The rich and powerful don’t go to prison for their crimes. But they do go to prison for covering it up.
Democrat insiders breathed a sigh of relief when FBI Director James Comey announced former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would not face criminal charges over mishandling classified materials because they could not prove she knowingly intended to break the law.
But if history is any guide, her email-related legal troubles have just begun.
In case after case, rich and powerful figures find themselves in legal trouble and scramble to cover up the evidence only to find that the cover up carries a bigger punishment than the crime.
Just as in Hillary Clinton’s case, a lengthy FBI investigation found baseless the accusation that TV host Martha Stewart engaged in insider stock trading.
But she lied to investigators in the matter. Even though the original charge against her was found to have no merit, she ended up in federal prison for perjury.
Gangster Al Capone was never convicted for his multi-million dollar alcohol smuggling ring, as investigators could never prove if his massive income was from illegal activities or legitimate businesses.
But he did go to prison for trying to cover up his income by lying about it on federal tax forms.
Bill Clinton’s sexual relationship with a White House intern wasn’t a crime, but lying about it in a deposition was. Clinton was impeached by Congress, fined by a court and stripped of his law license.
Luckily for Hillary Clinton, the FBI has determined that running classified materials through a private server is not a crime.
Unluckily for Hillary, lying to Congress in sworn testimony is a crime.
In October 2015, appearing before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, Clinton made numerous statements to Congress, in sworn testimony, regarding her email server.
Under oath, Clinton stated none of the emails she sent over her private served were marked classified or contained classified information.
“[T]here was nothing marked classified on my emails, either sent or received,” Clinton testified.
The FBI’s investigation found 110 such emails.
Clinton also stated under oath that all work-related emails were turned over to the State Department because her attorneys “went through every single email.”
The FBI went through every single email and found thousands that had not been turned over. They found her attorneys had simply typed keywords into a search engine.
Sections 1621 and 1001 of Title 18 of United States Code lay out the crime of perjury before Congress.
Lying to Congress is punishable by up to five years in prison. If the perjury involves terrorism, the punishment is a maximum of eight years in prison.
Criminal convictions for lying to Congress are rare because the crime is relatively rare, but they do occur.
In the last 42 years, one corporate executive and four government officials have been convicted and sentenced for lying to Congress.
* 1996: Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield Chief Financial Officer Jerry Weissman is convicted of lying to the Senate about the destruction of documents. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
* 1987: Department of Housing and Urban Development executive Deborah Gore Dean is convicted of lying to Congress about her involvement in misappropriating funds. She was sentenced to 21 months in a confinement center, before being re-sentenced to six months home confinement.
* 1983: EPA official Rita Lavelle is sentenced to six months in prison and five years probation, and fined $10,000 for lying to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce regarding when she learned about an airplane contract.
* 1974: White House officials H.R. Haldeman and John Mitchell are convicted of lying to the Senate about their involvement in the Watergate scandal. Haldeman served 18 months in prison for lying about when he authorized payments. Mitchell served 19 months in prison for lying about when he first learned of the planned burglaries.
That number could have increased even more, had then-President George H.W. Bush in 1992 not pardoned five Reagan administration officials who had been indicted for lying to Congress about the Iran-Contra scandal.
State Department official Elliott Abrams and CIA employees Alan Fiers and Clair George were indicted, tried, convicted and sentenced for lying to Congress. Bush’s pardon erased those convictions.
Former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane had already plead guilty to withholding information from Congress and former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and CIA employee Duane Clarridge were scheduled to go on trial when pardoned.
While Comey claims Clinton did not lie to the FBI in their unrecorded interview, he stopped short of saying she did not lie in her sworn testimony to Congress.
The FBI traditionally does not investigate the crime of lying to Congress without a formal referral from the body.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the Benghazi committee, Rep. Jason Chaffezt, chairman of the Oversight Committee and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee began the process Friday of filing that formal referral, which would begin an FBI criminal investigation of Clinton’s statements before Congress.