Hillary Clinton should have it made. Democratic Party rules designed to prevent a fair fight for the nomination, along with active help from the party establishment, have put her in a strong position to win her party’s nomination. If nominated, she gets to run against a candidate as weak as Donald Trump. However, recent polls show that her support has eroded. She is essentially tied with Trump in the polls, and would probably be losing if up against any other candidate. As The New York Times reports, Hillary Clinton Struggles to Find Footing in Unusual Race.
One problem is that her attempts to campaign against Trump are not working. Her nickname, Dangerous Donald, has not helped her campaign, while Trump’s nickname for Clinton, Crooked Hillary, has been reinforced by the news. As Chris Cillizza put it, Clinton just had the worst week in Washington. The State Department Inspector General report came out and was terrible for Clinton. The report not only confirmed the accusations against Clinton and debunked her defenses, it also showed that Clinton actively acted to hide her violations of the law. Dan Metcalfe, former Director of the Justice Department’s Office of Information and Privacy, wrote that Clinton likely committed the “biggest violation of Federal Records Act in History.”
As The New York Times pointed out, Emails Add to Hillary Clinton’s Central Problem: Voters Just Don’t Trust Her.
Mrs. Clinton has gone from having a 69 percent approval rating and being one of the most popular public figures in the country when she left the State Department in 2013 to having one of the highest disapproval ratings of any likely presidential nominee of a major party.
Roughly 53 percent of voters said they had an unfavorable opinion of Mrs. Clinton in a new ABC-News Washington Post poll. Some 60 percent of voters said they had an unfavorable opinion of Mr. Trump.
When asked if Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump are “honest and trustworthy,” 64 percent of registered voters replied “no,” according to a recent New York Times-CBS News poll. Ask voters why they don’t trust Mrs. Clinton, and again and again they will answer with a single word: Emails.
The Inspector General report proves that Hillary Clinton has spent the last year lying to the American people about this scandal. How did she respond? She continued to lie.
1. “Um, just like previous secretaries of state I used a personal email. Many people did. It was not at all unprecedented.”
Er … yes, previous secretaries of state have used personal email addresses while in office — Colin Powell most notably and extensively. But, and this is really important, Clinton is the first secretary of state to ever use a private email address exclusively to conduct her business. Period. That was and is unprecedented.
2. “I have turned over all my emails. … I have been incredibly open about doing that.”
Let’s take the second sentence there first.
The inspector’s report notes Clinton (a) shouldn’t have exclusively used a private server for her email correspondence and (b) given that she did, should have turned over all of her correspondence to the State Department immediately after she left office in February 2013. Clinton eventually turned over a portion of her emails — more on that below — but didn’t do so until December 2014 and “only after the State Department requested them as it prepared responses for the Republican-led House committee investigation into the 2012 attack on U.S. diplomats in Benghazi, Libya,” according to a piece by WaPo’s Roz Helderman and Tom Hamburger.
As for Clinton’s assertion that she has turned over “all” of her emails, remember that Clinton deleted more than 31,000 emails that she deemed personal before ever turning anything over to the State Department. There was no third party brought in to make judgments on what was entirely private and what might be closer to the professional line. We have to, quite literally, take Clinton’s word for it.
3. “I will continue to be open.”
Clinton refused to sit down with the inspector general at the State Department, which is not exactly a testament to her commitment to openness. According to news reports, she has not yet been interviewed by the FBI, but there is an assumption that talk is coming.
4. “It’s not an issue that is going to affect either the campaign or my presidency.”
This is a subjective assertion and, therefore, sort of impossible to fully prove or disprove. But, there is plenty of polling evidence that suggests that voters aren’t convinced that Clinton is being entirely truthful in relation to her email server.
When asked last September whether Clinton has “honestly disclosed the facts about her use of personal e-mail while secretary of state or has tried to cover up the facts,” 54 percent of respondents in a Washington Post-ABC News poll chose the latter option. Just one in three (34 percent) said they believed she had honestly disclosed the facts.
And, it’s not a far leap from voters doubting Clinton’s honesty about her email setup to broader doubts about her veracity. Large majorities of Americans regularly tell pollsters that they don’t view Clinton as either honest or trustworthy — a massive hurdle that Clinton will have to clear between now and November.
As bad as this week was, The Hill predicts that things will get worse:
In the next few weeks — just as the likely Democratic presidential nominee hopes to pivot towards a general election — it will face its toughest scrutiny yet.
“All of that feeds into this overarching problem of public distrust of her,” said Grant Reeher, a political science professor at Syracuse University.
“To put it in slang terms, she’s got a pretty deeply held street rep at this point. This fits the street rep,” he added.
The State Department’s watchdog report was especially damaging, given the official nature of its source. The report claimed that Clinton never sought approval for her “homebrew” email setup, that her use of the system violated the department’s record-keeping rules and that it would have been rejected had she brought it up to department officials…
Clinton and many of her top aides declined to take part in the inspector general’s probe. But they won’t have that option going forward.On Friday, Clinton’s former chief of staff Cheryl Mills was interviewed behind closed doors as part of a court case launched by conservative watchdog Judicial Watch. In coming weeks, longtime aide Huma Abedin, former IT specialist Bryan Pagliano and other officials are scheduled to answer questions under oath for sessions that could last as long as seven hours.
A federal judge this week preemptively blocked Judicial Watch from releasing videotapes of the upcoming depositions.
But the group this week released the transcript from its first interview, with longtime State Department veteran Lewis Lukens. And it plans to do the same thing following each of the upcoming depositions, providing fodder for weeks to come from some of the closest rings of Clinton’s inner circle.
The court has said that Clinton herself may be forced to answer questions under oath, which would dramatically escalate the brouhaha surrounding the case…
What is potentially profoundly more damaging for Clinton is the looming FBI investigation, exploring the possibility that she or her aides mishandled classified information.More than 2,000 emails that Clinton gave the State Department from her private server have been classified at some level, and 22 were marked as “top secret” — the highest level of classification — and deemed too dangerous to release publicly even in a highly redacted form. However, none of the emails were marked as classified at the time they were sent, complicating the investigation into whether her setup thwarted any laws.
Abedin, Mills and other Clinton aides have reportedly been interviewed as part of the FBI case. And Clinton herself is due up for questioning at some point.
Legal experts appear skeptical that the Justice Department would hand down a criminal charge against Clinton, due to both the high legal hurdles involved and the intense political scrutiny surrounding the likely presidential nominee.
But that won’t end the matter.
Republicans appear primed to cry foul if the FBI closes its investigation without handing down indictments or offering a public explanation. Senior lawmakers have already excoriated the Justice Department for failing to appoint a special prosecutor.
While there is a good chance Clinton will escape prosecution, people lower than her have been prosecuted for less. A debate over selective prosecution could damage not only Clinton but the reputation of the Obama administration.
Clinton’s dishonesty and scandals will dominate the presidential election. While there are also plenty of bogus scandals raised by Republicans, the current scandals are true and are Clinton’s fault. They demonstrate her dishonesty, her poor record on government transparency, and her poor judgment. Blaming all the attacks on the vast right wing conspiracy will not protect her. The Democratic Party can still avoid this, and a high risk of defeat to Donald Trump, by nominating Bernie Sanders instead.