Factcheck.org Debunks Clinton’s Claims In Recent Interviews About Email Scandal

Hillary Clinton Interview Andrea Mitchell

After generally avoiding the press since announcing her candidacy, Hillary Clinton granted interviews over the past several days with the Associated Press, Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC News, and with David Muir of ABC News. My previous posts (here and here) noted that Clinton was continuing to be dishonest in these interviews. As has occurred throughout the coverage of this scandal, Factcheck.org, along with other fact check sites, has weighed in to support my criticism of Clinton’s false claims.

In their summary of their report on these recent interviews, More Spin on Clinton Emails, Factcheck.org wrote:

Hillary Clinton directly addressed questions in recent interviews about her exclusive use of a personal email account and server to conduct government business as secretary of state. But her answers only reveal part of the story:

  • Clinton said her personal email account was “allowed by the State Department.” It was permitted if work emails were preserved. Federal rules required Clinton to preserve work emails before she left office, but she did not turn over her emails until 21 months after she left office.

  • Clinton said “turning over my server” to the government shows “I have been as transparent as I could” about her emails. But she did so in August after the FBI opened an investigation. In March, she rejected calls to turn over the server to a neutral party, saying “the server will remain private.”

  • Clinton said “everybody in government with whom I emailed knew that I was using a personal email.” But that ignores those — including President Obama — who did not know that she used it exclusively for government business.

Each of these items was discussed in more detail. The most important point continues to be her false statement that what she did was “allowed by the State Department.”

Let’s look at some of the statements that Clinton made in her interviews, beginning with whether her unusual email arrangement was “allowed by the State Department.”

Clinton, Sept. 4: I know why the American people have questions about it. And I want to make sure I answer those questions, starting with the fact that my personal email use was fully above board. It was allowed by the State Department, as they have confirmed.

Clinton Sept. 7: I understand why people have questions and I’m trying to answer as many of those in as many different settings as I can. What I did was allowed by the State Department. It was fully above board.

The campaign cites a rule issued by the National Archives and Records Administration in October 2009 — eight months after Clinton became secretary of state — that said federal agencies may allow the use of personal emails under certain circumstances.

National Archives, Oct. 2, 2009: Agencies that allow employees to send and receive official electronic mail messages using a system not operated by the agency must ensure that Federal records sent or received on such systems are preserved in the appropriate agency recordkeeping system.

At a March 3 press briefing, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf also cited the 2009 NARA rule in saying Clinton apparently complied with the rules.

“As I said, there’s no prohibition on using this kind of email account as long as it’s preserved,” Harf said. “She has taken steps to preserve those records by providing the State Department with the 55,000 pages, so – I’m not a NARA expert, but certainly, it sounds to me like that has been completed.”

Harf is admittedly no NARA expert, but Jason R. Baron is.

Baron, a lawyer at Drinker Biddle and a former director of litigation at the National Archives, told the Senate Judiciary Committee in May that “any employee’s decision to conduct all e-mail correspondence through a private e-mail network, using a non-.gov address, is inconsistent with long-established policies and practices under the Federal Records Act and NARA regulations governing all federal agencies.”

Also, as we have written, Clinton should have turned over her emails before she left office, but she didn’t.

NARA regulations require federal agencies to maintain an NARA-approved schedule for the disposition of federal records. The State Department Records Disposition Schedule says “incoming and outgoing correspondence and memorandums on substantive U.S. foreign policy issues” should be permanently retained “at the end of the Secretary’s tenure or sooner if necessary.”

Clinton left office Feb. 1, 2013. She did not turn over her emails to the State Department until Dec. 5, 2014, and only after the department in October of that year requested the emails in part to respond to the congressional requests for documents related to the Benghazi attacks on Sept. 11, 2012.

The Clinton campaign has said that she complied with NARA regulations because “more than 90% of those emails should have already been captured in the State Department’s email system before she provided them with paper copies.”

But that assumes that the people receiving an email from Clinton properly preserved the record. Baron, the former director of litigation at NARA, told us for a previous story that Clinton “basically offloaded her burden to others” to preserve her emails. He told us Clinton was out of compliance with the regulations the day she left office.

