Category Archives: Clinton

Strassel: Hillary’s Email Escapade

Congress’s entire Benghazi investigation, we now know, was based on an incomplete record.

Hillary Clinton has made some disingenuous statements over her political career, but none remotely compare to the tweet she issued Wednesday night: “I want the public to see my email,” she said. This requires—how to say it—a willing suspension of disbelief.

Mrs. Clinton was referring to the gracious permission she had just bestowed upon the State Department to release her email correspondence as the nation’s former top diplomat. She’s only in a position to grant such favors because it turns out all of her correspondence as Secretary of State was conducted on private email, run out of a server she alone controlled. The Clinton camp has spent this week explaining that none of this was untoward, that no laws were broken, and that she’s being transparent.

Were you just awakening from a 40-year coma and still a bit fuzzy, this might strike you as remotely plausible. For everyone else who has lived through the Bill and Hill years, this email caper is pure Clinton.

First, historical context. There are few politicians alive today who have a better understanding than the Clintons of the perils of paper trails—and the benefits of not having them. It really wasn’t all that long ago that Mrs. Clinton was failing to answer questions about how her Rose Law firm billing records vanished. Or using executive privilege to sit on documents that showed her involvement in the Travel Office firings. Or grappling with testimony from a Secret Service agent who said Mrs. Clinton’s top aide had removed files from Vince Foster ’s office. Or explaining her connection to Sandy Berger, who was prosecuted for stealing Clinton-related National Archives records.

If you don’t think all this wasn’t informing Mrs. Clinton’s decision—on the day of her first confirmation hearing—to register, you aren’t thinking.

Mrs. Clinton’s decision to ignore records laws also has to be viewed in the context of what she knew. In recent years she served as a senator and secretary of state, where she’d have been through rounds of ethics training. She was working for an Obama administration that had issued guidance requiring employees to use official email accounts.

She also clearly knew what any government watchdog group will tell you: That State has the most robust records-keeping rules of any department, with policies that go well beyond federal law. Her duties were very clear.

Then again, Mrs. Clinton is a lawyer. And here’s what she presumably understood, even if most of the media still hasn’t worked it out: The federal records law is very fuzzy. It is advisory, and says only that documents must be “preserved.” According to Team Clinton, turning over documents now is all that is required. And even if it isn’t, what Mrs. Clinton also knows is that there is no penalty for violating that statute. The Clintons thrive in gray areas.

Finally, the email escapade has to be viewed in the context of a Clinton presidential run, and the need to control the story line. The beauty of the Clinton home-brew system is that it puts her in total control. She runs the Clinton email cloud. She alone decides what documents to hand to State. This is why her agreement to allow State to release the 55,000 pages she has now sent it is hilariously hollow; she’s agreeing only to the release of emails she’s selectively provided. Even if she turned over the entire contents of her server (which she has no intention of doing), there’s no way of knowing what she already deleted.

The chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, claims to have evidence of a second Clinton email account. Her team says that’s not true. There’s no way to find out.

The Clinton folks are pointing out that there is a record of any email Mrs. Clinton sent to people with government accounts. But how many personal emails did she send to actors who were also using personal accounts (as she did with political operative Sidney Blumenthal )? There’s no way to find out.

Mrs. Clinton is the sole arbiter here of what is “preserved,” made public, or available to freedom of information requests or to congressional overseers. Don’t think any of this was by accident.

The timing is also notable. Mrs. Clinton only sent those 55,000 pages in December, and only after congressional investigators discovered the private address and demanded State explain what exactly had happened to all the emails from the nation’s top diplomat. In short, Congress’s entire investigation of Benghazi has been based on an incomplete record. (You can almost picture Mrs. Clinton smiling.)

State has meanwhile said it will release the (selective) 55,000 pages, though only after a review, which will “take some time to complete.” Here’s to betting it finishes in December of 2016. As for the fight over Mrs. Clinton’s server, and what it contains, that may never be resolved.

All of which is fortunate for Mrs. Clinton. And if we know anything, it is that Mrs. Clinton is good at creating her own fortune.

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