Hillary Clinton has long faced a Hobson’s choice when it comes to her email debacle. She can either act contrite and do her best to explain away the facts with an ever-more implausible story, knowing that at some point the truth will come out. Or she could play the role of the defiant truth teller and level with the American people. The first option would buy her time, the second option likely would have ended her career.
Unsurprisingly she chose the first option, no doubt hoping that any revelations would come out after the primary had been largely decided. In the meantime, Clinton was forced to speak on the issue so many times that her narrative subtly shifted according to what trickle of new information the press was working off of at the time. The result was a candidate who often appeared to not know what the truth was at any given moment, but was merely struggling to stay ahead of the story long enough to cement her place in the general election. Whatever came after was a problem for another day.
That day has arrived. One of the biggest dominoes of the Clinton email saga has finally fallen: The State Department’s inspector general has released his report on Clinton’s email practices. And the result is disastrous for Clinton, laying bare many of the politically convenient lies she’s told and deeply complicating her overall narrative. Politico reports on the findings:
“Secretary Clinton should have preserved any Federal records she created and received on her personal account by printing and filing those records with the related files in the Office of the Secretary,” the report states. “At a minimum, Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with Department business before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act.”
The report also notes that she had an “obligation to discuss using her personal email account” but did not get permission from the people who would have needed to approve the technology, who said they would not have done so, if they had been asked.
“According to the current [chief information officer] 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,” the report reads. “However, according to these officials, [the relevant people] did not — and would not — approve her exclusive reliance on a personal email.”
There goes Clinton’s repeated assurance that, “Everything I did was permitted.” In fact it wasn’t. Clinton clearly violated Department policies, which, importantly, is the same as breaking the law. And unlike Clinton’s oft-repeated refrain that “the rules were not clarified until after I had left,” the report shows that “beginning in late 2005” the Department “issued various memoranda specifically discussing the obligation to use Department systems in most circumstances and identifying the risks of not doing so.”
Not only did Clinton choose not to use the approved system, she defied Departmental policies to seek information specialists for help. The IG report makes clear that Clinton didn’t even ask.
Clinton has also regularly told reporters that she was “not aware of any evidence whatsoever that the server was hacked,” even going so far as to include an FAQ on the website that reads “there is no evident there was ever a breach.” But the IG report shows that an assistant secretary sent a memorandum on cybersecurity threats stating a “dramatic increase” in attempts to compromise personal email accounts. It also reveals an email exchange between Clinton’ non-departmental IT advisor and her Deputy Chief of Staff saying, “We were hacked again.” According to the report, the “OIG found no evidence that the Secretary or her staff reported these incidents to computer security personnel or anyone else within the Department.”
Indeed, Clinton went a step further. According to the report, when some Clinton staff members “raised concerns” with officials about the security of Clinton’s email server, the staff was instructed “never to speak of the Secretary’s personal email system again.”
Unfortunately, the stonewalling didn’t stop there. Despite her campaign promise that she’s happy to talk to “anybody, anytime” about her email use, the report said that she declined requests for interviewed and her aides—Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills, and Jake Sullivan—also refused to cooperate with investigators.
Taken together, this is not just a record of willful disregard for the law, it’s a consistent pattern of behavior that demonstrates a desire to keep the State Department—and voters—in the dark about her choices. If that type of decision making doesn’t disqualify a person for the presidency, then what does?