So, here we are, six months away from an election, and we are still talking about #HillaryEmail. It was just last September that former Secretary Clinton was telling ABC News, “That was a mistake. I’m sorry about that. I take responsibility” and “And I’m trying to be as transparent as I possibly can.”
It was a lie. The Obama administration’s Inspector General painting a completely different picture, confirmed suspicions as to why Clinton decided to run her email operation out of her house, rather than comply with different sets of existing rules as they pertain to email at State and preserving government correspondence.
The OIG report states:
“The Federal Records Act requires appropriate management and preservation of Federal Government records, regardless of physical form or characteristics, that document the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions of an agency. For the last two decades, both Department of State (Department) policy and Federal regulations have explicitly stated that emails may qualify as Federal records. As is the case throughout the Federal Government, management weaknesses at the Department have contributed to the loss or removal of email records, particularly records created by the Office of the Secretary.”
The OIG report spans the tenures of five Secretaries of State and covers regulatory changes that were made during each tenure. Here is the portion that is relevant to Hillary Clinton’s tenure:
The following discussion on MSNBC’s Hardball in March of 2015 serves as a good recap both of the issues involved, and what Clinton was saying back then:
The OIG report bolsters Clinton’s critics last year. At best, Clinton comes off as dishonest, setting up a home email server in order to prevent the public from legally accessing records that belong to it. Making it worse, she cited convenience as the reason why she did it. The OIG, quite clearly contradicts that.
Most media outlets, to varying degrees, have been reporting the only sane conclusions one can take away from this report:
New York Times:
The State Department’s inspector general on Wednesday sharply criticized Hillary Clinton’s exclusive use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, saying that she had not sought permission to use it and would not have received it if she had.
A State Department Inspector General report said former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton failed to follow the rules or inform key department staff regarding her use of a private email server, according to a copy of the report obtained by CNN on Wednesday.
Los Angeles Times:
Donald Trump isn’t the only presidential candidate with credibility problems. The State Department’s inspector general delivered his report on Hillary Clinton’s emails on Wednesday — and it wasn’t good news for the presumptive Democratic candidate.
Washington Post’s Chris Cilliza:
“One of the two big dominoes in the Hillary Clinton email controversy toppled today: The State Department’s inspector general released its report on the email practices of Clinton and a number of other past secretaries of state. (The other major domino is, of course, the FBI investigation into Clinton’s decision to exclusively use a private email server while serving as the nation’s top diplomat.)
The report, which you can read in its entirety here, badly complicates Clinton’s past explanations about the server and whether she complied fully with the laws in place governing electronic communication. And it virtually ensures that Clinton’s email practices will be front and center in Donald Trump’s fusillade of attacks against her credibility and honesty between now and Nov. 8.”
“Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton violated federal records rules through her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, a State Department audit has concluded.”
“Hillary Clinton broke State Department rules through the use of her private email server during her time as secretary, according to a government report that will be formally released on Thursday.
The 83-page report from the State Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), which was leaked to The Hill and other media outlets on Wednesday, compounds the problems that have dogged the likely Democratic presidential nominee since before her entry into the race.
It said definitively that Clinton “did not comply with the department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act,” and that federal officials claimed they “would not” have approved the setup, had a formal request been made.”
For some crazy reason, Charles Tiefer’s piece in Forbes completely contradicting what’s in the OIG’s report, declares that Hillary Clinton has been vindicated:
The report released Wednesday by the State Department Inspector General on its email records management is being reported as heavy-duty criticism of former Secretary Hillary Clinton. However, the report has more in it that vindicates Clinton than nails her.”
Huh? Tiefer’s deceptive byline is followed by a header that identifies the piece as being in Forbes’ opinion section. Of course, the piece is pure nonsense, but the Clinton campaign has been using it in its spin campaign.
Politico’s Nick Gass condensed OIG’s 83-page report into
“The 83-page document provided fresh details about whether the private server was authorized and concerns about hacking attacks.”
While the ongoing FBI investigation could uncover destruction of government records, non-compliance and other issues that may or may not rise to some kind of crime, OIG settles some things for us. First, the “convenience” line of defense is obliterated in the report. It is clear from the findings that her intent was to circumvent regulations, and once found out, control what goes into the public record. Clinton, after all, turned over her records well over a year after ending her tenure at State. If nothing else is found to be remiss, that, in and of itself, is a huge slight to the American public. By law, documents are preserved on behalf of the American people, the owners of the work product of our government. They aren’t preserved only for posterity, but for the sake of accountability and for the historical record.
Why, in 2009, would Hillary Clinton want to make sure no one saw her State Department correspondence? Why, in 2009, when she had a signed agreement with the Obama administration that included a stipulation that she would not employ Sidney Blumenthal, did Clinton maintain a regular working relationship behind President Obama’s back; she, using her home email server and he, an AOL account? Of all the unsophisticated, un-businesslike and least secure means or communication, AOL is at the very top!
With all of the security measures taken at State for every type of circumstance, especially communications, how is it possible that it didn’t dawn on Clinton or any of her top staffers that her server couldn’t possibly be in compliance with State Department regulations, or that having Secret Service protection couldn’t possibly cut it? Those thoughts did dawn on staffers, however, and they were cut off at the pass and told never again to bring it up. There is something very wrong with a staff that feels secure in maintaining such a work atmosphere without fear of retribution from the very top. Just as one expects soldiers to refuse to execute illegal orders, one would expect staffers to tell the boss when she wants something that is out of compliance with regulations, unsafe, unethical, or all of the above, and when ordered to carry out illegal or improper orders, to resign. Indeed, the report details a period of time in which some staffers thought they might have been hacked. How is is it possible that top officials at the U.S. Department of State would even consider working in unsecured conditions when the department has the budget and it is within its purview to procure the most secure methods of communications? All this, why?
These aren’t trivial lapses. All along the way, from the initial decision to run email from Chappaqua, to actually getting it online, beginning to use it and getting others to deviate from accepted protocol, to stopping dead in its track the questioning of safety and legality. This entire timeline of decisions and events, while likely did not unfold immediately in front of Secretary Clinton, is an avalanche she started with one initial lapse in judgment. For an Ivy League-trained attorney, this is no innocent mistake. Clinton knew what she was doing. She’d criticized others for the very same thing, namely, Jeb Bush.
After 25 years of relentless GOP campaigns against the Clintons, it is understandable that Hillary Clinton might want to protect herself as much as possible from new attacks. But in the face of existing regulations, the tradition of record-keeping in government, should Clinton not have squelched whatever fears and gone about her new post in good faith and by the book?
When a leader demonstrates a need to control that is of such Nixonian proportions, is it not a worry that they will replicate the behavior next time? If running the State Department is a big effing deal and Clinton couldn’t bring herself to do it on the up and up, why won’t this present an even bigger challenge and risk when Clinton becomes leader of the free world? Can Clinton be entrusted the White House?
Donald Trump’s flaws don’t make Clinton more fit to lead. Clinton’s blatant disregard for the rules is a serious character flaw. Managing the nation’s foreign affairs while thumbing her nose at the rules of conduct and defying her contractual obligation to President Obama constitutes breathtaking arrogance and a serious lapse in judgment. Running for the highest office in the land with an Achilles’ heel such as this one is also indicative of a problem with judgment. For now, only Clinton and those close to her know the extent of an email liability that should never have been open in the first place. This all goes to Clinton’s fitness for office, Trump notwithstanding.
Blog#42 is a reader-supported blog. Your contributions are deeply appreciated.