In January 2016, in response to an inquiry, Charles McCullough III, the Intelligence Community inspector general, informed the Republican leadership on the Senate intelligence and foreign affairs committees that emails beyond the “Top Secret” level passed through Hillary Clinton’s unsecured personal server. Democrats immediately responded by trying to intimidate McCullough.
Scott documented this effort in a January 25, 2016 post that highlighted threatening comments by Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff. The contemptible Schiff told Chris Wallace:
I think the inspector general does risk his reputation. And once you lose that as inspector general, you’re not much good to anyone. So I think the inspector general has to be very careful here.
McCullough is no longer in government. Thus, he is free to talk about the campaign Democrats launched against him.
McCullough tells Fox News’ Catherine Herridge that he, his family, and his staffers faced an intense backlash from Clinton allies, and that the campaign put out word that it planned to fire him if the Democratic presidential nominee won the 2016 election.
McCullough’s January 2016 statement was a bombshell. In August 2015, the Clinton campaign had said:
Clinton only used her account for unclassified email. When information is reviewed for public release, it is common for information previously unclassified to be upgraded to classified.
The classification review, which was only beginning when Team Clinton pooh-poohed the matter, did not bear out its statement. As McCullough now says, “there was an effort. . .certainly on the part of the campaign to mislead people into thinking that there was nothing to see here.”
Once McCullough exposed the Clinton campaign’s statement as false, his fate was sealed in any Clinton administration. He says the he was told “in no uncertain terms, by a source directly from the campaign, that we [he and one of his investigators] would be the first two to be fired — with [Clinton’s] administration.”
That’s the campaign. What about congressional Democrats? We’ve already discussed Adam Schiff’s thuggish response. McCullough also mentions a confrontation with Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
Not surprisingly, there was also resistance from the State Department, especially from Patrick Kennedy, Hillary’s loyal servant. State Department management didn’t want us there,” McCullough told Fox News. “We knew we had had a security problem at this point. We had a possible compromise.”
Perhaps the most interesting part of the story is the reaction of James Clapper, then the Director of National Intelligence. Clapper, who had recommended McCullough for the inspector general job, was disturbed — as any rational official would be — by the findings as to what Clinton’s email server contained. He told McCullough: “This is extremely reckless.”
However, according to McCullough, Clapper also mentioned something about “the campaign [having] heartburn about that.” And McCullough says that after the meeting with Clapper, his team was marginalized.
Clapper, it seems, was more concerned about the Clinton campaign than someone in his position should have been. Perhaps he didn’t want to be the third person fired in a Clinton administration.
McCullough is one of the few people to have viewed the 22 Top Secret Clinton emails deemed too classified to release under any circumstances. He says, “There was a very good reason to withhold those emails … there would have been harm to national security.” Indeed, “sources and methods, lives and operations” could have been put at risk.
Asked what would have happened to him if he had done what Clinton did, McCullough responded: “I’d be sitting in Leavenworth right now.”
Finally, I want to emphasize, as I did back in January 2016, that McCullough is hardly an anti-Democrat partisan. He was nominated by President Obama in 2011 to be the first inspector general for the 16 intelligence agencies and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The Senate Intelligence Committee unanimously confirmed him that October. The full Senate agreed by unanimous consent in November.
Democrats supported the nomination enthusiastically. Feinstein, who later turned on him, described McCullough as “well-qualified.” “He has long experience conducting investigations both as an inspector general and a FBI agent,” she said.
Other Democrats agreed. “We’ve heard good things about you and I’m looking forward to supporting you when Chair Feinstein moves ahead with the vote,” Sen. Ron Wyden declared. “You clearly have been able to operate in both the civilian and the military sectors which will, I think, prove to be a very valuable set of experiences, if you’re confirmed,” said Sen. Mark Udall.
These plaudits were merited, as is clear from his biographical blurb, a good portion of which was cited by the Obama administration when it nominated him.
But the Democrats turned on a dime the moment that McCullough, in the course of just doing his job, made statements that didn’t serve the interests of their pre-selected candidate for president.