James “Hoss” Cartwright was known as President Obama’s favorite general — a savvy Marine Corps veteran who, as vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, paid regular visits to the White House providing key advice on everything from drone strikes to the new era of cyber warfare.
But Monday, in an extraordinary rebuke, he stood stiffly in civilian clothes before a federal judge and pled guilty to a felony charge that he lied to the FBI about disclosing classified information to two journalists. It was the latest in an unprecedented series of leak-related cases brought by the Obama Justice Department. It prompted the New York Times (the main beneficiary of Cartwright’s leak, which concerned American cyberwar efforts against the Iranian nuclear program) to denounce his prosecution as “chilling.”
“Are you under the influence of any drugs, narcotics” or alcohol that might “cloud your judgment?” said U.S. Judge Richard Leon, using the standard language asked of all criminal defendants, as he briskly grilled the retired four-star general about his decision to enter a guilty plea.
Cartwright, 67, with his lawyer, former White House counsel Gregory Craig, standing beside him, responded with barely audible monosyllables: “No, sir,” he said in response to the question about being on drugs. “Yes, sir,” he told Leon, when asked if he fully understood the charge against him and that it might send him to federal prison.