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Analysis: No, A New State Department Review Does Not Exonerate Hillary Clinton on Her Email Scandal

Journalists and progressives -- categories that heavily overlap -- have spent the last few days discussing the release of a State Department report that they say exonerates Hillary Clinton over her serial misconduct related to classified information and her infamous private email server.  Based on the agency's final report, a New York Times headline blared, "State Dept. Inquiry Into Clinton Emails Finds No Deliberate Mishandling of Classified Information." The Washington Post's headline was nearly identical.  Here is Politico's lede on the story:


A State Department investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email account found no widespread effort by her aides or other staffers to mishandle classified information. The three-year-long investigation by State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security concluded that 38 individuals committed a total of 91 security violations involving emails sent to or from Clinton’s private server...However, a report on the probe finalized last month seemed to dismiss the notion that the system was routinely used to discuss matters that diplomats or Clinton aides knew required handling through secure channels...“While there were some instances of classified information being inappropriately introduced into an unclassified system in furtherance of expedience, by and large, the individuals interviewed were aware of security policies and did their best to implement them in their operations,” the report said. “Instances of classified information being deliberately transmitted via unclassified email were the rare exception and resulted in adjudicated security violations. There was no persuasive evidence of systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information.”

Various lefty outlets are treating the story as vindicating and infuriating belated proof that the Clinton email scandal was a bogus nothingburger from the start, cooked up to hurt the former Secretary of State's presidential campaign.  With media navel-gazing in full swing, featuring another round of journalists ritually flagellating themselves for not doing more to prevent a Trump presidency, a top CNN legal analyst pronounced himself regretful for covering the email scandal with the frequency and seriousness that he did:


Toobin didn’t mince words Monday in offering a mea culpa on CNN, where he serves as chief legal analyst. “I talked about the emails here at CNN, I wrote about it in The New Yorker,” he said. “And I think I paid too much attention to them and I regret that.” ... Toobin told POLITICO he has been flooded with responses since his surprise admission Monday morning on CNN. The feedback has largely fallen into two categories, he said: “Thank you for saying this” and “You’re a jerk, you shouldn't have done it in the first place.”

Apparently, the 'flood' of responses from CNN viewers did not include anyone passing along the correct reaction, based on the facts: Namely, that Hillary Clinton's email misconduct was, in fact, a bona fide scandal that warranted intense scrutiny.  Some points: (1) Of course her misconduct was deliberate.  She went through an enormous amount of trouble to set up a bootleg, woefully under-secured email server, on which she conducted official business -- including quite a lot of classified business.  National security officials have stated on the record that it's highly likely that this server and its contents were penetrated by hostile foreign actors.  Setting up the server required intent and affirmative steps, as did its continued use.  The whole point was to bypass the official system, allowing her total control over her virtual paper train, much of which she permanently and unilaterally deleted, with no oversight.  


(2) Of course her ceaseless lying about the whole matter contributes to her culpability.  Mrs. Clinton lied repeatedly about her emails, including lies about why she set up the private server in the first place, lies regarding classification markings, and lies about whether any of her 32,000 permanently-deleted emails were work-related (we know for a fact that a significant number were, and some were even classified).  Excluding the deleted content, more than 2,000 emails on Clinton's server contained classified material, including dozens at the "secret" or "top secret" levels (and even above top secret).  All of this points to systemic and deliberate action, intentionally obscured by a blizzard of untruths.  Here's left-leaning Politifact awarding Clinton a "false" rating on an assertion she made publicly, over and over again:

Clinton made the case for a year and as recently as Saturday, hours after being interviewed by investigators. "Let me repeat what I have repeated for many months now," Clinton said July 2, 2016. "I never received nor sent any material that was marked classified."...Now we know it’s just plain wrong...In total, the investigation found 110 emails in 52 email chains containing information that was classified at the time it was sent or received. Eight chains contained top secret information, the highest level of classification, 36 chains contained secret information, and the remaining eight contained confidential information. Most of these emails, however, did not contain markings clearly delineating their status. Even so, Clinton and her team still should have known the information was not appropriate for an unclassified system, Comey said.


(3) Of course the State Department review is not an exoneration of Hillary Clinton.  Anyone in the media who is pretending otherwise is being dishonest, and actively working to ensure that future Democratic scandals are soft-pedaled in such a manner as to not pose an electoral threat to journalists' preferred candidates.  Various news accounts of the new State Department review acknowledge, but quickly glide by, the fact that excluded from the investigation, out of necessity, were any of the tens of thousands of emails that Hillary and her inner circle permanently deleted.  "Not included in the review were emails deleted by Mrs. Clinton," the Times notes.  Beyond a small handful of messages recovered through other means, we are in the dark about the contents of the vast majority of the emails she ordered to be destroyed, although we do know she brazenly lied about that subject.  May I remind you that this destruction of evidence occurred shortly after the existence of the secret server was first reported by the New York Times, triggering an "oh sh*t" moment, and a frantic deletion process. 

Anyone pushing the exoneration/nothingburger narrative ignores these crucial facts, as well as the FBI's damning conclusion that Clinton's email misconduct represented extreme carelessness in the realm of handling and disseminating classified materials (some analysts have argued that it was clearly gross negligence, the standard required for charges under the espionage act).  It was established that Clinton unambiguously violated "clear cut" rules on email usage, a fact that was affirmed by a federal judge:


A federal judge has added fresh fuel to the incendiary controversy over Hillary Clinton’s email, asserting during a hearing Thursday that she violated government policy by storing official messages on a private server when she worked as secretary of state. “We wouldn’t be here today if this employee had followed government policy,” said U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, apparently referring to Clinton, during a hearing on one of the many Freedom of Information Act lawsuits seeking access to her records as secretary of state.

Clinton continued her ongoing violations by using her vulnerable off-the-books server in spite of explicit warnings about foreign attempts to breach her emails. The State Department may consider all of this to be something other than deliberate and systemic misconduct. The full record demonstrates otherwise. Hillary Clinton engaged in intentional misconduct for self-interested and political reasons, routinely compromised national security and classified material, destroyed evidence, and lied about all of it. That's the truth, no matter what the revisionist spinmeisters may claim.

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