Following reports that two Inspectors General have requested an investigation regarding the possibility of Hillary Clinton having sent classified email from her private server, Clinton has denied the accusations. Politico reports:
Hillary Clinton said she is confident none of the emails she sent or received using her private email server while secretary of state contained information that was classified when she sent them.
Clinton, speaking to reporters Saturday after a presidential campaign event here, said she has “no idea” which are the four emails an inspector general review has determined were classified “secret” at the time.
“I am confident I never sent nor received any information that was classified at the time it was sent and received,” Clinton said. “What I think you’re seeing is a very typical kind of discussion to some extent, disagreement among various parts of the government over what should or what should not be publicly released.”
Having followed this scandal closely, I believe Clinton might be telling the truth on this one point, but the current reports do raise serious concerns. Whether or not Clinton was telling the truth on this point, her subsequent statements were misleading when she discussed the entire issue. Whether or not she did knowingly send classified email, this does not change the fact that Clinton violated the rules in effect in 2009. It does not change the fact that she destroyed around 30,000 email messages and edited others, which includes email related to Libya and Terrorism and was not personal email as she previously claimed
The fact checking sites have repeatedly stated that Clinton’s statements have been false regarding the email on many other points. The Washington Post Fact Checker has given Clinton and her defenders Three Pinocchios for their claims on at least two separate occasions (here and here). The top Freedom of Information Act official at the Justice Department has stated that Clinton was in violation of the rules and the State Department’s top Freedom of Information Act officer has called her use of a private server unacceptable.
Clinton has also been criticized for being deceptive when she said at her press conference that none of the email was classified. This very well might technically be true, however the statement was considered deceptive as the email she sent did include sensitive email.
We do know that some of the email was reclassified as classified when reviewed by the State Department after she turned it over. This by itself does not indicate any wrong-doing by Clinton. The question is whether she was careless and sent email which she should have known should be classified. The reports that at least four email messages which were classified at the time were sent by Clinton raises further questions. An investigation of this is complicated by the fact that she has destroyed so much of the email. If it is verified that she did send four or more emails which were classified at the time we may have a much more serious situation.
As I said, my gut feeling is that, while Clinton did many things wrong related to her exclusive use of a private server, she very well might not have knowingly sent classified email. However, while I have discounted criticism of Clinton for sending classified email in the past when raised by Republicans, the most recent reports do raise new concerns.
Regardless of whether Clinton actually did knowingly send classified email, this issue will remain alive through the election (if Clinton wins the nomination) due to Clinton having destroyed thousands of email messages and edited others. This very well might make it impossible to ever answer this question. Clinton certainly deserves no presumption of innocence on this after deleting and editing email. If I went into a malpractice suit having deleted some progress notes and editing others, this would lead to a strong presumption of guilt. Only under the Clinton Rules could Hillary delete the email, after having violated the rules, and expect people to take her word for it that she is innocent.
As a minor sidelight to this issue, some Clinton supporters are greatly exaggerating the issue of The New York Times making corrections to its original story. It is common in the internet age, when everyone is in a rush to get their stories on-line first, for some stories to later receive corrections. The initial errors in the first story, which have been corrected, have no real bearing on the overall email scandal. This in no way means that either this aspect of the story, or the larger story of the scandal, have been “debunked” as many Clinton supporter are claiming.
Update: Ron Fournier writes, Parsing Clinton: What Is She Hiding? Her slippery defense of the email scandal requires a Clintonologist.