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OPINION

Email Scandal Will Dog Clinton Right Up To Election Day

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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It is clear by now that a large number of Hillary Clinton's emails that she sent or received on her private computer system contained classified information.

The widening scandal has not only surrounded her presidential campaign in controversy and sent her political polls into a nose dive, but it is also raising questions about her honesty, obsessive secrecy and judgment.

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"I have said repeatedly that I did not send nor receive classified material, and I am very confident that when this entire process plays out that will be understood by everyone," she said last week.

But government officials now say that the emails that have been released by the State Department contradict her claims.

That's become obvious by now because the messages being reviewed by State Department officials and released to the public are heavily redacted. Sentences, paragraphs or the whole email were blacked out because they contained classified information.

Thus far, 188 of the emails that have been released recently contained highly sensitive material, according to department officials reviewing the documents. And the remaining emails still to be examined number in the thousands.

The entire email controversy has blown into a major scandal that is now under investigation, not only by the State Department, but also by the Justice Department, the FBI, the intelligence community, a battery of inspectors general and multiple committees in Congress.

Clinton's decision to handle all of her communications -- dealing with foreign policy and national security matters -- through her private home computer system is disturbing on a number of levels.

Federal rules prefer that all emails, both internal and external, be conducted on a secure government, archival system.

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That's especially critical in the State Department, where highly sensitive foreign policy and national security issues are discussed with ambassadors and government officials around the globe.

Clinton has said that she decided to establish her own personal server for all her communications to avoid having to switch back and forth on two separate systems -- one for personal messages and another for her official State Department work.

She has since said that she regrets her decision and that it was a mistake in judgment.

But this is a scandal that has traction, and it's not going away anytime soon. It has already inflicted major damage to her campaign and highlighted her obsessive reputation for secrecy and her habit of playing fast and loose with the truth.

Clinton has turned over more than 30,000 emails to the State Department. A federal judge has ordered they be made public on a rolling basis, and that all of them must be released by next January. That pushes the story, unexpected findings, hearings, congressional testimony and other developments into dangerous territory: the start of the Democratic presidential primary season.

In further remarks about the investigation, Clinton has begun defensively parsing her remarks.

During a Democratic National Committee meeting in Minneapolis, she said it was possible that government officials may be making after-the-fact conclusions about the contents of her emails, "but it does not change the fact that I did not send, nor receive, material marked classified."

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But the large number of redactions in the first batch of emails suggests there will be many more redactions to come, discrediting her claim that she never sent emails that could endanger U.S. national security.

As for whether her heavily redacted emails were not marked "classified," the fact of the matter is that she was the author of them.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday on one of Clinton's emails to former Sen. George Mitchell of Maine, who was a special envoy to the Middle East in October 2009.

"The entire message ... is blacked and tagged with a designation noting that the information was classified. The only part now public is Clinton's opening: "George ..." the Post reported.

Meantime, Republicans in both houses of Congress are sending out subpoenas to former Clinton aides in an all-out effort to dig deeper into the email controversy on a number of fronts.

One of those who has received a subpoena is Bryan Pagliano, a former State Department aide who worked in its information technology office and set up Clinton's private email server in 2009 in her home in New York.

But Pagliano, who also worked in her 2008 presidential campaign, has already said he will refuse to answer any questions by claiming his Fifth Amendment constitutional right against self-incrimination.

The House select committee investigating the terrorist attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, no doubt wants to know as much as it can find out about Clinton's server and its installation and other documents associated with it.

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Clinton is scheduled to testify before the Republican-led House committee in October, one of several panels investigating her email scandal.

Pagliano has also been contacted to testify before two major Senate committees -- Judiciary and Homeland Security -- in what's turning out to be a full-court press on Clinton throughout the fall and the 2016 primaries.

The GOP's not-so-hidden strategy: Keep Clinton's email scandal front and center right through Election Day, unless she drops out of the race by then.

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