Now that we know she edited the emails before turning them over, the entire record is suspect.
by Kimberley A. Strassel • Wall Street Journal
Clinton scandals have a way of bumping and rolling along to a point where nobody can remember why there was any outrage to begin with. So in the interest of clarity, let’s take the latest news in the Hillary email escapade, and distill it into its basic pieces:
• Nothing Mrs. Clinton has said so far on the subject is correct. The Democratic presidential aspirant on March 10 held a press conference pitched as her first and last word on the revelation that she’d used a private email server while secretary of state. She told reporters that she’d turned over to the State Department “all my emails that could possibly be work-related.” And she insisted that she “did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material.”
Not true and not true. The State Department has now admitted that it is aware of at least 15 work-related emails that Mrs. Clinton fully or partially withheld. We know this only because congressional Republicans, as part of their Benghazi probe, required longtime Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal to turn over his correspondence with her. It revealed work-related emails that had not been disclosed.
These don’t appear to be random oversights, but rather emails that Mrs. Clinton would likely have had an interest in keeping from the public. Most appear to be instances of her telling Mr. Blumenthal about State Department business, even though he was a private citizen and was advising a business seeking contracts from the Libyan government. Others appear to contain discussions that might undermine Mrs. Clinton’s or the administration’s public position on the Libyan conflict.
We also know that the State Department has now upgraded at least 25 of Mrs. Clinton’s emails to “classified” status. State is suggesting this is no big deal, noting that it is “routine” to upgrade material during the public-disclosure process. But that’s beside the point. This isn’t about after-the-fact disclosure. It’s about security at the time—whether Mrs. Clinton was sending and storing sensitive government information on a hackable private email system. Turns out, she was. For the record, it is a federal crime to “knowingly” house classified information at an “unauthorized location.”
A quick correction: At least one thing Mrs. Clinton said in March was true. She deleted email. A lot of it.
• Nothing Mrs. Clinton has supplied to the State Department can now be trusted as legitimate. The real bombshell news was the State Department’s admission that, in at least six instances, the Clinton team altered the emails before handing them over. Sentences or entire paragraphs—which, by the way, were work-related—were removed. State was able to confirm this because it could double-check against Mr. Blumenthal’s documents.
But how many more of the 30,000 emails Mrs. Clinton provided have also been edited? The State Department has archives for its other employees, whom Mrs. Clinton often emailed, so in those cases it has the ability to check Mrs. Clinton’s version. It should now be obliged to do so, and then to produce a final tally of emails that can’t be verified as authentic because they were sent to people outside government, for whom there is no corresponding record.
• Mrs. Clinton is still playing games. Team Clinton says it doesn’t recognize much of the material Mr. Blumenthal supplied, and insists that all the emails from him were turned over. So: Either Mr. Blumenthal fabricated emails; Mrs. Clinton was deleting emails as she went along (and so didn’t have them at the final sorting process); or she’s not being truthful now. Every one of these scenarios is of concern, and deserves inquiry.
• The State Department is itself now part of this scandal. In addition to the 15 emails that Republicans discovered Mrs. Clinton did not turn over, they found another 45 that were withheld from Congress by State. All of those Blumenthal emails have now been released, and it is clear that all were Libya-related, and all fell under Congress’s subpoena. How many more have investigators not been given? The State Department meanwhile continues to play down Mrs. Clinton’s failure to produce, and her mishandling of classified information. This should be seen exactly for what it is: the Obamaadministration covering for the likely Democratic presidential nominee.
• The White House also needs to answer questions. This week State released the first batch of the Clinton emails to the public, nearly 2,000 in all. In them, we find that in 2009, David Axelrod, then an Obama adviser, requested and received Mrs. Clinton’s private email address. And he emailed her on it. Yet in mid-June Mr. Axelrod said on national TV that he “didn’t know” about her private server. How many other people in the administration knew about, sanctioned, and made use of the Clinton arrangement to shelter information?
As it is unlikely the press corps will begin this investigation anew, or with any fervor, the best chance of getting answers from Mrs. Clinton probably rests in her Democratic rivals for the nomination. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley have so far avoided touching the Clinton scandals, unwilling to risk blowback accusing them of undermining the likely nominee. But if those men truly believe themselves better fit for the presidency, they could do the country no bigger favor than to start pressing Mrs. Clinton to explain her actions. Somebody has to.