The Slatest

Clinton-Hating Lawyer Files Lawsuit Against Hillary for Benghazi Deaths

Patricia Smith, mother of Benghazi victim Sean Smith (pictured at right), addresses the Republican National Convention on July 18 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Dust off your acrostics—Benghazi’s back. On Monday, the parents of two Americans killed in the 2012 terrorist attack at the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Hillary Clinton in federal court. The suit—brought by the parents of Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods, two of the four Americans who died in the attacks that also killed U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens and Glen Doherty—claims that Clinton’s use of a private email server to conduct government business contributed to the deaths of the four Americans.

Here is the lawsuit’s main charge, which is based on FBI Director James Comey’s finding last month that Clinton was “extremely careless” with classified information when she used a private email server as secretary of state:

It is highly probable, given Defendant Clinton’s history of reckless handling of classified information, that Defendant Clinton, as Secretary of State, sent and received information about Ambassador Christopher Stevens and thus the U.S. Department of State activities and covert operations that the deceased were a part of in Benghazi, Libya. This information was compromised from the second that it left Defendant Clinton’s private e-mail server and easily found its way to foreign powers including, but not limited to Russia, Iran, China, and North Korea. As a direct result of Defendant Clinton’s reckless handling of this classified, sensitive information, Islamic terrorists were able to obtain the whereabouts of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and thus the U.S. State Department and covert and other government operations in Benghazi, Libya and subsequently orchestrate, plan, and execute the now infamous September 11, 2012 attack.

The suit, which requests unspecified damages, also accuses Clinton of defaming the plaintiffs by suggesting publicly that they were mistaken or misremembered when they said that she told them the attacks were directly caused by an anti-Muslim YouTube video.

I am not a lawyer, so I won’t try to predict how this one will play out in court. What I can tell you, however, is that there have been nine investigations into the Benghazi attacks, and not a single one found any evidence of wrongdoing by Clinton—and that includes the one led by Rep. Trey Gowdy that lasted more than two years and cost an estimated $7 million. Meanwhile, while Comey granted last month that it was “possible that hostile actors gained access” to Clinton’s email, he said that his team of investigators found no direct evidence of any such hack. The plaintiffs, then, are claiming that it was “highly probable” that the attackers gained information from Clinton’s email despite the fact that House Republicans were unable to prove any such thing despite the massive amount of time, energy, and money they spent looking into Benghazi and Clinton. Furthermore, as the Wall Street Journal points out, the civil suit faces a particularly “high hurdle in part because of protections that often shield government officials from litigation.”

The two plaintiffs, Patricia Smith (mother of Sean Smith, a U.S. Foreign Service officer) and Charles Woods (father of Tyrone Woods, a security expert and former Navy Seal), have been outspoken critics of Clinton since the death of their adult children. Both have appeared frequently on Fox News, and Smith was given a speaking slot at last month’s GOP convention, where she declared: “I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son.” That alone, of course, isn’t enough to dismiss this lawsuit as nothing more than a politically motivated attack. If Woods and Smith really believe what they are alleging (and there’s no reason to doubt they do), then they can’t be faulted for using whatever platforms are afforded to them to seek redress, either in court or simply the court of public opinion.

When it comes to their lawyer, Larry Klayman, however, it’s far easier to see clear-cut political motivation. Klayman, the founder of the conservative watchdog group Freedom Watch, has a history of using outlandish claims as politically themed publicity stunts. Writing in Slate nearly two decades ago, Jacob Weisberg described Klayman as “one of the fringe characters who has sprouted in the moist ground of the Clinton scandals as mushrooms do after a spring rain.” In the years since, he hasn’t exactly come in from the rain. His recent greatest hits include accusing the Clintons of orchestrating the murders of several White House associates in the 1990s and filing a birther-themed “deportation petition” against President Obama. It’s no surprise, then, that Klayman is the one behind a lawsuit that pits the grieving parents against the Democratic nominee—in court and in the press—less than three months from Election Day.

Read more from Slate on the 2016 campaign.