Hillary Clinton is juggling so many half-truths and so much spin that it’s growing increasingly hard to keep her story straight. That became clearer this week when the State Department was forced to correct Clinton’s description of how and why they got involved with her email.
The Washington Post reported on Wednesday:
Throughout the controversy over her use of a private e-mail system while she was secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton has described her decision last year to turn over thousands of work-related e-mails as a response to a routine-sounding records request.
“When we were asked to help the State Department make sure they had everything from other secretaries of state, not just me, I’m the one who said, ‘Okay, great, I will go through them again,’ ” Clinton said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “And we provided all of them.”
But State Department officials provided new information Tuesday that undercuts Clinton’s characterization. They said the request was not simply about general record-keeping but was prompted entirely by the discovery that Clinton had exclusively used a private e-mail system. They also said they first contacted her in the summer of 2014, at least three months before the agency asked Clinton and three of her predecessors to provide their e-mails.
This is a big deal because it directly contradicts one of the key themes she was trying to sell to voters, which is that the State Department’s review was just standard operating procedure and totally unrelated to any specific wrongdoing. It was an effort designed to legitimize an unsanctioned and potentially illegal practice that she said repeatedly was “permitted” by the State Department. Even her campaign website currently asserts that her “usage was widely known to the over 100 State Department and U.S. government colleagues she emailed” and was allowed under the “laws, regulations, and State Department policy in place.”
Of course, that’s simply not true. In 20009, federal regulations were updated to require employees using an alternative email server to “ensure that Federal records sent or received on such systems are preserved in the appropriate record-keeping systems. The Foreign Affairs manual is even more stringent – requiring departing officials to “prepare an inventory of personal papers and nonrecord materials proposed for removal to “certify that the documentary materials proposed for removal may be removed without diminishing the official records of the Department; violating national security, privacy or other restrictions on disclosure; or exceeding normal administrative economies.”
But perhaps the most damning evidence is the latest “clarification” of Clinton’s story offered by the State Department itself. After all, it shows that the State Department was completely caught off guard when they were trying to find the records requested by the House Select Committee on Benghazi, only to discover that every email from Clinton came from a personal email address. In fact they were so concerned that they requested she turn over all of her emails – well before they requested the same from previous secretaries.
“We realized there was a problem,” one State Department official who was unaware of Clinton’s private email server told the Washington Post.
Even after the Post ran its story, Clinton can’t seem to find it within herself to set the record straight.
“I don’t know that. I can’t answer that,” Clinton said when asked by the Des Moines Register about the discrepancy in her characterization of when and why she turned over the emails and the State Department’s. “All I know is that they sent the same letter to everybody. That’s my understanding.”
But journalists, and more importantly, voters, are growing fed up with Clinton’s constant deflection in the face of honest questions. As the Chicago Tribune editorial board writes:
We’ve noted before that Clinton’s defenses have repeatedly turned out to be implausible, incomplete, doubtful or just wrong. Her apologies have been rote, contained, perfunctory. Rather than boldly taking ownership of her email decisions, she acts as if this fiasco — with its implications for the security of U.S. secrets — just happened to her.
Clinton could demonstrate the good decision-making she hasn’t thus far by taking time from her campaign to fully explain to Americans what she was thinking, how she and her associates relied on a personal server for official business, and why she flouted the policies not only of her own State Department but also of President Barack Obama.
It’s no longer just the emails. It’s the judgment. Secretary Clinton, own this.
With the recent announcement that the FBI has now recovered personal and work-related emails from her private server, she may not have any other choice but to own it.