The Week in Emailgate: Vanishing Evidence, White House Meddling, Sweetheart Deals

Posted: Oct 07, 2016 1:15 PM

Many in the mainstream press seem to have wrapped up the Hillary email scandal storyline in their minds: She engaged in some improper and self-serving conduct, then lied about her actions repeatedly, drawing harshly negative reviews from voters on trustworthiness. But with the case closed, and the menace of Donald Trump looming, the controversy is effectively in the rearview mirror. This mindset helps explain why so few questions have been asked about the 'strip out email address' evidence uncovered by online sleuths in late September.   And it helps explain why national coverage has been muted on a number of developing fronts:

(1) Coordinated White House damage control from the very beginning.  The Wall Street Journal's scoop published late last night reveals close coordination between the Obama White House, the Obama/Clinton State Department, and the Clinton campaign from the earliest days of the email scandal.  This included collusion on talking points and public relations maneuvering, including efforts to quash questions for Hillary's successor about the imbroglio:

Between the White House's involvement in her public defense, the president's premature declaration of her innocence amid an ongoing investigation, and Bill Clinton's secretive meeting with the Attorney General, one needn't be a tin-foil-hat-wearing fever swamp dweller to strongly suspect that the Obama Justice Department had absolutely no intention of ensuring accountability in this case.  This seems especially likely in light of the confounding grants of immunity and breathtaking side deals dished out like candy -- including an agreement to ignore potential 'cover-up' correspondence from key dates, as well as a deal to permanently destroy evidence.  At the very least, the signaling from the top about where this investigation could not lead was crystal clear.

(2) Two boxes of printed Clinton emails went missing during the investigation.  Perhaps these boxes were miscounted at first.  Perhaps the contents of two of them were consolidated into the others.  Or perhaps evidence was tampered with.  This is just another shady detail in a series of highly shady circumstances.  Please recall that a computer containing Mrs. Clinton's email archive was allegedly lost in the mail, just as multiple mobile devices were "misplaced" and never recovered.  "The details about the boxes are contained in five pages of the FBI file – with a staggering 111 redactions," Fox News' Catherine Herridge reports. In addition to the mysterious disappearing boxes, Herridge also notes that the FBI's file included details that a top Clinton aide pressured subordinates to change classification markings on memos and emails in order to shield them from public view:

State Department witness also told the FBI there was a deliberate effort to change sensitive Clinton emails bearing the “B(1)” code -- used in the Freedom of Information Act review process to identify classified information -- to the category of “B-5.” That category covers Executive Branch deliberations, “interagency or intra-agency communications including attorney client privileges,” and makes material exempt from public release. Over five pages of the single-spaced summary notes, the witness, whose name is redacted, alleges Clinton’s team which included Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy played classification games to confuse and obfuscate the formal FOIA review process...In early May 2015, the witness reported, "… KENNEDY held a closed-door meeting with (redacted) and (redacted) DOJ's Office of Information Programs where KENNEDY pointedly asked (redacted) to change the FBI's classification determination regarding one of CLINTON's emails, which the FBI considered classified. The email was related to FBI counter-terrorism operations.”

Again, are we to believe that Clinton had no idea that emails about counter-terrorism operations might be classified?  And how is this not even more proof of intent?  Over the course of this saga, we have also learned that Mrs. Clinton instructed staffers to strip away classification headings from emails in order to "send non-secure," undermining her subsequent excuse that the thousands of classified emails that passed through her server (she originally said there were zero) were not marked as such in headers. She also told the FBI that she didn't realize that (C) markings stood for "confidential," supposedly mistaking that designation as an alphabetical listing, which makes no sense. 

(3) Withheld work-related emails pertained to the Clinton Foundation.  Mrs. Clinton said over and over again that she'd turned over every single message that could conceivably be construed as related to her official business.  She lied.  The FBI found thousands of deleted and withheld emails that clearly pertained to her work as Secretary of State, including roughly 1,000 exchanged with former CIA director Gen. David Petraeus.  As those records are being released under court order (virtually all of her emails have only been made public under court order), it's becoming increasingly obvious that the interests of the Clinton State Department and the Clinton Foundation often intersected.  We already knew that this opaque relationship -- fueled in part by undisclosed foreign donations -- resulted in special accesscoveted invitationslucrative contracts, and sensitive appointments.  Now we know more:

A new batch of emails from Hillary Clinton's time at the State Department offered fresh evidence Wednesday of the pains Clinton's staff took to accommodate her husband's paid speeches and her family's foundation — just hours after Sen. Tim Kaine dismissed the possibility that the Clinton Foundation had wielded influence over his running mate. Emails showed Clinton's aides teamed up with the foundation to perform donor maintenance, craft messaging on key policies and put together guest lists for both diplomatic and philanthropic events. State Department staffers were often asked to advise Clinton's husband on how to handle politically-fraught speaking engagements or foundation events, such as an effort to bring the new Libyan president to a Clinton Global Initiative meeting that was held less than two weeks after the 2012 Benghazi attacks...authorities are unlikely to take any action against Clinton or her staff, despite the fact that they violated a Memorandum of Understanding with the White House in which they had pledged to avoid the appearance of conflicts with the foundation....Huma Abedin, then Clinton's deputy chief of staff, had the most contact with employees of the Clinton Foundation. Her cozy relationship with the charity earned her a paycheck in 2012, when the State Department approved an unusual personnel arrangement that allowed her to accept employment at the State Department and a controversial consulting firm called Teneo Strategies without leaving her agency position.

Read the whole thing for more specific details.  I'll leave you with an interesting development that garnered little attention.  The Washington Post recently revealed that Donald Trump's "charitable" foundation lacked the proper certification to operate as such, prompting action from the Clinton-supporting New York Attorney General.  Clinton allies circulated the story.  They ignored this one.  Surprise, surprise:

Clinton Foundation officials quietly refiled three years of tax-related forms this week after the New York attorney general acknowledged the charity had failed to disclose all of its donors in accordance with state law. Two entities operating within the Clintons' sprawling philanthropic network — the Clinton Health Access Initiative and the Clinton Global Initiative — submitted supplementary financial disclosures for different years between 2012 and 2014 while denying Tuesday that the attorney general's office had asked them to do so.

Why, this reminds me of the time the Clinton Foundation had to re-file five years of tax returns after "accidentally" failing to report tens of millions in foreign donations.  Yet Bill and Hillary have each claimed that their "slush fund" organizations have been entirely transparent.