- I’m going to go rely heavily on links here. I have written a lot about this story already, and there are many other issues to cover. I’ll summarize the content in the pieces linked to, but the thrust is this: Hillary’s explanation in her 20 minute press conference was deceitful, dishonest, and unbelievable. Of course it was.
- I would declare Hillary’s e-mail fiasco an Ethics Train Wreck, and still might, except that so many are refusing to buy a ticket. Even Bill is afraid to go near the tracks.
- There are a few who are disgracing themselves—I don’t count paid Clinton cleaners like Lanny Davis, or Media Matters—but one head-exploding performance I saw today was that of Van Jones, the former White House Czar turned CNN pundit, in a “New Day” discussion this morning paired with CNN’s resident conservative pundit—because heaven forbid we examine Clinton’s conduct based on truth, honesty, and principles rather than as political gamesmanship. The two (Ann Navarro for some reason is the only Republican CNN can usually find in the morning) were asked about the phony “Colin Powell did it!” defense dreamed up in the Clinton bunker. Navarro, like anyone else who has examined that argument, found it to be bunkum, simply because the use of e-mail, its regulation in government and what we know about e-mail security has changed so much since Powell referred to it as “new-fangled.” Here’s what Jones said, after first saying that he couldn’t argue with Navarro on her reasoning, emphasis mine:
“Again, she’s playing to the heartland. If you say, listen, I did what Colin Powell did. I’m trying to do a good job. I want convenience. You know, the average person in the heartland, if you hate the Clintons, no answer is good enough. But if you’re — if you’re an honest person, well, geez, maybe this makes sense. I actually do agree, though, that we are in a different world from the Colin Powell days. I think the Colin Powell excuse sounds really good from a press point of view. I hope she keeps saying it. But I do think that, at the end of the day, we are in a different world.”
That’s Jones; that’s the Democratic spin machine, that’s the “the ends justify the means” crowd, and that’s who the networks are asking for analysis: ‘Yes, it’s just designed to confuse the yokels, and it’s not true, but it works,and I hope she keeps saying it.’
There goes the old skull, exploding again.
Have I ever heard such an open, shameless admission that politicians not only do deceive the public, but that these horrible people like Jones think it’s fine if they do? Fire him.
- All that noted, CNN is not letting this story fade away, and is hammering it as hard as Fox, which would be obsessed with it even if it weren’t half as bad as it is. Good for CNN.
- The AP—the AP! As left-biased as it has been for the past decade!—did an excellent point by point dismantling of several of Clinton’s statements, and still missed several. Still, a good job:
CLINTON: “Others had done it.”
THE FACTS: Although email practices varied among her predecessors, Clinton is the only secretary of state known to have conducted all official unclassified government business on a private email address. Years earlier, when emailing was not the ubiquitous practice it is now among high officials, Colin Powell used both a government and a private account. It’s a striking departure from the norm for top officials to rely exclusively on private email for official business.
CLINTON: “I fully complied with every rule I was governed by.”
THE FACTS: At the very least, Clinton appears to have violated what the White House has called “very specific guidance” that officials should use government email to conduct business.
Clinton provided no details about whether she had initially consulted with the department or other government officials before using the private email system. She did not answer several questions about whether she sought any clearances before she began relying exclusively on private emails for government business.
Federal officials are allowed to communicate on private email and are generally allowed to conduct government business in those exchanges, but that ability is constrained, both by federal regulations and by their supervisors.
Federal law during Clinton’s tenure called for the archiving of such private email records when used for government work, but did not set out clear rules or punishments for violations until rules were tightened in November. In 2011, when Clinton was secretary, a cable from her office sent to all employees advised them to avoid conducting any official business on their private email accounts because of targeting by unspecified “online adversaries.”
CLINTON: “I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material.”
THE FACTS: The assertion fits with the facts as known but skirts the issue of exchanging information in a private account that, while falling below the level of classified, is still sensitive.
