Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made continued attempts to stamp out discussion of her mishandling of classified information during Wednesday night’s Commander in Chief Forum. But former U.S. Navy Lieutenant John Lester, who has held top secret clearance, challenged Clinton asking her how Americans can trust someone to lead as President when she “corrupted national security.”
U.S. Navy Lieutenant John Lester (ret) thanked Clinton for coming, then asked:
As a naval flight officer I held the top secret sensitive compartmentalized information clearance and that provided me access to materials and information highly sensitive to our war-fighting capabilities. Had I communicated this information not following prescribed protocols I would have been prosecuted and imprisoned. Secretary Clinton, how can you expect those such as myself, who were and are entrusted with America’s most sensitive information, to have any confidence in your leadership as President when you clearly corrupted our national security?
Lester flew P-3 Orion aircraft in Desert Storm and Desert Shield. He originally joined the U.S. Air Force before joining the Navy. He is a Republican.
“Well I appreciate your concern and also your experience, but let me try to make the distinctions that I think are important for me to answer your question,” Clinton began.
Clinton set aside Lester’s question as to her leadership, first attempting to degrade accusations from the FBI investigation into her mishandling of classified information. She stated that, “Classified material is designated, it is marked, there is a header so that there is no dispute at all that what is being communicated to or from someone who has that access is marked classified.”
Clinton has previously claimed that despite statements from FBI Director James Comey, she did not send classified information, and classified information pointed to in emails she sent and identified in that investigation were classified “retroactively.”
However during a July 7 testimony before a House panel Comey stated clearly of the FBI investigation into Clinton, “Our investigation found … 110 [emails with then-classified information] that she either received or sent.” ABC News reported the words of Comey, who noted one email chain containing Top Secret information, “Secretary Clinton not only received but sent e-mails talking about the [top secret] subject.”
In the prior interview on “Fox News Sunday” Clinton was confronted with video of Comey’s statements on the FBI investigation, to which she responded in part that she relied on the “judgments of the professionals with whom I worked.”
Clinton further responded to Lester, referring to “use of an unclassified system by hundreds of people, in our government, to send information that was not marked, there were no headers, there was no statement, top secret, secret or confidential.”
Clinton used a private server during her time as Secretary of State, over which she communicated information that was classified at the time she sent it according to Comey.
Clinton then referred to “a wholly separate system” over which she communicated classified material. She then referred to “little tents” that she used in areas around the world to send and receive classified information to avoid the “potential for someone to have embedded a camera to try to see whatever it is that I was seeing that was designated, marked and headed as classified.”
“So I did exactly what I should have done and I take it very seriously, always have, always will,” Clinton closed as host Matt Lauer began to transition her to the next question.