More than a year ago, the world learned that, as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton used a private server for her emails, that it was installed in her home in Chappaqua, New York, and that she may have broken not just government rules but also the law. Yesterday, the Office of the Inspector General issued a report that was highly critical of her email practices. While her campaign has already brushed this off as nothing new, the Republican hate machine has turned its attention to the report. In truth, this is a very minor issue, but findings of the OIG suggest that the continuing FBI investigation into the same matter could be far more damaging.
The 83-page report looked at the email practices of the last five Secretaries of State, and according to the Washington Post, “and found persistent problems with ensuring that records are preserved in keeping with federal law.” This applied to emails at State in general and over years. Mrs. Clinton and her aides declined to be interviewed by the OIG, but each of the other former secretaries and current Secretary of State John F. Kerry, did talk. The report says “long-standing systemic weaknesses” existed in recordkeeping. Colin L. Powell also got cited for violating department policy for his use of a personal email account while in office.
However, the paper adds, “the inspector general’s office concludes that Clinton, the Democratic front-runner for president, handled email in a way that was ‘not an appropriate method’ for preserving public records and that her practices failed to comply with department policy. The review found that Clinton, who has said her system was secure, also never provided security details to agency officials responsible for safeguarding sensitive government information.”
The report states, “At a minimum, Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with Department business before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act.”
The Clinton campaign claims the candidate did nothing her predecessors hadn’t done, and therefore, in an unwarranted leap of illogic, there was nothing wrong with what she had done. This is utter nonsense because precedent is only useful if it represents best practices. Otherwise, the idea of reform is pointless. Her main argument for the private server was that it was convenient. Security trumps convenience, as anyone taking his shoes off to go through a metal detector at the airport knows.
Meanwhile, the GOP is thrilled to bits to have something else to say about how awful Mrs. Clinton is. Donald Trump said at a California campaign stop, “She’s as crooked as they come, she had a little bad news today as you know from some reports came down weren’t so good [sic, sic, sic].” The OIG report gives the right something their attacks often lack, solid proof — unlike the Benghazi nonsense. Thus, this will be an issue through November.
However, the OIG was not ever the big gun in the investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s emails. That role belongs to the FBI. Mrs. Clinton will be questioned last, as is the standard practice — asking questions of the person at the center of the investigation after all others have been interviewed. The Chicago Tribune notes, “Legal experts have said it appears unlikely Clinton would be charged with committing a crime. The relatively few U.S. laws that govern the handling of classified materials were generally written to cover spies and leakers. Lawyers who specialize in national security say it would be a stretch to apply these statutes to a former cabinet secretary whose communication of sensitive materials was with aides — not a national enemy.
“The Justice Department also does not appear to have convened a grand jury to examine Clinton’s email use, a likely step if prosecutors were weighing felony criminal charges.”
That doesn’t mean that the FBI investigation is going to exonerate her. The GOP will read as much into it as possible. The whole thing could have been avoided if Mrs. Clinton had simply followed procedure. It appears she has the same problem her husband does — a belief that the rules don’t apply to people named Clinton.