The State Department and other national security agencies have specified rules for the handling of such sensitive material, which could affect national security, diplomatic and privacy concerns, and may include material such as personnel, medical and law enforcement data. In reviewing the 30,000 emails she turned over to the State Department, officials are looking for any security lapses concerning sensitive but unclassified material that may have been disclosed.
CLINTON: “It had numerous safeguards. It was on property guarded by the Secret Service. And there were no security breaches.”
THE FACTS: While Clinton’s server was physically guarded by the Secret Service, she provided no evidence it hadn’t been compromised by hackers or foreign adversaries. She also didn’t detail who administered the email system, if it received appropriate software security updates, or if it was monitored routinely for unauthorized access.
Clinton also didn’t answer whether the homebrew computer system on her property had the same level of safeguards provided at professional data facilities, such as regulated temperatures, offsite backups, generators in case of power outages and fire-suppression systems. It was unclear what, if any, encryption software Clinton’s server may have used to communicate with U.S. government email accounts.
Recent high-profile breaches, including at Sony Pictures Entertainment, have raised scrutiny on how well corporations and private individuals protect their computer networks from attack.
CLINTON: “When I got to work as secretary of state, I opted for convenience to use my personal email account, which was allowed by the State Department, because I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two. Looking back, it would’ve been better if I’d simply used a second email account and carried a second phone, but at the time, this didn’t seem like an issue.”
THE FACTS: If multiple devices were an inconvenience in the past, they may be something of an obsession now. Clinton told an event in California’s Silicon Valley last month that she has an iPad, a mini-iPad, an iPhone and a BlackBerry. “I’m like two steps short of a hoarder,” she said. She suggested she started out in Washington with a BlackBerry but her devices grew in number.
Smartphones were capable of multiple emails when she became secretary; it’s not clear whether the particular phone she used then was permitted to do so under State Department rules.
- As if those weren’t enough, here is the New York Times wondering about how Clinton could claim she had no classified e-mails.
Seems very unlikely to me, too.
- Then there’s Hillary’s claim that the Clinton server was installed for Bill, and that she used the personal account to e-mail him. His close aide, however, says that Bill has sent only two e-mails in his life.
- From a legal ethics standpoint, her claim that she had her lawyer go through the e-mails to weed out the solely personal ones from what the government needed to have is laughable. Her lawyer works for her. Her lawyer’s job is to protect her, not help the government. The e-mails he sent, indeed, was ethically required to send, were the e-mails that posed no danger of harming, embarrassing, or undermining the welfare of Hillary Clinton.
- As the CNN team pointed out this afternoon, most of us will include personal comments in business e-mail discussions, and might mention business matters in personal e-mails. Are we really expected to believe that Clinton, in deleting tens of thousands of e-mails that her lawyer deemed “personal,” didn’t send any substantive State discussions into oblivion too? Ann Althouse relays a good point in this regard from one of the law professor’s blogging relatives:
She’s asked how the public can be assured that she withheld only personal emails, not work-related emails that might be “unflattering.”
Her answer is that “you would have to ask that question to every single federal employee,” since they all have the responsibility to decide whether to use their personal or work email addresses, depending on whether they’re talking about something work-related or not.When she decided which emails to turn over, a long time had passed since she had sent them. She’s had the time to reconsider things she said before. She’s gotten to see which subjects have become controversial over time. She’s had time to reflect on strategy for an upcoming presidential campaign. After all that time, then she decides which emails to call “work-related” — knowing that as long as she assigns that label to a given message, the public will likely see it.
And which kinds of messages have the most potential to be “unflattering” to a political candidate? Messages she sent on the spur of the moment, without much reflection or political calculation. Or messages about something we now know is a hotly debated issue, but that she didn’t realize at the time would end up being a big issue.
None of that is true of a federal employee deciding whether to use their work email address or personal email address to send a message.
