As I discussed previously, one of the more serious aspects of Hillary Clinton violating rules regarding government records is that she used her private server to avoid Freedom of Information Act requests, including requests from the Associated Press. AP is now filing suit:
The Associated Press on Wednesday sued the State Department to force the release of email correspondence and government documents from Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.
The legal action follows repeated requests filed under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act that have gone unfulfilled. They include one request the AP made five years ago and others pending since the summer of 2013.
The suit in U.S. District Court comes a day after Clinton broke her silence about her use of a private email account while she was America’s top diplomat.
The FOIA requests and the suit seek materials related to her public and private calendars; correspondence involving aides likely to play important roles in her expected campaign for president; and Clinton-related emails about the Osama bin Laden raid and National Security Agency surveillance practices.
“After careful deliberation and exhausting our other options, The Associated Press is taking the necessary legal steps to gain access to these important documents, which will shed light on actions by the State Department and former Secretary Clinton, a presumptive 2016 presidential candidate, during some of the most significant issues of our time,” said Karen Kaiser, AP’s general counsel.
Said AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll: “The Freedom of Information Act exists to give citizens a clear view of what government officials are doing on their behalf. When that view is denied, the next resort is the courts.”
Other media outlets have made similar complaints, so this might not be the only suit.
Despite claims made during her misleading press conference yesterday, Clinton has violated Section 1236.22 of the 2009 National Archives and Records Administration requirements, along with what White House spokesmen describe as “very specific guidance” from the White House. While some Clintonistas follow their usual formula of denial of wrongdoing on the part of the Clintons, distraction, and demonization of critics, the media has been fact-checking and debunking Clinton throughout the day. Some Clintonistas are claiming this story is coming from Republicans and Fox, ignoring the fact that the story originated in The New York Times and it has been liberal magazines and blogs who have been criticizing her misconduct on principle. Andrea Mitchell reported on problems on record retention in the Clinton State Department on NBC tonight. NPR’s All Things Considered was just one of many media outlets which debunked statements made during her press conference, including her claims that she did not break the rules:
Clinton admitted her decision to carry one smartphone device rather than two during her tenure as secretary of state might have been a mistake. Apart from that, though, Clinton maintained her conduct regarding her email was by the book.
Others aren’t so sure. For instance, Clinton said it was “undisputed” that “the laws and regulations in effect” when she was secretary of state allowed her to use her personal email account for work. Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University in D.C., disagreed. He said the Federal Records Act of 2009 “in effect discouraged the use of personal email for official business.”
Clinton was confirmed as secretary of state in January 2009. The Records Act did not prohibit use of personal email accounts, but Blanton said the language is clear. “It says the head of every federal agency — and that’s who she was as secretary of state — is responsible for making sure that records of that agency’s business are saved on agency record systems,” he said.
Blanton said that does not include a server in Clinton’s Chappaqua, N.Y., home.
Clinton also asserted: “For any government employee, it is that government employee’s responsibility to determine what’s personal and what’s work-related.”
Blanton said Clinton did indeed have the right to separate out her personal emails from official records. But had those emails been on a government server, it would have been a more transparent process, he said. “If those emails were in the State Department system, that separation of personal or non-record material from the official stuff would be done by a professional records manager or professional archivist, a civil servant — not an aspiring politician and her lawyers.”
Similar coverage from The Guardian:
How can Clinton believe she didn’t violate any rules?
Clinton also said at the press conference she “fully complied with every rule I was governed by”. Well, actually: a 2005 State Department directive said “It is the Department’s general policy that normal day-to-day operations be conducted on an authorized [Automated Information System], which has the proper level of security control to provide nonrepudiation, authentication and encryption, to ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the resident information.”
Sources told Politico the rules were “clear-cut”. An ambassador was harshly criticized in 2012 for breaking this rule in the same manner Clinton did and subsequently fired in part for using a private email account at work. And Clinton herself signed a State Department cable in 2011 saying that all ambassadors should avoid personal email for professional business.
This is just a small sample of the criticism of Clinton from the liberal media. Meanwhile from the center, Ron Fournier did a good job of summing up what it is important:
Her rule-breaking and obfuscation force anybody who is not paid by Clinton or blindly loyal to ponder an uncomfortable choice. Clinton either has no idea how much damage she’s doing to her image and her party (which doesn’t speak well of her crisis-management skills) or there is something untoward in those emails.
It would be nice if we could all assume the former: She’s just a lousy candidate, not a liar or a crook. But the vast majority of Americans have no faith in politicians, politics, or government. Most know the Clintons’ history of stonewalling. And to those people, her answer to legitimate questions about government email and the Clinton Foundation is, “Trust me.”
The Washington Post Fact Checker gave Clinton three Pinocchios for her spin on the rules:
By the time Clinton took office, federal expectations for archiving electronic records were clearer than they were under Powell’s tenure. That does not absolve Powell for not being able to locate his records a decade later, or for not turning them over to National Archives back then. But it does mean that Clinton was held to a more definitive standard. Moreover, this common defense among her supporters is used to deflect the central issue: that Clinton exclusively used a personal account, and did not provide records until she was requested to, after she left office. That is the most relevant point, so the Democrats earn Three Pinocchios.
Unless smoking gun comes up, or Clinton botches further controversies as badly as this, most likely she will still win the nomination. This scandal, and other problems such as during her book tour, have raised questions from all sides of the political spectrum as to whether another Democrat can beat Clinton for the nomination. Several writers on the left are suggesting that Clinton needs a primary challenge. The Weekly Standard has an interesting suggestion from the right:
As reporters and members of Congress begin to dig into the Clinton email scandal, former Democratic presidential candidate has announced an upcoming visit to Iowa. He’ll be in the important caucus state from May 5-7, as part of a training sessions for the Climate Reality Project, of which he’s chairman…
While Gore has not expressed presidential ambitions in some time, some Republicans cannot help but wonder about the timing of the trip. Especially as the Clinton email scandal begins to grow.
“When it comes to politicians visiting Iowa, I don’t believe in coincidences,” one experienced Republican hand says.
“Al Gore, like Hillary Clinton has spent most of his life in politics. Running for office is something that’s in his blood, and he probably thinks that the waters for a potential bid are getting a little, shall we say, warmer.”
I suspect that it is purely coincidence that this climate meeting is in Iowa this spring, but this is also one of the rare times that I hope that Republicans speculation is right. If Hillary Clinton’s campaign continues to self-destruct, Democrats would benefit from a candidate who is not only well known, but who once even won the popular vote for the presidency. His move to the left while Clinton has moved to the right would, of course, be another big plus from my perspective.