Hillary Clinton knows how bad the State Department Inspector General report is for her candidacy.
The problem with the “rogue server” narrative has long been that it is mostly inside baseball, with myriad details and plot lines that are hard to follow unless you are a hardcore political watcher. Clinton has seized on the complex nature of the story, working hard to minimize the damage by confusing people about the underlying rules. To do this she’s relied heavily on making clear, bold (albeit untrue) statements like, “everything I did was permitted,” and then attempting to recast the real issue as the archaic system of classifying correspondence. By muddying the waters voters could get lost in the details, but had a hard time figuring out whether the was a bold liar, or just unable to navigate the system.
The State Department report complicates that narrative for Clinton by simplifying the issue for voters. It’s not longer about a dozen interwoven threads that Americans are left to disentangle, it’s a simple verdict: Clinton violated the rules, she willfully hid that fact from government officials, and she lied about it multiple times on the campaign trail. This is no longer a debate about whether Clinton’s behavior was wrong, we’re past that now. As the New York Times writes, it’s about whether voters can ever trust Clinton now that they know her behavior was wrong.
Voters just don’t trust her.
The Clinton campaign had hoped to use the coming weeks to do everything they could to shed that image and convince voters that Mrs. Clinton can be trusted. Instead, they must contend with a damaging new report by the State Department’s inspector general that Mrs. Clinton had not sought or received approval to use a private email server while she was secretary of state.
It is not just that the inspector general found fault with her email practices. The report speaks directly to a wounding perception that Mrs. Clinton is not forthright or transparent.
After months of Mrs. Clinton’s saying she used a private email for convenience, and that she was willing to cooperate fully with investigations into her handling of official business at the State Department, the report, delivered to Congress on Wednesday, undermined both claims.
That leaves the Clinton campaign with few options. They could fess up and apologize, a strategy that is largely foreclosed to them given the numerous bold statements that Clinton has made. To equivocate now is to give lie to months worth of campaign statements. Or they could double down and refuse to waiver from their previous statements, and then simply hope that nobody reads the report. Can you guess which strategy they went with? Liz Kreutz and Paola Chavez report for ABC News:
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton doubled down on defending her email practices as Secretary of State, arguing that the use of a personal account was “allowed,” and rules have since been “clarified.”
“This report makes clear that personal email use was the practice for other secretaries of state,” Clinton told ABC News in an interview in Las Vegas, Nevada. “It was allowed. And the rules have been clarified since I left.”
“Well, there may be reports that come out,” Clinton said, “but nothing has changed. It’s the same story. Just like previous secretaries of state I used a personal email, many people did. It was not at all unprecedented.”
Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon went even further, attempting to blame the entire issue on the “longstanding” problems with department record keeping and arguing that Clinton’s actions weren’t just “consistent” with her predecessors, but that “she took steps that went much further than others to appropriately preserve and release her records.
These types of comments show that Clinton is either completely oblivious to the very serious problems with her conduct, or she is incredibly brazen in her disregard for the truth. Nearly everything she and her campaign has said about the report is wrong: It clearly showed that using her personal account was not allowed (she didn’t even ask for permission), that she was the first and only secretary of state to use a private email to exclusively use a private email address, that the rules governing emails were “considerably more detailed and sophisticated” during her tenure than previous secretaries, and that she was far from forthcoming with information. In fact, neither Clinton nor her top aides cooperated with the investigation, which was requested by current Secretary of State John Kerry.
There is a reason that a recent NBC News tracking poll showed that nearly 6 in 10 Americans already say they “dislike” or “hate” Clinton. It’s because they don’t trust her. Given her campaign’s wanton, unapologetic indifference to acting with integrity, and seeming inability to demonstrate a shred of humility, it’s hard to see those numbers going anywhere but up.