State Department Report Actually Vindicates Hillary Clinton
The cable news channels had been making a big deal of the State Department report on Clinton's use of a private e-mail server while Secretary of State. They are acting like it should be a blow to her presidential campaign. That's nonsense.
Nothing new was revealed in the report, and Clinton didn't violate any regulation or law. The cable news networks are (as they usually do) trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.
The report released Wednesday by the State Department Inspector General on its email records management is being reported as heavy-duty criticism of former Secretary Hillary Clinton. However, the report has more in it that vindicates Clinton than nails her.
It does not add any new serious charges or adverse facts. And, it shows she was less out of line with her predecessors, notably Colin Powell, than has been charged. Powell’s handling of his email was so similar, in fact, that when House Republicans drag this issue through hearings up to Election Day, Powell should be called as a witness – a witness for Clinton. To put it differently, she is having a double standard applied to her. Here are five key aspects of the report.
First, and foremost, it is simply not about classified email. It is about regular, ordinary, run-of-the-mill, unclassified email. Yet it is the classified email, not these messages, that are the focus of the FBI investigation of Clinton. In other words, the report does not, and cannot, talk about the most serious issues. It is about a sideshow. If you are serious about the email charges against Hillary, you should keep your powder dry until at least Clinton is interviewed by the FBI in a matter of weeks, and then until the result of that probe is released.
Moreover, it is no accident that this report does not deal with the most serious issues: The FBI expressly told the State Department IG to stay away from classified records. That would have involved the State Department IG interfering with and possibly foreshadowing the FBI criminal investigation. But, this meant the FBI left the State Department IG with a subject involving much less grounds for potential criticism of Clinton, as we see in this report.
Second, there is not that much new information about Clinton in it. Certainly, the widely-reported fact that it’s an 83-page report makes it sound like it is big. But half is appendices. Half of the rest is not about the Secretary’s emails, but about cybersecurity. Of the two-dozen pages that are even remotely about Secretaries’ emails, a lot is taken up by retracing the dreary history of records and archival policy. The remainder involves all the secretaries going back two decades – not just Clinton and Powell, who are alike, but also ones of no particular interest, like Madeleine Albright, Condoleeza Rice, and also John Kerry. There’s just not a lot of new facts about Clinton.
Look at the press coverage. You will not find mentions of major new facts in the IG report.
Third, where the report does add to our knowledge, is about Colin Powell, who served from 2001-2005. Powell did all his email business on a private account. All of his emails on official business were apparently in a private account. It is not clear why a great deal of what is said against Clinton’s emails, could not be said against Powell’s. Moreover, Powell’s similar practices can hardly be blamed on his being a novice about security. He not only had been Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he had been National Security Adviser. He had jurisdiction over all the intelligence agencies. Since Powell, with unimpeachable security credentials, felt fine using private email for official business, why are we climbing all over Clinton? It is, to be blunt, a double standard.
Fourth, the big criticism in the report is regarding the failure to print and file email in a retrievable way. But as the report shows, the Office of the Secretary of State has rarely succeeded in doing that. They either always have better things to do, or it is not a high enough priority, or there are technical difficulties, or turnover. Very likely a stingy Congress does not want to hire enough personnel to have crews doing that throughout the government. In any event, they rarely get that done. Since that is a general problem, why pin it particularly on Clinton?
Fifth, to the extent that she is criticized because “she did not comply with the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act,” the report is making a legal judgment that is not particularly strong. Note how she is not labeled as violating any statute, but rather, a real mouthful of mush – “the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act.” So we are talking about obscure, dull, bureaucratic policies. Not a criminal statute. Not even a civil statute – just the bureaucratic policies.
A report that says so little new against Clinton, amounts to a vindication.