Yes, it seems the Obama White House knew about the Clinton’s private emails–and knew it would be a huge problem–but decided to defer action on that item to her staff. Oh, and they found out about this … last August. White House, State Department officials, and members of Hillary’s entourage knew that House Republicans had stumbled upon this information through the select committee investigating the Benghazi terrorist attack. Their decision was to remain tight-lipped about it (via Politico):
The White House, State Department and Hillary Clinton’s personal office knew in August that House Republicans had received information showing that the former secretary of state conducted official government business through her private email account — and Clinton’s staff made the decision to keep quiet.
Sources familiar with the discussions say key people in the Obama administration and on Clinton’s staff were aware that the revelation could be explosive for the all-but-announced candidate for president. But those involved deferred to Clinton’s aides, and they decided not to respond.
In the end, Clinton’s staff waited six months — until after the New York Times published a story on Tuesday about the email account and the possibility that it hampered public access to official records — to begin their response.
Clinton’s slow-off-the-block defense has left many political strategists and observers confused because even a presidential campaign in its early stages should have been prepared to get out ahead of bad news. Had the existence of the email address and private server been made public in August, they say, it could have become a marginal issue in the run-up to the midterm elections, which Democrats badly lost anyway and in which Clinton wasn’t a candidate. But the decision to let it linger has meant it will cast a much larger shadow over Clinton’s expected campaign announcement.
According to the sources, the problem came to light in August as the State Department prepared to respond to a request from the House Select Committee investigating the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. State Department officials noticed that some of the 15,000 pages of documents included a personal email address for Clinton, and State and White House officials conferred on how to handle the revelation, which they expected the committee to notice. But they felt that Clinton’s personal staff should take the lead, since she was no longer in government, and Clinton aides decided to wait and see.
Well, this “wait and see” strategy certainly didn’t work. And news of the Clinton emails along with allegations that her foundation accepting money from foreign government while she served as Secretary of State is being heard beyond the DC Beltway. Politico sent a survey to key Republican and Democratic operatives and activists in the early voting 2016 primary states to gauge this finding.
Forty percent of Democratic insiders in Iowa and New Hampshire said the recent disclosures about her secret email accounts, combined with stories of foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation, are breaking through beyond the Beltway bubble.
“This is the kind of stuff Matt Drudge dreams about because it perfectly fits the anti-Hillary narrative of the imperious, unaccountable, holier-than-thou elitist,” said a New Hampshire Democrat, who — like all 85 participants — completed the survey anonymously in order to speak candidly. “New Hampshire voters (all Americans, really) are big fans of sunshine and open government. Any NH Independents paying attention to this are shaking their heads. This isn’t a scandal, but it will make it harder for Hillary to attain that political ‘new car smell’, so to speak.”
Another New Hampshire Democrat who supports Clinton said it’s all in the eye of the beholder: “It’s more ammunition for those that don’t like her. Another exaggerated issue for those that support her. For those that are undecided, it’s politics as usual.”
“This is same old, same old,” said an Iowa Democrat who backs her. “As James Carville says, ‘Every day someone will hit HRC in the mouth as hard as they can.’ Our job is to make sure she knows we have her back.”
But a handful of Democrats surveyed said that this week’s kerfuffle may prompt some activists, already anxious about Clinton, to give a closer look to someone like former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who will be in New Hampshire on Friday. “There is something fishy here and it reeks of hiding something,” said an uncommitted Democrat who is uncomfortable with the party anointing Hillary.
An O’Malley surge would be delicious for Republicans given that their much deeper 2016 bench could probably handily defeat the uncharismatic former Maryland governor. Yet, this is probably what Republicans wanted: a tarnished Clinton who exposes herself as a mile wide, but an inch deep. Her record as Secretary of State isn’t noteworthy, she’ll be close to 70 when she runs, and she doesn’t offer the “new car smell” voters will be looking for in 2016 after eight years of Obama. That’s something Obama brought to the table in 2008, another reason why he won, besides the fact that Hillary’s not a good campaigner.
I don’t think anyone was serious concerning whether these email revelations could derail Hillary’s road to the Democratic nomination, but it will certainly tarnish her image, rehash the old narratives about the Clintons, and could be one of the reasons why she would lose in a general election. Okay. The last one is up for debate, but this email fiasco is becoming quite the albatross around her neck. She’ll be limping out of the gate as she begins her presidential bid.
UPDATE: Via Allahpundit: Obama White House admits to knowing about Clinton's private email address and corresponding with her on it.