Hillary Clinton granted two interviews around the Labor Day weekend and was again faced with questions regarding the email scandal.This includes an interview with the Associated Press on Monday and an interview with Andrea Mitchell late last week. In both interviews she declined to apologize for her actions other than for a rather backhanded comment to Andrea Mitchell that, “I am sorry that this has been confusing to people and has raised a lot of questions.”
Andrea Mitchell conducted by far the better of the two interviews, often challenging Clinton’s false claims which were accepted in the AP interview. The most complete transcript I could find of the interview with Andrea Mitchell at time of writing this post is available here.
Early in the interview Clinton again repeated the false claim that what she had done was allowed:
First of all, are you sorry? Do you want to apologize to the American people for the choice you made?
HRC: Well, it certainly wasn’t the best choice.
And I have said that, and I will continue to say that.
As I’ve also said many times, it was allowed, and it was completely above board. The people in the government knew I was using a personal account.
But it would’ve been better if I had two separate accounts to begin with. And certainly I’m doing everything I can now to be as transparent about what I did have on my work-related e-mails.
I think, you know, they will be coming out. I wish it were a little bit faster. It’s frustrating that it’s taking a while. But there’s a process that has to be followed.
This claim was immediately disputed by Mitchell:
AM:Well since 1995, the State Department Foreign Affairs manual said that all e-mails, all records had to be preserved. In 2005, the manual was updated to say, “Sensitive but unclassified information should not be transmitted through personal e-mail accounts.”
Eight months after you took office, the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations was updated to say that agencies that allow employees to send and receive official electronic e-mail messages using a system not operated by the agency must ensure that federal records sent or received on such existing systems are preserved by the appropriate agency recording system.
So there were a lot of advisories. No laws, correct. But a lot of advisories, written White House guidance, against using personal e-mail, and especially using personal e-mail exclusively.
You say – just now, you said – people in the government knew you used personal e-mail. The recent e-mails that were released indicated the the help desk at the State Department didn’t know. They couldn’t recognize what your e-mail address was
Fact check sites have also debunked this claim from Clinton whenever she made it, including after her interview with CNN. This includes both Factcheck.org and The Washington Post Fact Checker, which gave Clinton Three Pinoccios for her statement that “everything I did [on e-mails] was permitted.” Previously the top Freedom of Information Act official at the Justice Department stated that Clinton was in violation of the rules.
Clinton also said, “I wish it were a little bit faster” in response to the release of her email. She has frequently made such misleading comments to suggest that she has wanted her email to be released after initially trying to prevent the release. If she was concerned about speed, she might have also turned over the electronic version of her email as opposed to printing it out and forcing the State Department to rescan the documents. The manner in which Clinton did release the email did make it easier to hide alterations. Clinton similarly was deceitful in talking about turning over the server in the AP interview, with Clinton refusing to turn it over until she had no real choice with the FBI beginning its investigation.
Clinton continued to give misleading answers to questions, which very well might have promoted Mitchell to point out in a subsequent question:
There was a Quinnipiac – and I know this poll was everyone, Republicans and Democrats – but the first words that came to mind when asked about you were “liar,” “untrustworthy,” “crooked.”
Mitchell later asked Clinton about the over 30,000 emails which were deleted. Clinton repeated her claim that they were personal, but it has already been found that email related to Libya and terrorism had been deleted or altered.
Mitchell asked Clinton about the classified email which has been found on her system, with Clinton again giving a misleading answer: “And has been confirmed repeatedly by the Inspectors General over and over, I did not send or receive any material marked classified.” This has not been confirmed at all, with the Inspectors General requesting that the FBI investigate the matter. It has been revealed that there were 213 classified emails in the email reviewed so far, with two emails labeled top secret. It is not yet known how many were labeled classified at the time, but as Secretary of State, Clinton was responsible for knowing what information should be classified regardless of whether it was labeled as classified when she sent the information.
Mitchell debunked Clinton’s frequently used defense that Colin Powell did the same thing:
AM: You have said that Colin Powell did the same thing. He actually had a personal e-mail and a State .gov official e-mail system.
So he didn’t just rely on a personal system. I don’t think there’s any precedent for someone just relying on a personal e-mail system at your level of government.
Mitchell asked about the decision to use a personal server:
AM: Did anyone in your inner circle say, “This is not a good idea. Let’s not do this”
HRC: You know, I was not thinking a lot when I got in. There was so much work to be done. We had so many problems around the world.
I didn’t really stop and think, “What kind of e-mail system will there be?”
This answer is as hard to believe as her earlier (and subsequently debunked) claim that she did this for convenience. The use of private email was a major scandal in the later years of the Bush administration. Clinton herself had attacked the Bush administration over this in 2007:
Our Constitution is being shredded. We know about the secret wiretaps, the secret military tribunals, the secret White House email accounts. It’s a stunning record of secrecy and corruption, of cronyism run amok. It is everything our founders were afraid of, everything our Constitution was designed to prevent.
Clinton again made an issue of the “secret White House email accounts” in 2008 when running for the nomination. In response to the Bush email scandal, the Obama administration instituted new rules to provide for greater transparency. It makes no sense to say she just didn’t think about it when the Obama administration was sending out advisories and working on new policies regarding this.
Andrea Mitchell then asked, “Does it raise judgment questions?”While Clinton denied it, the entire scandal shows a profound lack of judgment even beyond the violations of several government policies. Knowing that this was a scandal before she took office, she should have realized that it would ultimately come out that she was going even further than the Bush administration in violating basic principles of government transparency.
The email scandal is not going to go away with these deceitful answers from Clinton. While on the Rachel Maddow show talking about the interview, Andrew Mitchell pointed out that the Obama White House was surprised by her exclusive use of private email. Tom Brokaw, who investigated the Watergate scandal earlier in his career, was also not fooled by Clinton’s answers and stated on Meet the Press:
She’s made some huge mistakes in my judgment. And that wonderful interview that Andrea initiated, and typically of Andrea she went right after the issue, when she said, I didn’t think about the effect of e-mail, I was stunned. I mean, we were deep into the digital age at that point. She’s Secretary of State.
If the Democrats are foolish enough to give the nomination to Hillary Clinton, coverage of the campaign will continue to be dominated by questions about Clinton’s honesty and judgment.
Update: Hillary Clinton Apologizes For Private Email But Still Needs To Explain Her Actions
Update II: Factcheck.org Debunks Clinton’s Claims In Recent Interviews About Email Scandal