Hillary’s Defense: An Ethics Mess

  • 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.’


Exploding head

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.

Seems very unlikely to me, too.

  • 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.

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.

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.


Sources:National Journal,  NYT, AP, Bloomberg, Weekly Standard, Althouse

45 thoughts on “Hillary’s Defense: An Ethics Mess

  1. Why would Hillary Clinton destroy her personal email? For the same reason that Lizzie Borden destroyed the dress she was wearing on the day of the murders.

    I have no idea why the comparison of Lizzie Borden and Hillary Clinton just popped into my head like that.

  2. Among the dozens of comments I could make here (and good for you, Jack, for laying them all out), I have time to comment on only one. If Hillary didn’t even have a .gov e-mail address, and used her personal e-mail for everything (despite the presumably “safe” server in her home) how can she possibly say that no confidential State Department information was sent from her personal e-mail address, or that it was “safe” from hackers, or that it’s okay because it was “archived” by the State Department receivers of her e-mails? What might have happened in between?

    And if her home server is “safe,’ and if her personal e-mails were just that, why not turn over the server to those who can analyze it? So she admits to providing e-mails she and her staff think are pertinent, and also admits to deleting (deleting!) those they think are not? She’s not only a liar and a shyster, but a moron (or is pretending to be). Anyone who works regularly with e-mail knows that nothing is really ever deleted. Any good tech or hacker can find them all.

    Jeez, when Obama jumps ship that should tell you something. He’s pretty quiet, because the investigation may not bode well for him either. But it seems pretty clear that the Democrats are jumping ship also — who wants an aging (almost the oldest candidate), sometimes ill, lying, combative, nasty, narcissistic, baggage-ridden candidate for President in 2016? Prediction: she will claim health matters as a reason not to run — and that will at the suggestion of the Democratic leadership. Hope they have fun finding someone to take her place, since she’s be not-running for two years at least.

    Advice to Republicans: lay low. Let the media get her. Don’t make this yet another anti-Hillary, partisan issue. The media — including the AP’s pending suit — will do the work for you, so don’t get your hands dirty, and be above it all. The media and the general public will do this one for you.

    • ” If Hillary didn’t even have a .gov e-mail address, and used her personal e-mail for everything … how can she possibly say that no confidential State Department information was sent from her personal e-mail address…?”

      Classified messages within the State Department, or between the State Department and other government agencies, would not use the regular email system. They’d be sent over a separate government network — I’m guessing SIPRnet or JWICS — that is not connected to the unclassified network. This likely has separate servers, separate communications lines, and separate endpoint computers — you’d have one laptop for regular email, another one for classifed email, and so on. The classified computers might even be kept in separate rooms, so people without clearances wouldn’t have physical access.

      There would be no easy way to forward documents from the classified network to an unclassified network, not even within the State Department. So even if Hillary had used only her official State Department email, it still wouldn’t ever have been used for classified information. Using her personal email server doesn’t give it access to classified information that never goes through the ordinary email. I’m pretty sure that this is what she means.

      Except…even though it’s intentionally difficult to transfer messages directly from a high-security network to a lower-security network, nothing prevents someone from reading something on a secure network and then talking about it in a non-secure way. You’re not supposed to talk about classified stuff in an unclassified context, but the truth is that it can be hard to keep track of which bits of information in your head are classified. People with national security positions are supposed to be careful, but they’re human and they screw up all the time.

      This happens a lot, and to everybody, and Hillary probably slipped up as much as anyone. She probably also received messages from people who slipped up, talking about things that really shouldn’t have been sent over the unclassified network. Except that instead of doing it on the State Department mail servers she did it on her own.

        • Are you kidding? She put the server together for the sole purpose of hiding things she didn’t want seeing the light of day. I imagine it’s got the very best security money can buy. Likely requires a DNA sample to access.

        • That’s the question, isn’t it?

