It is now February 2017 and it is clear that people still don’t begin to understand the email scandal that rocked Hillary Clinton’s campaign last year. Republicans don’t understand it, as evident by their excusing of Trump’s use of his office for personal gain; and Democrats still don’t understand it, crying sarcastically “but her emails!” Paste Magazine recently published an article calling for Democrats to stop using that phrase — but the focus was on how other things cost Hillary the election. The author specifically calls the email scandal a “distraction.”
However, the issue surrounding Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for her official work as Secretary of State, absolutely was a serious scandal. However, it may not be quickly apparent to the layman and its gravity was masked — or the waters were muddied, if you will — by the way it was framed in the media. The original reports surrounded facts alone, without giving any real context. Once spin was introduced, you had some very poorly spun partisan takes by people like Donald Trump and you had really distorted reality from Democratic pundits who treated them like they were nothing at all — including Hillary Clinton’s own campaign website, which only offered snide remarks.
Because they failed to understand the scandal, there was a big hubbub when a story broke that some of Donald Trump’s staff had private RNC email addresses. Newsweek, which did aptly point to the fact that RNC email addresses were used for public business by the Bush Administration and resulted in a huge loss of public records as they lost these emails, yet tied the issue into the Clinton email scandal very loosely and opened the door for partisan hack pieces like one from Politics USA which called for Trump to be locked up because of it.
There was nothing illegal about Hillary Clinton owning a private email address or having a private email server. There was nothing illegal about top Trump staff having RNC email addresses. In fact, they could all use them, legally, from work. However, official communications and work should not be done through these private avenues. The Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments of 2014 law allows for them to be used if they are forwarded into the government system within 20 days, and the work email is copied on the original message, but that is a horrible law which is way too lax.
The key to Hillary Clinton’s email scandal was that she chose to use it for public business. Not only did she choose to use it for that purpose, she solely used that avenue for all her public business, later arguing that the government would still have the records because she communicated with staff at their government addresses. Of course, even after emails were given to the Department of State long after she left the office, they discovered emails which should have been considered government records which she did not produce, coming from her private email server, in the official email records of General David Petraeus. Yes, the Secretary of State doesn’t just contact people in her agency for public business, nor do they contact just people in the government nor in the United States.
When the Trump staffers having RNC emails was pointed out to me by some, I asked the obvious question: did they use them for public business? It was all legit if they just had the private addresses; it is a scandal if they use them for public business. There is no indication that they have used them for public business and until they do, there is no scandal there. This is a distraction, notably from some very legitimate Trump scandals.
Before the FBI released their report on the email scandals and chose not to prosecute Hillary Clinton for her actions, the State Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released their own report. Click on that link and read it for yourself. The report didn’t only cover what Hillary Clinton did during her tenure, though it was included, it also included actions taken by Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, and John Kerry have done. For any federal agency, their Office of Inspector General investigates crimes and malfeasance with business involving that agency. In this case, they were the internal watchdog.
“By Secretary Clinton’s tenure, the Department’s guidance was considerably more detailed and more sophisticated. Beginning in late 2005 and continuing through 2011, the Department revised the FAM and issued various memoranda specifically discussing the obligation to use Department systems in most circumstances and identifying the risks of not doing so. Secretary Clinton’s cybersecurity practices accordingly must be evaluated in light of these more comprehensive directives.”
What does this report reveal? Well, we know that employees have been directed to generally use only official government systems for official business since 2005, long before Hillary got into office. We also know that, from the beginning, Hillary was made aware that she could not do work on private devices and emails and just lied to those who told her and actively refused to follow the rules.
“The Assistant Secretary of DS then sent a classified memorandum to Secretary Clinton’s Chief of Staff that described the vulnerabilities associated with the use of BlackBerry devices and also noted the prohibition on the use of Blackberry devices in sensitive areas. According to a DS official, shortly after the memorandum was delivered, Secretary Clinton approached the Assistant Secretary and told him she ‘gets it.'”
Of course, Hillary did continue to use her BlackBerry, along with her close staff, continued to use these banned devices just the same.
