Hillary Clinton on Tuesday told ABC News’ David Muir that using a personal email account while Secretary of State was a “mistake” and that she is “sorry” for it.
“I do think I could have and should have done a better job answering questions earlier. I really didn’t perhaps appreciate the need to do that,” the democratic presidential candidate told Muir in an exclusive interview in New York City. “What I had done was allowed, it was above board. But in retrospect, as I look back at it now, even though it was allowed, I should have used two accounts. One for personal, one for work-related emails. That was a mistake. I’m sorry about that. I take responsibility.”
This is the farthest Clinton has gone yet in offering an apology for her use of a private email server while Secretary of State.
For reasons surpassing my understanding, the email “scandal” has been around for a couple of months, supplanting the Benghazi scandal for Hillary Clinton which turned out to be nothing.
Every time I read about it, I feel like I should blog in depth about it, because it really seems to be a BIG DEAL. But I haven’t figured out what the BIG DEAL is.
I go over to Fox News, who reports on this endlessly. And while the chattering heads on, say, Fox’s “The Five” keep insisting that Hillary “broke the law”, I have yet to hear what that law is. I’ll tell you what it LOOKS like. It LOOKS like they are trying to catch Hillary in some kind of “You said that, NOW you say this” perjury trap. It is investigating for the sake of investigating, because at SOME point, they will find SOMETHING that doesn’t jibe with what she has said. It almost doesn’t matter what. If she said it was rainy on January 5, 2011, and they find an email from that day saying it was sunny… well, then I guess we have “Rainy-gate”. Anything to knock her down in the polls.
But seriously, Hillary Clinton broke no law. She simply didn’t. Yes, emails to and from her were on her own personal private server. But that was not illegal. The National Archives established protocols for preserving emails, but that’s THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES. Their job is history, not security. And obviously, there are security concerns, as well as investigative concerns (emails need to be preserved if there is a a Freedom of Information Act request, to give one example).
At first blush, it might LOOK like Hillary was trying to hide something, by keeping her emails off the government computers. Except that… they WEREN’T kept off the government computers. If she sent an email to a government email address, it was saved on that government server. If she received an email from a government email address, it was saved on that government server as well. And if she sent or received a person email, then it wouldn’t be subject to FOIA requests or pose a national security risk.
So it doesn’t really look that bad when you actually think about.
The second concern is security. Clinton’s personal server (it is assumed) is not as secure as the State Department’s server (although the federal government has been hacked, and to our knowledge, the Clinton home server has never been hacked). Did Clinton receive or transmit classified information? Her foes say yes, completely overlooking the fact that at the time the information was sent or received, it WASN’T classified. It is illegal for someone to “knowingly” receive a classified document or briefing and then turn around and send along that info in an unclassified email. This, Clinton insists, did not happen, and there has been no evidence that this did happen. (When you hear Clinton foes try to compare her to General Patraeus, this is the salient difference. Patraeus KNEW the information he passed on to his paramour-writer friend was classified).
Some argue that some of the information received by Clinton, while not marked as “CLASSIFIED”, were of such sensitive nature that they were – I love this phrase — “born classified”. Maybe. Maybe to some. But did Hillary know it at the time? Did she even read all her email? Who knows?
You see, part of the problem is there is no consensus in the government as to what is “classified” and what isn’t. As Jeffrey Toobin explains in the New Yorker, while classified information is generally defined as anything with the potential to damage national security, in reality, “government bureaucracies use classification rules to protect turf, to avoid embarrassment, to embarrass rivals—in short, for a variety of motives that have little to do with national security.” Since the process by which the government classifies information is a complicated and subjective one, it is impossible for someone to know today what will be classified tomorrow, and even whether it should be classified at all.
“Ah-HA,” say the Hillary foes. If that is the case, then, as the nation’s top diplomat, Clinton should still have been well aware that some of the information she was hosting on her server was POTENTIALLY sensitive and would POTENTIALLY end up classified even before it was officially ruled as such. Put another way, Hillary might not have known which information would become classified but she SHOULD HAVE KNOWN some of it eventually would be.
That’s where they got her.
And presumably, that’s what she has apologized for.
But once you digest all that, what did Hillary Clinton DO? She committed an error. That’s it.
This isn’t the crime of the century, like when she and her husband killed Vincent Foster and made it look like a suicide (joke). This isn’t even a crime. At worst, it was an error.
Unfortunately, it is an error which is being played out in drips. That’s because the FBI is reviewing her email and releasing whatever is unclassified in small batches to the public. Why? I’m not sure. There was no security breach of Hillary’s email account. She was admittedly stupid for making that a (remote) possibility, but she didn’t hide the fact that she was using her own non-dot-gov email system. Republicans and Democrats alike all knew her email address. She wasn’t hiding the fact of her private server because there was nothing to hide. It’s only NOW that people care, because it allows them to look inside. She was stupid for having the private server if only because it gave her foes this opportunity. But she can’t apologize for THAT. So she apologizes for making an error.