          I doubt the State Department’s security standards for unclassified email are much different from those of any business with security concerns, such as a bank or a company with lots of trade secrets. Commercial email software would be adequate for the task, and the Clintons could afford to hire IT consultants specializing in secure systems to set it all up and maintain it. So it’s entirely possible that her personal system was every bit as secure as the State Department’s unclassified email system.

          It’s also entirely possible that it was set up by a friend of one of her aides who knows something about computers and maintained only sporadically, in which case intelligence agencies and random hackers were all over it.

          I’m guessing it’s more like the latter scenario, but unless someone can get an investigation going, we may never know.

      • I remember always saying “blah, blah, blah, this is a non-secure line, may I help you?” whenever we picked up a phone. The only time I recall ever transmitting any classified data electronically was occasionally on an ICOM-equipped CINCGARS, but even that was discouraged. It seems almost unthinkable that anyone could get away with transmitting classified data without top-shelf encryption gear. The whole Walker debacle caused the mishandling of classified data, intentional or not, likely to get you all sorts of unpleasant attention.

        • Shoot, it isn’t even just electronic data. I got a brief and verbal reprimand for transferring, via my personal vehicle, *hardcopies* of classified documents, which were secure in a cardboard folder, inside a solidly secure envelope that NO PORTABLE TECHNOLOGY could possibly see through. This was a 1/2 mile drive from the Post Headquarters to my Battalion HQ. A whole 1 minute drive.

          Regulations (which I had failed to read, let alone even think it mattered) stated clearly that Classified documents must be carried in a government vehicle.

  3. I went to law school with Van Jones, back in Bill Clinton’s first term. No way he would identify as a Democrat back in the day. He was much more left than that. I actually thought this was one of the more reasonable things I ever heard him say…

  4. “because heaven forbid we examine Clinton’s conduct based on truth, honesty, and principles rather than as political gamesmanship”

    To use the terms truth, honesty and principles in the same sentence as “The Clintons” is an oxymoron. Or maybe, since were talking bout the Clinton’s, leave out the “oxy” part.

  5. “[W]ho wants an aging (almost the oldest candidate), sometimes ill, lying, combative, nasty, narcissistic, baggage-ridden candidate for President in 2016?”

    Lots of people, at least according to Lanny Davis who insists the Clintons (besides being his favorite and doubtless best paying clients) are the most popular politicians in the history of the United States and are therefore beyond reproach.

    But seriously, lots of people love the Clintons. It’s inexplicable but a fact.

    • There’s more than enough supporters who don’t necessarily “like the Clintons” as much as they automatically hate anything the Republicans may put forward and see Clinton as their best hope to avoid a Republican.

  6. This might be more common than I realize, but did anyone else do a double take at those numbers?

    “62,320 messages that she had sent or received between March 2009 and February 2013″ 30,490 business and 31,830 personal

    4*365 = 1440 days.

    62320/1440 = 43 Emails daily on average. including weekends.
    31830/1440 = 22 Personal Emails daily on average.
    30490/1440 = 21 Business Emails daily on average.

    Does that not seem an insanely high number for personal Email? That even hits me as slightly high for business use, but I’ll ignore that because I’m not entirely sure how much paper government creates.

  7. I cannot fathom what the fuss is all about. It couldn’t be any more obvious that these were exclusively personal emails.

    This is a modest woman who did not wish to be credited for absorbing some of the more onerous duties related to her daughter’s nuptials. Nor did she wish to advertise her earned wealth and deserved prestige lest lesser mortals be tempted into the sin of envy.

    It is clear that there were merely TWO EMAILS involved:
    One was a formal invitation to her daughter’s wedding (the embossing font was designed by mama herself, sacrificing a precious hour of a long-ago workday as she toiled valiantly in the service of her country); the other, a gracious thank-you note for the wedding gift (sent of course, as custom would have it, regardless of whether the guest attended or not).

    Both emails were cc’d to each of the 15,000 invited guests.

  8. Pingback: Hillary needs this unlike the nation needs her | Sandia Tea Party

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.