I’ve been fixated on Hillary’s statement she destroyed her personal email, which I noticed she slipped in at the beginning of her press conference. Did she really mean that? Why would a woman who values her friends and family — and who has written 2 memoirs of her life — not want to preserve personal correspondence? The 9-page statement put out by her office is quite clear on this subject. It said, the L.A. Times reports, that there were “62,320 messages that she had sent or received between March 2009 and February 2013” and that “30,490 of these were provided to the State Department, and 31,830 were private records that were destroyed.”
Now, maybe it’s just a lie. She didn’t really destroy these records and is only claiming that she destroyed them so that we won’t attempt to gain access to them. But if she really did destroy them, why would she sacrifice so much? It could be that everything she cares about went to Chelsea and a few others who she knows will keep all of her email. Thus, it’s retrievable. Maybe it’s not such a huge sacrifice. But 31,830 private records destroyed? That sounds quite drastic, and it stokes the suspicion that she did shunt damaging work-related email into the “personal” category, then destroyed it all so that no one could ever check her work.
But if those damaging emails were sent, couldn’t the recipients produce them? Hillary is fighting for the presidency, and the door is closing in a year and a half. The press would need not only to acquire these emails from recipients, detect that they were not somewhere in the pile of printed-out 30,490 emails given to the State Department, and then face the defense that it’s not really surprising that in the sorting of 62,320 messages an inadvertent miscategorization could be made… and what difference at this point does it make?
The evidence is limited because she limited it, and I’m forced to infer that she is hiding some very important things — important enough that it was worth destroying the evidence.
- To this, add the fact that some of Hillary’s professional e-mails unquestionably went to other personal accounts, and would not be captured by a government account.
- Ron Fournier, at National Journal, asks five questions that need to be answered, among them these two:
QUESTION: What was her motive for stashing emails on a secret server registered to her home (a violation of federal regulations and Obama White House policy)?
It wasn’t “a matter of convenience.” That’s why she chose to use a personal account to send and receive work-related emails, an explanation that is both plausible and permissible.The controversy is not about how she used the account to communicate. It is about how she seized control of the account and its emails, which belonged on a government server.Why it matters: A homebrew server gave Clinton full control of government records. She didn’t explain why she wanted control badly enough to defy regulations and the president. Theoretically, she could delete or withhold public documents without the public ever knowing.
QUESTION: Does she consider emails about her family foundation to be personal?
Forced by House Republicans to acknowledge the existence of a rogue server, Clinton deleted more than 30,000 “personal” emails before giving the State Department a cache of emails she deemed to be work-related. How does she define personal? Emails about her mother’s funeral, for example, and her daughter’s wedding. No reasonable person would expect public disclosure of those kinds of emails.
Why it matters: Clinton could convince herself that emails about the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation are not government-related. After all, it’s a private charity. But it’s also a well-funded conflict of interest—the subject of multiple investigative stories exploring connections between donations and favors done for donors. You don’t have to be a Clinton critic to wonder whether the deleted emails involve pay-to-play. Democratic loyalists wonder, too.
Beware of Clinton spin. Her team is already trying to cast this as a brave fight to keep her private emails from public view. That’s a straw man. What she is doing is waging a fight to keep control of emails that were supposed to be in the government’s possession.
- Dan Balz, a Washington Post veteran Hill reporter and one who does a better job than most there of keeping his liberal bias in check, has written that it all comes down to whether voters trust Hillary. Van Jones, as quoted above, trotted out the frayed excuse that “if you hate the Clintons, no answer is good enough.” No that’s backwards. Apparently if you like the Clintons, you’ll believe anything, because there is no reason, after this performance but long before it, why any rational, sane individual would trust Hillary.
This brings us to the final link, an op-ed by the late, great conservative columnist Michael Kelly, who died covering the Iraq War. It is from 1998, in the middle of the Lewinsky scandal, and Kelly, who had Bill Clinton’s character diagnosed long before many of his colleagues, summarized what one had to believe not to come to the conclusion that President Clinton and his team were hopelessly corrupt. It speaks for itself.