Tuesday, March 03, 2015

The Hillary e-mail matter smells bad

As several have already noted.  First, Mediaite:

MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell tonight covered the big news that Hillary Clinton solely used her personal email account while she was Secretary of State, and he honestly found this news both troubling and baffling, noting how personal emails are “only supposed to be used for government business in an emergency.”

New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters said this is definitely “unusual,” but only adds to the idea that Clinton is not very “forthcoming” and “not all business is being conducted in the open like it should be.” MSNBC senior editor Beth Fouhy also wondered, “Where were the State Department lawyers who allowed this to go forward?”

Fouhy said, “She understands rules and protocol, and for her to just willingly violate it just to preserve some semblance of privacy just really makes no sense.”

O’Donnell, meanwhile, was just baffled at how the Secretary of State could be “using a not-secure, commercial email system” the entire time. He called it a “stunning breach of security and said, “If it’s true that she never used a State Department email address, we have something that, at first read, has no conceivable rational explanation to it that is legitimate.”

Vox makes it seem a little fouler yet.

But this story looks even worse if you transport yourself back to early 2009, when Clinton first became of Secretary of State and, according to this story, initially refused to use a governmental account. The Bush administration had just left office weeks earlier under the shadow of, among other things, a major ongoing scandal concerning officials who used personal email addresses to conduct business, and thus avoid scrutiny.

The scandal began in June 2007, as part of a Congressional oversight committee investigation into allegations that the White House had fired US Attorneys for political reasons. The oversight committee asked for Bush administration officials to turn over relevant emails, but it turned out the administration had conducted millions of emails' worth of business on private email addresses, the archives of which had been deleted.


That scandal unfolded well into the final year of Bush's presidency, then overlapped with another email secrecy scandal, over official emails that got improperly logged and then deleted, which itself dragged well into Obama's first year in office. There is simply no way that, when Clinton decided to use her personal email address as Secretary of State, she was unaware of the national scandal that Bush officials had created by doing the same.

That she decided to use her personal address anyway showed a stunning disregard for governmental transparency requirements. Indeed, Clinton did not even bother with the empty gesture of using her official address for more formal business, as Bush officials did.


Perhaps even more stunning is that the Obama White House, whose top officials were presumably exchanging frequent emails with Clinton, apparently did not insist she adopt an official email account. At some point during Obama's first year, there must have been at least one senior official who dealt with the political fallout of Karl Rove using a personal address, then turned around and fired off an email to the personal address that Hillary Clinton used exclusively. That this continued for four years is baffling.

On its best day -- which will be many days from today, if such a day ever comes -- this is a serious PIA for more than the reasons made obvious so far.  Here comes Zombie Benghazi, the IRS e-mails, and God only knows what other chum the sharks in the water will be gnashing their teeth on.  It will completely drown out this day's more significant development, Netanyahu's speech before Congress on the coming war with Iran.  And it reinforces the narrative that the Clintons always have something to hide, a notion that goes all the way back to Whitewater.

I don't support Hillary Clinton for president.  Didn't eight years ago, don't today.  This changes nothing about how I intend to go forward with my political activism for 2016.  But it is a serious blow, a self-inflicted wound, to her and to Democrats, which is why the Republicans won't stop screaming about it for the next 20 months.

Update (3/4): Just like clockwork, Trey Gowdy of the House Benghazi committee breaks off a subpoena.  And Socratic Gadfly collects the efforts to push back, which --in a truly sad development -- were led by Media Matters.

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