Rules obligated the use of government systems for email correspondence, yet the OIG report makes a very key issue of the fact that Hillary did not even bother seeking permission or guidance on using this private email server. She would have needed permission to distribute “SBU data” to outside addresses of any sort, requiring the “IRM” department to develop a solution for the situation; once again she did not do what she was required to do.
“According to the current CIO and Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security, Secretary Clinton had an obligation to discuss using her personal email account to conduct official business with their offices, who in turn would have attempted to provide her with approved and secured means that met her business needs. However, according to these officials, DS and IRM did not—and would not —approve her exclusive reliance on a personal email account to conduct Department business, because of the restrictions in the FAM and the security risks in doing so.”
In fact, we also see an outright intimidation factor showing that it was known that what Hillary Clinton was doing was illegal and that those close to her did not want it coming out. This is suggestive of an outright coverup of Clinton’s practices in office.
“Two staff in S/ES-IRM reported to OIG that, in late 2010, they each discussed their concerns about Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal email account in separate meetings with the then-Director of S/ES-IRM. In one meeting, one staff member raised concerns that information sent and received on Secretary Clinton’s account could contain Federal records that needed to be preserved in order to satisfy Federal recordkeeping requirements. According to the staff member, the Director stated that the Secretary’s personal system had been reviewed and approved by Department legal staff and that the matter was not to be discussed any further. As previously noted, OIG found no evidence that staff in the Office of the Legal Adviser reviewed or approved Secretary Clinton’s personal system. According to the other S/ES-IRM staff member who raised concerns about the server, the Director stated that the mission of S/ES -IRM is to support the Secretary and instructed the staff never to speak of the Secretary’ s personal email system again.”
We also get a glimpse of a Hillary Clinton that is paranoid of her private dealings getting into the open. There was a problem in 2010 with her emails being bounced from State Department recipients because it was not in the system. Her Deputy Chief of Staff wanted her to either release her e-mail address to the department or start using a state.gov email address. Her response was: “Let’s get separate address or device but I don’t want any risk of the personal being accessible.”
In the end, Clinton knowingly broke the law. Yes, she broke the law — not all law has criminal consequences. FBI director, James Comey, did not claim that Clinton had not broke the law — she most certainly did — but rather said that he did not believe it made sense to have a criminal trial on the matter, saying similar cases — which is questionable — would result in termination or stripping of security clearances, not criminal prosecution. Why did she break the law? Apparently, she was worried about her “private” matters being made public.
What we have is a tie-in to the another epic scandal, the Clinton Foundation. Accusations have been made that she utilized her position as Secretary of State to funnel money into the Clinton Foundation through a system dubbed pay-to-play. There is good reason to suspect that the reason she both wanted to co-mingle her private and public servant email and was afraid of the “private” part becoming accessible to the government or FOIA requests was that she was utilizing her office to do exactly that — you pay if you want to play.
The Foundation obscured what benefit the Clintons received from these donations, but besides employing political allies at high salaries for little work, it was revealed, as NPR reported, that at least one employee, Doug Band, spent his Foundation time calling back donors to get high-paid speaking engagements for former President Bill Clinton, at least $30 million worth. As the Observer reported in November, donors also began abandoning the Clinton Foundation once Hillary lost her bid for the presidency, highly suggestive that they were expecting favors she would be in the position to grant if she had won.
Hillary did not want a public record of the fact that she was selling United States policy to those who would launder their bribes to her through the Clinton Foundation. She consistently violated the law and had a private email server for that purpose. It is also rather telling that, when she finally did release the emails she claimed were federal records to the Department of State — of which they know for a fact some were missing — she didn’t let anyone in the government comb through her emails but rather had attorneys, who did not have clearance to view those emails, print them and send them allegedly by viewing the message subject.
In the end, the email scandal was legitimate for these reasons: her actions were illegal, there was an attempt to cover up the fact that she was doing this illegally, there was a potential national security risk from these federal records being on her private server, and the private server was likely utilized for the sole purpose of obscuring the fact that she was using her office to solicit indirect bribes through the Clinton Foundation.
[Featured Image by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]