The parents of two Americans killed in the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, filed a lawsuit against Hillary Clinton claiming, among other things, wrongful death and defamation.
From a purely legal standpoint, a roll of toilet paper has more value.
No one doubts the heartache these parents have endured. And no one should question the valor of their sons who lost their lives. However, this lawsuit is so groundless and specious that it threatens to diminish our memory of them.
The plaintiffs claim that Clinton’s “extremely careless” handling of confidential and classified government information on her private email server caused the deaths of Tyrone Woods and Sean Smith. Clinton was surely careless. Indeed, her conduct was probably criminal, notwithstanding FBI Director James Comey’s tortured logic in not recommending prosecution. But the plaintiffs in this civil lawsuit cannot possibly prove that Clinton’s emails were the proximate cause of the Benghazi attack. Not a chance.
First, the plaintiffs would have to establish that Clinton authored an email giving the specific time, date, location and other information on the whereabouts of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and others on Sept. 11, 2012. So far, it doesn’t exist. There is no evidence of it.
Second, they’d have to demonstrate that someone hacked Clinton’s server and gave the supposed email to the terrorists. Or, in the alternative, the terrorists did the hacking all by themselves. Again, there is no evidence of that. Yes, Comey said it is possible Clinton’s server was hacked successfully. But there is no proof it ever happened. How do you prove that? In all likelihood, the plaintiffs cannot.
Third, they’d have to show the supposedly hacked email caused the terrorists to launch their deadly attack. Absent a terrorist willing to testify or some other documentary evidence substantiating the causal connection, it cannot be done. It is inherently unprovable. The U.S. doesn’t even know who most of the terrorists are. Good luck getting them to come to Washington D.C. to testify in federal court.
Thus, the wrongful death cause of action is legally fallacious. Pure fiction.
Defamation, by either slander or libel, is a false statement that damages someone’s good name and reputation. It is extremely difficult to prove.
The parents claim that Clinton told them a lie – that an anti-Muslim video caused the terror attack. Then, when Clinton later denied saying it, she was implying that the parents were, themselves, lying. Hence, the defamation. As legal claims go, this one is thin. Razor thin.
Clinton insists she never told the parents that a video was to blame for the attack. She says other parents overheard the conversation and corroborate her claim. If so, then Clinton, who has a history of telling whoppers when it comes to her email server, may actually be telling the truth. And truth is a complete defense to defamation.
But whatever explanation Clinton offered the parents for the cause of the attack, it was likely her opinion. And opinion is protected speech in a defamation case. Game over.
Moreover, Clinton never said the plaintiffs lied. One of the allegedly defamatory statements cited in the lawsuit is an interview in which a questioner asked, “Somebody is lying. Who is it?” Clinton responded by saying, “Not me. That’s all I can tell you.” Well, that’s not defamation. Not by a long shot. A plaintiff must do more than simply imply a falsehood.
Finally, if the parents are considered “public figures” by virtue of their numerous television appearances, they will have a nearly insurmountable burden of proving that Clinton acted with what’s called “malice.” That is, she knew her statements were false or acted with reckless disregard for the truth. In a case like this, how can that be proved? It can’t.
Therefore, the defamation cause of action is really quite delusional. It will never survive the most basic courtroom challenge.
Most of the allegations of wrongdoing happened while Clinton was serving as Secretary of State. As such, she is entitled to “qualified immunity.” It is an affirmative defense which shields government officials from damages for civil liability, unless their actions are found to violate an individual’s federal constitutional rights. It appears that Clinton was acting in the course and scope of her official duties, so it will be nearly impossible for the plaintiffs to pierce the broad immunity protection.
There are other claims for damages in the lawsuit, but they are equally implausible. For example, the parents are suing for negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress. In law school, students are taught that, if all else fails, sue for emotional distress. The trouble is, judges went to law school, too. Most of them view it as an act of desperation in a feeble or sham lawsuit.
In this case, it is worse than weak. All the emotional distress claims are tied directly to Clinton’s emails. And, again, the plaintiffs can’t prove that Clinton’s server was hacked and that terrorists got their hands on her emails which then prompted their attacks.
Whatever federal judge is assigned this case will not be oblivious to who filed it. Larry Klayman is the plaintiffs’ lawyer. A political conservative and known Clinton nemesis, he filed more than a dozen cases against the administration of President Bill Clinton and is the definition of “litigious.” His Wikipedia page makes for interesting reading. Check it out. Two federal judges have banned him from their courtrooms for life. He even sued his own mother.
The parents who agreed to be represented by Klayman have done themselves no favors. His role as their attorney will raise an immediate red flag to the judge that this case is, in all likelihood, politically motivated. Never a good thing.
Expect the defense to file a motion to dismiss. Expect it to be granted. If the plaintiffs are lucky, they’ll simply walk away with nothing.
If they are unlucky, they’ll get hit with sanctions for bringing a frivolous lawsuit.
Gregg Jarrett is a Fox News legal analyst and former defense attorney.