Parsing Clinton: Deflection, Deception, and Untruths

Breaking down the campaign’s talking points on her email fiasco.

Former Secretary of State and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a 'Women for Cuomo' campaign event on October 23, 2014 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York, NY. 
National Journal
Ron Fournier
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Ron Fournier
Aug. 13, 2015, 7:57 a.m.

Hav­ing covered Bill and Hil­lary Clin­ton since the mid-1980s in Arkan­sas, it’s not hard for me to ima­gine this con­ver­sa­tion tak­ing place at her cam­paign headquar­ters.

Aide No. 1: “Hil­lary’s num­bers are tank­ing. People don’t like her. They don’t trust her. What do we do?”

Aide No. 2: “Spin harder.”

(RE­LATED: Pars­ing Clin­ton: What Is She Hid­ing?)

Aide No. 1: “On it.”

And out spews these talk­ing points from Clin­ton com­mu­nic­a­tions dir­ect­or Jen­nifer Palmieri — 650 words of de­cep­tion, de­flec­tion, and un­truths.

“You might hear some news over the next few days about Hil­lary Clin­ton’s emails. There’s a lot of mis­in­form­a­tion, so bear with us; the truth mat­ters on this.”

Yes, it does. Go on.

“Like oth­er sec­ret­ar­ies of State who served be­fore her, Hil­lary used a per­son­al email ad­dress, and the rules of the State De­part­ment per­mit­ted it.”

Un­like past sec­ret­ar­ies of State, Clin­ton is run­ning for pres­id­ent. When she took of­fice in 2009, the gov­ern­ment was still grap­pling with how to reg­u­late email’s grow­ing dom­in­ance in pub­lic and private com­mu­nic­a­tions.

(RE­LATED: Clin­ton’s Con­spir­acy of Secrecy Worthy of Crim­in­al Probe)

While the State De­part­ment al­lowed the use of home com­puters in 2009, agency rules re­quired that email be se­cured. Just nine months in­to Clin­ton’s term, new reg­u­la­tions re­quired that her emails be cap­tured on de­part­ment serv­ers.

Her emails were not se­cured or cap­tured on de­part­ment serv­ers. Tens of thou­sands were de­leted.

In ad­di­tion to skirt­ing fed­er­al reg­u­la­tions, Clin­ton set a pre­ced­ent that threatens the pub­lic memory. Archiv­ing email on gov­ern­ment serv­ers pre­serves the ac­tions and de­cision-mak­ing of pub­lic of­fi­cials for re­lease un­der the Free­dom of In­form­a­tion Act, for con­gres­sion­al over­sight, and for his­tor­ic­al re­search. Clin­ton’s ac­tions are an as­sault on the prin­ciples of trans­par­ency and ac­count­ab­il­ity.

Why is there no ex­pli­cit pro­hib­i­tion on the ex­clus­ive use of a private serv­er? Be­cause, be­fore Clin­ton, no pub­lic ser­vant had the gall to use one. Her motive is un­known. While she said the goal was to avoid car­ry­ing mul­tiple devices, Clin­ton joked this year that she was “two steps short of a hoarder. So I have an iPad, a mini iPad, and a Black­berry.”

(RE­LATED: The Queen of Para­dox and Her Crum­bling Stone Wall)

(In March, a Clin­ton loy­al­ist and cred­ible source told me the email is­sue was rel­ev­ant be­cause of what it might re­veal about the Clin­ton Found­a­tion, where gobs of cor­por­ate and for­eign money mingle with the Clin­tons’ char­it­able, per­son­al, and polit­ic­al in­terests. “Fol­low the found­a­tion money,” the source said.)

“Last year, as part of a re­view of their re­cords, the State De­part­ment asked the last four former sec­ret­ar­ies of State to provide any work-re­lated emails they had.”

Palmieri makes this sound like a stand­ard re­view. In fact, it was the res­ult of a con­gres­sion­al in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to the in­fam­ous Benghazi raid. Had it not been for the in­vest­ig­a­tion, Clin­ton’s rogue email op­er­a­tion likely would have re­mained secret.

“”… more than 30,000 emails. In fact, she handed over too many…”

Whoa, if true. Un­for­tu­nately, she didn’t hand over enough.

More emails were de­leted by Clin­ton than re­turned to gov­ern­ment arches. Un­der polit­ic­al and leg­al pres­sure, she fi­nally gave the FBI her serv­er this week. Her at­tor­ney says it has been wiped clean. How con­veni­ent.

“No in­form­a­tion in her emails was marked clas­si­fied at the time she sent or re­ceived them.”

Not ne­ces­sar­ily a lie. Def­in­itely not the truth.

In March, she pledged un­equi­voc­ally, “There is no clas­si­fied ma­ter­i­al.” Only after that was dis­covered to be false did Clin­ton and her team add the “marked clas­si­fied at the time” caveat.

In oth­er words, the in­teg­rity of “There is no clas­si­fied ma­ter­i­al” de­pends on the mean­ing of “is.” Clin­ton her­self tried to re­define the truth last week (“Pars­ing Clin­ton: What Is She Hid­ing?”).

What Clin­ton doesn’t want you to know:

— Fed­er­al rules put the onus on gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials like the sec­ret­ary of State to pro­tect clas­si­fied ma­ter­i­al, even when it’s not marked as such.

— Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials have been con­victed of mis­hand­ling un­marked clas­si­fied ma­ter­i­al.

— Any chain of events or ex­cuses that led to the dis­clos­ure of these doc­u­ments be­gins with Clin­ton’s de­cision to go rogue with gov­ern­ment email.

“There is ab­so­lutely no crim­in­al in­quiry in­to Hil­lary’s email or email serv­er.”

The FBI is not call­ing it a crim­in­al in­vest­ig­a­tion. Clin­ton has not been named a tar­get.

And yet: There is an FBI in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to the ex­ist­ence of clas­si­fied doc­u­ments she had stored on ­her serv­er — out­side her de­part­ment’s se­cure sys­tem, in vi­ol­a­tion of her de­part­ment’s 2009 guidelines, and un­der her dir­ec­tion.

When your cam­paign’s cent­ral ar­gu­ment is Our can­did­ate is not a tar­get,” you’re los­ing.

“Hil­lary has re­mained ab­so­lutely com­mit­ted to co­oper­at­ing.”

This line would be laugh­able if it wasn’t so pathet­ic. From the start, Clin­ton has been com­mit­ted to de­fy­ing — not co­oper­at­ing.

“The serv­er will re­main private,” she vowed in March. Her at­tor­ney told Con­gress there was “no basis” to sup­port a third-party ex­am­in­a­tion of the serv­er. Be­sides, he said, the serv­er had been scrubbed. “There are no hdr22@clin­tone­mail.com emails from Sec­ret­ary of State Clin­ton’s ten­ure on the serv­er for any re­view, even if such a re­view were ap­pro­pri­ate or leg­ally au­thor­ized,” at­tor­ney Dav­id Kend­all wrote Con­gress.

“This kind of non­sense comes with the ter­rit­ory of run­ning for pres­id­ent.”

No, it doesn’t.

This kind of non­sense come with the ter­rit­ory of a Clin­ton run­ning for pres­id­ent.

The ori­gin­al sin is her de­cision to seize con­trol of pub­lic doc­u­ments. Clin­ton owns every ugly twist and turn, in­clud­ing harsh me­dia cov­er­age and GOP over­reach.

“We’re com­mit­ted to get­ting the real story out there.”

No, you’re not.

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