Hillary Clinton’s Email Scandal
Earlier this week, The New York Times broke the story that former Secretary of State and likely Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton may have violated Department of State rules by using a personal email account rather than a government one.
Others, like Michael Tomasky at the Daily Beast, said she didn’t break the rules because they didn’t exist yet. But the story isn’t going away, in part because of long-standing accusations, mostly from Republicans, that Clinton somehow shirked her duties as secretary of state in the lead-up and response to the 2012 attacks on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that left U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens dead.
Here’s what happened with Clinton’s email:
1. Clinton used a personal email account for her work at the State Department. That raises concerns about security and transparency; she turned over 55,000 pages of personal emails last year, but there’s no way to know that she turned over everything, and her use of a personal account means records weren’t adequately kept by the government. The State Department says there was not classified information in her personal email.
2. Clinton says she’s being transparent. In a tweet, Clinton said she asked the State Department to release the emails to the public:
I want the public to see my email. I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 5, 2015
But others remain suspicious. “It seems her intent was to create a system where she could personally manage access to her communications,” John Wonderlich, policy director of the Sunlight Foundation, an organization which promotes government transparency, told The New York Times. The Sunlight Foundation also published a list of questions Clinton should answer to demonstrate she’s being transparent with the public, including details on what types of emails were turned over to State, and what the process was for selecting emails to turn over.
3. Clinton did not violate any rules by using personal email, but her emails were supposed to be preserved by the department. They were not. And by not storing her emails on department servers, they may not be in the department’s official records or subject to Freedom of Information Act requests.
4. Clinton had a personal email server to store her emails. Clintonemail.com was set up from her home in Chappaqua, New York, it seems by a then-adviser. Clinton used that private server for all her email, and family members and some close associates did as well. What troubles many is the fact that Clinton used her clintonemail.com address for personal matters, matters related to her work at State, as well as her work with the Clinton Foundation, the large not-for-profit started by her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
5. Other high-level officials use personal email too. While Clinton’s reliance on personal email and the failure to preserve the emails with State is pretty unusual, she’s not the only official to forgo a government email address. Republican presidential hopeful and former Florida governor Jeb Bush used a personal email server when he was in office, which he used for personal, political, and official business. Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel both used personal email as well.
6. Will this impact a potential Clinton presidential run? The email story certainly doesn’t look great for Clinton and it earned her a stern editorial from the Times, but unless Clinton hid something significant, it’s not shaping up to be a major political scandal. Even conservative commentators seem to agree that this won’t derail Clinton’s political ambitions.