A look at Hillary Clinton’s emails…again
By: Sam Mathers, News Editor
News of Vice President Mike Pence and the use of a private email account broke just a few weeks ago, yet it has largely fallen off the public’s radar. Rather than inciting chaos (emails! emails! emails!), the issue was mostly brushed off, save for a few chuckles at a photo of Hillary Clinton reading the headline.
Though the two issues have different circumstances surrounding them, the hypocrisy is hard to ignore – especially considering Pence’s vocal participation in the witch-hunt that was the Clinton email scandal.
While Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton used a private email account run through a private server set up in the basement of her home. This gave her complete control over what could become public, essentially allowing her to bypass the Freedom of Information Act that allows journalists and the general public access to government documents. In compliance with an FBI investigation, she and her staff turned over roughly 30,000 emails totalling 55,000 pages to the FBI, said they deleted another 31,000 deemed private, then wiped the server clean.
This is a problem for several reasons: first, the Federal Records Act requires agencies to collect, retain, and preserve federal records, which include any documents created in the course of daily operations, such as emails. Second, the hacking risks that come with using an unofficial and therefore unprotected server are massive – in fact, the State Department has its own IT security team constantly monitoring servers for breaches of security. And finally, of the emails turned over by Clinton, 2 were marked classified, 110 contained classified information ranging from confidential to top secret but were not marked as such, and 2,000 were retroactively classified.
Here’s where things get messy.
The Federal Records Act allows officials to use private email accounts so long as they preserve relevant records. Since Clinton sent most emails to recipients with official .gov accounts, she claims she thought they would be archived. She did not break the rule, but ignored the spirit of it.
The 2 classified emails were marked due to human error. They were call sheets that normally are classified when prepared, but declassified before being sent. They mistakenly remained classified at the time they were sent to Clinton.
For her to be guilty of a crime, there must be evidence that she knew the information was classified and that she sent it intentionally. A case can be made that Clinton and her staff should be well aware of what constitutes classified material, despite the 110 emails lacking a classified marking, but the other side can be argued as well. There is no evidence that she knew.
The government also has a major tendency to over-classify. Jeffrey Toobin states in an article for The New Yorker, that “government bureaucracies use classification rules to protect turf, to avoid embarrassment, to embarrass rivals—in short, for a variety of motives that have little to do with national security.” Some estimates suggest that 50-90% of classified documents could be made public without risking national security.
In July of 2016, FBI Director James Comey called Clinton careless, but recommended no charges be filed. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that no charges would be filed against the presidential candidate the following day.
In October, Comey told congress the FBI was reopening of the investigation after finding emails they believed to be relevant to the case – despite the fact that doing so violates a department policy to refrain from any action that could potentially affect a candidate close to an election. Pence tweeted: “@realDonaldTrump and I commend the FBI for reopening an investigation into Clinton’s personal email server because no one is above the law.”
On November 6, a mere two days before the American people would cast their ballots, Comey released a statement saying the FBI had not changed its original conclusion, but the damage had obviously been done.
This was not the White House’s first email scandal. In 2007, the Bush administration was under investigation following an accusation that the firing of eight U.S. attorneys was politically motivated. It was discovered that at least 22 White House officials had been using private email accounts run through a private server owned by the Republican National Committee (that number later increased to 88). The accounts were used to conduct official government business, including a discussion of the termination of one of the attorneys. The emails had been subpoenaed as part of the congressional investigation when the White House announced that as many as 5,000,000 emails had been lost. That number later increased to 22,000,000.
In 2008, the Senate Judiciary Committee found White House aides Joshua Bolten and Karl Rove in contempt of Congress, which is normally met with fines and possible jail time. The White House appealed the Senate’s ruling, which was stayed by a D.C. federal appeals court. By this time, Barack Obama was just a few weeks away from winning the election. Upon entering office, his administration and the Senate Committee decided not to pursue the issue. This left Bolten and Rove without punishment and the matter mostly forgotten.
The website PolitiFact.com compared the media coverage of Bush’s email scandal with Clinton’s. Over a two-month period from the time the story broke in 2007, they found 125 transcripts from major cable networks and NPR that used “RNC” and “email” within 10 words of each other. They also found 200 newspaper articles from across the country during the same time frame.
A mere two weeks after the Clinton story broke in 2015, PolitiFact found 204 cable and public radio transcripts using the words “Clinton” and “email,” and 1,700 newspaper articles. A study run by social media analytics company Crimson Hexagon found that 560,379 articles mentioned Clinton’s emails in the 18-month period following the release of the story in March of 2015.
I want to be clear: the purpose of this article is not to absolve Clinton of guilt. I am not here to say that she did not send or receive classified information, or ignore the spirit of the laws in place, possibly causing a major breach of security in the process.
I am here to suggest that the ferocity with which Clinton was met had less to do with her use of a private email server and more to do with a woman who set her sights too high in the political realm. The persecution of Clinton was disproportionate to the “oh well” attitude adopted by those dealing with the Bush administration, and extremely out of proportion to the laundry list of presidential scandals throughout history. The fact that a man who used the phrase “grab them by the pussy” is currently serving as President of the United States shows that the American political arena was not ready for a woman to be at its forefront.