Saturday, August 6, 2016

Secretary Clinton's Emails: What Really Happened

What really happened? Next to nothing.

We've been hearing about Hillary Clinton's email "scandal" for so long it's hard to put it into any meaningful context. So I'm going to do it for us. To do it, I'm going to severely reduce its moving parts. Bear with me.
  1. First, imagine a time before any of this story broke. That would go back to the end of Barack Obama's first term, when Clinton stepped down as Secretary of State and was replaced by John Kerry. Her approval ratings in the polls hovered around 65 percent.
  2. Then Fox News endlessly played up the Benghazi story as if it were the biggest scandal in modern history. Every investigation of Benghazi has led to a complete repudiation of Fox's "reporting" and exonerated Clinton.
  3. Because of this non-scandal, a House committee investigating it requested Secretary Clinton's emails on the subject. Here's the singular event that changes everything. No scandal, no investigation, no big deal.
Now, what would the story have amounted to if there were no email investigation? Here's how I think it would have ended:
  1. Hillary directs a process, at some point, to fulfill her obligation to preserve records. It would have proceeded just about the way it did, with her lawyers sorting through the emails and deleting the personal while preserving the job-related ones.
  2. It's possible that some knowledgeable member or two of her legal team might have said to Clinton that "You know, a few of your emails might have contained sensitive material," to which Clinton might have replied, "Hmm, yeah, sometimes my staff used the wrong system, but mostly this stuff is discussing publicly known information, and it wasn't marked classified, so I didn't sweat it."
  3. Then some of her emails got retroactively re-classified in order to protect information that some party or another deemed sensitive. This is routine, and wouldn't have been a cause of concern.
  4. Personal emails were deleted, and job-related emails were handed over to the State Department for vetting before turning them over to the National Archives.
  5. The server that hosted the email operation was then wiped and retired.
I can imagine it would end there with Clinton thinking no big deal. Why would she think that? Because it wasn't.
  1. There is no evidence that any sensitive material leaked.
  2. There is no evidence that the system was attacked or compromised.
  3. There is no evidence that Clinton ever actually knew any classified material passed across her email server.
  4. There is no evidence that she lied about anything.
When she discussed this on Fox News with Chris Wallace she was also telling the truth. She just didn't do it artfully. A day or two later she tried to address it using the fewest words possible. She doesn't want to talk about it, but if she did, she could quite likely say the following, and it would be true:
When I was interviewed by the FBI, I told them everything they wanted to know. Additionally, I shared with them what I had said publicly, that I never sent or received mail that was marked classified, or that I knew to be classified at the time. When James Comey said that he had no reason to believe that I wasn't being entirely truthful in my interview, in my eyes he was also attesting to the truthfulness of the public statements I shared with him. That's what I was attempting to say to Chris Wallace.
 And that's what most of us should just agree is likely what happened. Hillary Clinton, while in the office of the Secretary of State, used a private server for some, but not all, of her job-related email communications (there was another system hosted by the State Department for the real secret stuff, which Clinton also used. It may not have been an email system. We don't know because it's secret). Her personal email was co-mingled, leaving a bit of work before sending off the job-related stuff to the Archives. It's possible that no one would have made much of the fact that a few email conversations that passed across the private serve discussed information that may have been classified. It would have been "Hmm. That happened. Big whoop." The server was then wiped and retired. Clinton rode off into the sunset, was elected president, and was happy ever after.

Instead, this nation has been led on a wild goose chase, looking for evil where there is none and crimes where there were none. Meanwhile, we've got serious stuff to do. Can we get started? Please?

So my entire point is that, without the Benghazi craziness, the emails would never have been a thing. Why? Because they never were a thing.

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