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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