One last point: The Washington Post Fact Checker wrote that when she was secretary in June 2011 “a cable went out under her signature warning employees to ‘avoid conducting official Department business from your personal e-mail accounts.’ ”

The Clinton campaign noted that that cable was sent after Google disclosed that the Gmail accounts of some government employees were being targeted by hackers originating in China — a situation Clinton described at the time as “very serious.” The cable did not say that the advice was limited to those with Gmail accounts. Asked if the campaign was suggesting that it applied only to Gmail users, Clinton spokesman Josh Schwerin said he was offering “important context” given that the department has said personal email use was permitted under certain circumstances.

It is also notable that Factcheck.org quickly dispensed with a statement from a “State Department spokeswoman” who was clearly unfamiliar with the law. Clinton supporters have used this and similar statements from spokesmen who were similarly unfamiliar with the pertinentt laws and regulations to falsely claim that Clinton has been “cleared” by the State Department. It is clear why they take incorrect statements, which hardly clear Clinton of al the violations she committed, and ignore multiple more authoritative sources.

The full article also goes into further detail debunking Clinton’s claim about wanting to get her email out her claim and that everyone knew she was using a private email account.

It is also of interest that after two interviews in which Clinton refused to apologize, she did apologize in the interview with ABC. The New York Times reveals that, as with so much of what Clinton says, this was in response to a focus group. As David Graham points out at The Atlantic, Clinton’s reboot has been bungled:

It’s a bad sign when your presidential campaign needs a reboot. It’s a worse sign when your advisers announce that reboot publicly.

That’s exactly where Hillary Clinton finds herself this week. In an attempt to right what is universally seen as a listing campaign, the Democratic frontrunner is attempting to reassure her supporters, donors, and party—as well as prospective supporters and donors—that she has what it takes to run and win a race. But so far, the hamfisted execution of that reboot suggests that she hasn’t learned enough from the debacle of her 2008 campaign, and it’s hard to imagine that events of the last two days will do much to reassure major donors and party leaders.

He also noted Clinton’s differing answers on the email in these interviews: “The reversal—two almost diametrically opposed answers to the same question in two days—does not suggest a campaign that is confident and has a plan.” He concluded:

But it doesn’t matter how many times James Carville goes on TV to mock the press or warn his fellow Democrats against overreacting to Clinton’s troubles: His fellow Democrats are already alarmed—and her reboot, rather than assuaging their fears, may be making the problem worse.

 

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3 Comments

  1. 1
    Stanley Sokolow says:

    The Guardian on Aug 19, 2015, reported:

    "Hillary Clinton’s personal lawyer has told a senate committee that emails and all other data stored on the Democratic presidential hopeful’s private server were erased before it was turned over to US government authorities."

    She thus did not turn over the data that was on the server, other than the emails she and her lawyers chose to print and disclose.  Unless there are copies on backups somewhere, there is no way to verify that she turned over all of the emails relevant to US policy issues.  She has never explained publicly why her server was completely erased before turning it over.  And recently her top information technology aide announced that he will execute his right to remain silent under the 5th Amendment.  What is he hiding?  What was she hiding?  This is not the sort of behavior we expect and deserve from a Cabinet officer and aspiring US President.

  2. 2
    Stanley Sokolow says:

    The erasing of all data on her server before she turned it over to government authorities should be a concern of everyone who places trust in her. She did not conduct government business on a government server, she didn't turn it over intact to the State Department when she left office, she withheld it for many months, then she and her lawyer screened the emails they would print out to disclose and erased the rest. That smacks of trying to hide something important, not just which kind of pizza she ordered. It brings to mind the Reagan Iran-Contra arms for hostages matter, where the government investigation was impeded by the deliberate destruction of documents by Reagan administration officials.

     

  3. 3
    Anonymous says:

    The larger question – why did Secretary fee the need for a private sever in the first place, and as someone has noted, what was on the 30,000 emails deleted ?  Even the Clintons can't claim they needed 30,000 emails to plan a wedding.  The Clinton Initiative comes to mind.

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