emails that were classified at the time. You know, as someone who apparently had access to classified information, that when you -- when these administrations go back and look again, of course they're going to find things classified. They over-classify wildly. But it's not 110 documents that were marked classified. It's one document that was marked classified.

COOPER: So, Jeff, is there anything in this report that came out today that raises eyebrows for you? I mean, her saying 39 times, "I can't recall," "I don't remember," anything?

TOOBIN: The whole thing was such a colossal botch. She sounds like a clueless baby boomer who's calling tech support constantly. I mean, the fact that she had 13 blackberries suggests that she didn't know how to use this very well. I mean, the idea that this, I mean, all you can see from reading this document is why the FBI decided not to prosecute. I mean, the fact that they didn't prosecute doesn't make her behavior good. I mean, the fact that she's not criminally prosecuted is not exactly an endorsement to be President of the United States. But the idea that this proves criminal conduct, it proves precisely the opposite.

COOPER: Professor Turley, for you, does it prove that the FBI was right in not recommending charges?

TURLEY: I have great respect for my friend Jeff, but we disagree on this. You know, the Justice Department seems to have a rather disturbing record of applying a kind of Animal Farm type of standard to these cases where all people are equal, but some are more equal than others. And those others tend to be, you know, people that are not quite as important as General Petraeus or Hillary Clinton or Sandy Burger.

We've seen people prosecuted in cases with very little evidence. We've just saw a Navy personnel who was convicted because he took a few pictured in a compartment that was considered sensitive so that he could save it as a memory of service. Was that good? No. But he claimed the same thing, that he wasn't really intending to release it, he understood the compartments could be classified. That type of sharp conflict is what really undermines our system today. But there's also what I think to be clear violations of the Federal Records Act. I don't know many people that really believe that the private server was not designed to circumvent the Federal Records Act, and the FBI handed that issue to the State Department, and it went nowhere.

COOPER: Jeff, what about that? I mean, does-

TOOBIN: Violating the Federal Records Act is not a criminal offense, so we can just put that aside. In every other prosecution that has been brought by the Justice Department involves documents that the defendant knew was classified or was marked classified. That's the defense between these cases and other cases.

TURLEY: No, because Hillary Clinton signed a standard document that we all signed that it does not matter if something is marked as classified. To say that would create an absurd standard. No one is standing there and stamping statements that the President made in the air. You have to assume that stuff coming out of certain areas are classified, and it's not -- it's simply not a defense to say it was not stamped classified. She signed an agreement that said she understood that's not the standard.

COOPER: She also, I mean, as it was revealed in this investigation, sent out an email, or an email was sent out under her auspices or her name, telling all State Department employees not to use personal email.

TOOBIN: I mean, that was a disastrous decision on her part, and it bears on her judgment. But the fact that she used a private server is not conceivably a criminal offense. I mean, it bears on her judgment, but I think, you know, we need to draw distinctions here between what is, you know, appropriate for the criminal justice system and what bears on someone's judgment. This is not a close case when it comes to criminal conduct. That's why the FBI decided what it decided, but in terms of her judgment (audio missing)-

TURLEY: But I'm not -- you know, Jeff, I'm not saying that Comey didn't have grounds for the decision that he made, but you don't need a confession for these types of prosecutions. And they certainly are not required in other cases. Saying, "I don't recall," 39 times is certainly a good tactic, but it doesn't usually get you out of a grand jury proceeding. So you're not supposed to look for someone to admit, "Yeah, I knew when I created that private server I was going to release classified information. She was told -- her staff was told that this was not approved, something that contradicts her statement. It was never submitted to State. And people raised this very issue of putting national security interests at stake.

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