TwentySixteen

Hillary Clinton: Come Clean or Get Out

The email scandal is a distraction from the important work of the Democratic Party.

Hillary Clinton.
Darren McCollester AFP/Getty
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Ron Fournier
Sept. 23, 2015, 9:19 a.m.

If the Democratic Party cares to salvage a sliver of moral authority, its leaders and early state voters need to send Hillary Rodham Clinton an urgent message: Come clean or get out. Stop lying and deflecting about how and why you stashed State Department email on a secret server—or stop running.

Tell her: We can’t have another day like this:

Story 1: The State Department confirmed that Clinton turned over her email only after Congress discovered that she had exclusively used a private email system. According to The Washington Post, the department first contacted her in the summer of 2014, at least three months before the agency asked Clinton and three of her predecessors to provide their emails.

The story undercuts Clinton’s claim that her decision to turn over self-selected email was a response to a routine-sounding records request. She hasn’t been telling the truth.

Story 2: A federal court has helped uncover more emails related to the Benghazi raid that were withheld from congressional investigators. Clinton has insisted she turned over all her work-related email and complied with congressional subpoenas.

Again, she hasn’t been telling the truth.

Story 3: The FBI has recovered personal and work-related e-mails from her private server, raising the possibility that the deleted information becomes public. “The FBI is investigating how and why classified information ended up on Clinton’s server,” Bloomberg reported.

While the Democratic front-runner still insists there was no classified information on the unsecured server, the FBI has moved beyond whether U.S. secrets were involved to how and why. In the language of law enforcement, the FBI is investigating her motive.

On Sunday, Clinton told Face the Nation host John Dickerson: “What I did was allowed. It was fully above board,” and “I tried to be fully transparent.” Both claims are objectively and indisputably false.

From the moment this story broke in March, senior Democrats told me they were worried about where the questions would lead. Several said they feared what the emails might show about the intersection of Clinton’s work at the State Department and the family’s private foundation. One Clinton loyalist, a credible source who I’ve known for years, told me, “The emails are a re­lated but sec­ond­ary scan­dal. Fol­low the found­a­tion money.”

That is still speculation. But months of dishonesty and deception took their toll: A majority of Americans don’t trust her, and the Democratic nomination fight has shifted from a coronation to a competition. A poll released today by Bloomberg shows Clinton barely leading socialist Bernie Sanders and Vice President Joe Biden, who’s not even in the race.

For Democrats, this is an opportunity wasted. A crowded GOP field has been taken hostage by a celebrity billionaire with a history of bankruptcies, sexist behavior, and racially offensive statements. Lacking a firm grip on policy or the truth, Donald Trump is the GOP front-runner. His closest competition, Dr. Ben Carson, said Sunday he didn’t think a Muslim should be president, and his efforts to clean up the controversy have been as ham-handed as they are dishonest.

Which brings me back to Clinton. Loyalists argue that her policy agenda speaks to America’s new demography and addresses 21st-century challenges. Even if they’re right, the Clinton team has underestimated the value that voters place on a candidate’s character. One top Clinton adviser told me in the spring, “Trust doesn’t matter.”

Oft-burned Americans understand that a policy agenda is a collection of promises. If they can’t count on Clinton to be honest, they can’t count on her to keep her word about income inequality, jobs, health care, and the environment.

She announced a plan Tuesday to reduce prescription-drug costs, promising to cap monthly out-of-pocket expenses at $250 without curbing profits that fund research into life-saving drugs. Can you believe her?

Overshadowing that news was her long-awaited decision on the Keystone pipeline: Clinton now opposes a project she was once inclined to support at the State Department, a flip-flop that she justified with a rhetorical wave of the hand. “I think it is imperative that we look at the Keystone pipeline as what I believe it is—a distraction from the important work we have to do to combat climate change.”

A distraction from the important work. That could be her campaign slogan.

Previous: Ron Fournier Talks Clinton Emails on CNN

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