Hillary Clinton waited over a week to answer questions about her practice of conducting State Department business on her own private email system. Why did she remain silent for so long if the explanation for the practice is as innocent as she now claims? She explained it away breezily as a “matter of convenience” at a Tuesday press conference after a United Nations event in New York City.
Hillary Clinton is often touted as one of the most brilliant women to enter politics. Yet she asks voters to believe that she simply didn’t anticipate that her practice might cause consternation. It was an imprudent but innocent oversight, she implied, acknowledging that it would have been “smarter” to use a State Department account.
“I opted for convenience to use my personal email account, which was allowed by the State Department, because I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two,” she said during a press conference. “Looking back, it would have been better if I’d simply used a second email account and carried a second phone.”
Given her army of handlers and aides willing to hold devices for her or perform any other task (such as figuring out how to put two email accounts on one device), her claim that maintaining two accounts constituted a significant burden is hard to believe. The public is entitled to suspect that avoiding Freedom of Information Act requests factored more into her conception of convenience than did the prospect of holding two devices.
Having been in politics for so long and having dealt with prior investigations, she knew perfectly that her odd arrangement would come to light but must have concluded that the control it gave her would be worth the eventual embarrassment. It now appears impossible for the public and press to see any government-related emails she didn’t want them to see. By her estimate, she has deleted 30,000 emails she describes as solely personal and retained 30,000 that were work-related.
She brushed off questions about a neutral arbiter of her emails by insisting that she had turned over all the work-related emails to the State Department and deleted the rest, which sounds very convenient. “At the end, I chose not to keep my private, personal emails, emails about planning Chelsea’s wedding or my mother’s funeral arrangements or other mundane activities like Yoga appointments,” she said. There is nothing left to find, she implied, even as she made it clear that the “server will remain private.”
She prides herself on her careful calculations but claims she made no calculation about her private email use. It “just didn’t seem like an issue,” she said. She declared that the legality of her practice is “undisputed.” But plenty of legal commentators dispute it. They point out that she had no intention of observing the record-keeping provision of the Federal Records Act.
To hear her speak about the controversy one would think that she was constantly sending work-related emails to the State Department for preservation. In fact, she only turned over those emails recently and did so under pressure from the State Department.
She is now spinning her vice as a virtue, saying that her transparency is “unprecedented” and that her unusual arrangement really doesn’t matter anyway since “most” of her emails were sent to other people’s government accounts and thus would have been “captured.” As for whether or not these communications were insecure, she dismissed that possibility out of hand.
For such a regulatory-minded liberal, Hillary is remarkably casual about her own government communications. What was “simple” and “convenient” for her decided the issue. But now taxpayers have to spend millions of dollars to sort out the mess, without any assurance that the costly effort will produce a complete record of her work.
Obama calls his administration the most “transparent” ever. But episodes like this one reveal it to be at once imperial and amateurish. Obama said that he only learned of Hillary’s email practices from news stories, even though his press secretary now admits the two exchanged emails on that private account.
Trust us, Hillary essentially said at the press conference. But the public has no reason to trust either the administration’s competence or credibility. Only its bumbling cynicism, to which this fiasco contributes a new chapter, is transparent.
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