Anyone who hates or distrusts Hillary Clinton will find fresh ammo in the newly released State Department report about her use of a private email server. Anyone who supports Clinton, or views her as easily more acceptable than the demonstrably unqualified Donald Trump, will surely view the report as very unwelcome.
Bottom line: The department’s Inspector General has put more weight in her political baggage. More precisely, she did it to herself. A classically self-inflicted Clintonian wound.
There are no bombshells in the report, nothing particularly new, and the IG found no evidence that her use of a private server for official business was breached or hacked by America’s enemies. But it’s still quite clear that she did the minimum, or less, to comply with federal cybersecurity rules.
The gist is that Clinton, while serving as Secretary of State, never asked for permission to conduct official business on a personal account; in the report’s words, she “had an obligation” to do so. But if she had asked, she would’ve been turned down. State prioritized the use of a government account, because it wanted to ensure that all official communications would be preserved, as mandated by the Federal Records Act. In short, “sending (official) emails from a personal account…is not an appropriate method of preserving any such emails.”
Moreover, “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. 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.”
If you’re a likely Clinton voter, that probably sounds like bureaucratic gobbledygook. The report also acknowledges that State’s email servers are a tad “antiquated,” that State’s record-keeping is plagued by “longstanding, systemic weaknesses,” and that Colin Powell also used a private server for official business when he was Secretary of State back in the early ’00s.
But the security rules that were in place during Clinton’s tenure were far stricter than the “very fluid” security rules of the Powell era. The IG report essentially says that Clinton should’ve at least consulted State before setting up a personal account – but she failed to do so. State’s legal office never reviewed or approved the arrangement. And after Clinton’s tenure ended, she should’ve surrendered her work emails (she has surrendered most of them, maybe) long before she was finally persuaded to do so.
So it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The IG report doesn’t conclude that Clinton broke any laws. (The FBI is still conducting its own probe.) But the IG report does conclude that “the Office of the Secretary” has been “slow to recognize and to manage effectively the legal requirements and cybersecurity risks associated with electronic data communications.”
In other words, partisans on both sides of the Clinton divide can find stuff to cherry pick. Clinton surrogate Barbara Boxer, the California senator, reacted to the report yesterday by calling it “a nothing burger.” I disagree. I don’t think it’s a double whopper with cheese, but it’s clear that Clinton exercised bad judgment, that she played fast and loose with security rules. And given her high poll negatives, particularly on trust and honesty, she can ill afford endless bleeding from this self-inflicted wound.
One can certainly argue – and I’m happy to do it – that if we put the email flap in proper perspective, it pales in significance when compared to the unethical sins of a Republican opponent who is being sued in New York and California for allegedly defrauding students of a fake university; who has been definitively linked to the Mafia via decades of business dealings and favor trades; who has filed multiple corporate bankruptcies; who refuses to release his tax returns (“none of your business”); who has, according to the business magazine Forbes, “screwed his (casino) shareholders three consecutive times by wiping out their investment,” and much more.
In truth, “Crooked Hillary” is no match for Sleazy Donald. But it’s a tragic Clintonian tradition to gift ammo to the enemy.
By the way, Bernie Sanders has been notably silent about the State Department report. At this writing, it’s been 24 hours – and not a word. In fact, earlier this week, he remarked: “I’ve been asked five million times about the emails, and I haven’t said anything.”
I interpret his silence as a step toward unification.