Gen. David Petraeus is in the running for secretary of state. Shouldn't Donald Trump want to lock him up?

Petraeus pleaded guilty to mishandling classified info — a charge for which Trump said he'd jail Hillary Clinton

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published November 18, 2016 2:04PM (EST)

David Petraeus   (Reuters/Chris Keane)
David Petraeus (Reuters/Chris Keane)

Disgraced former CIA Director David Petraeus is reported to be in the running for secretary of state, despite being prosecuted for releasing classified information — the very offense for which President-elect Trump so often blasted Hillary Clinton during the election.

According to a Friday article by The Guardian, Petraeus has been added to the names being considered for secretary of state, a list that also includes former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and the Republican Party's 2012 presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. Despite being credited for turning around the American military's fortunes during the second Iraq war, Petraeus is perhaps best known today for resigning in disgrace in 2012 after the FBI discovered that he had shared classified information with journalist Paula Broadwell, with whom he had been having an affair while she was writing his biography. He eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge for mishandling classified information.

The irony, of course, is that one of Trump's main talking points against Hillary Clinton was that she deserved to go to jail for using her private email server to transmit classified information. Unlike Petraeus, there is a plausible case that Clinton didn't know that many of the documents on her server were classified, due to them often not being labeled as such at the time. That said, the FBI report on her actions in July found that "there is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton's position or in the position of those with whom she was corresponding about the matters should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation."

Despite the FBI finding no grounds for prosecuting Clinton, Trump's campaign encouraged supporters to chant "Lock her up!" at rallies, with Trump ominously suggesting during the second presidential debate that he would throw Clinton in jail if elected. Trump has still not clarified whether he actually plans on appointing a special prosecutor to pursue this now that he's won the election.

The difference between Petraeus and Clinton may be that the former has been effusively flattering toward the president-elect since the election.

"This is an individual who is a political outsider," Petraeus told German cable news channel Deutsche Welle this week. "Perhaps he can do something in Washington that the political insiders, who he rightly criticises, have been unable to do, which is to come together to give a little, to gain a lot for our country."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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David Petraeus Donald Trump Elections 2016 Hillary Clinton Secretary Of State