What did the White House know and when did they know it?  

That timeline got murkier on Friday as the White House struggled to respond to mounting questions over Hillary Clinton’s private email use. The heat was turned up after Politico reported that top White House officials knew back in August that Clinton was conducting official business on personal email.  

White House spokesman Josh Earnest, when asked about what the White House knew, said senior officials were emailing Clinton while she was secretary of state and a few noticed she wasn’t using a .gov email address. However, he did not say when they noticed it and whether red flags were raised. 

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The White House has been steadfast in its insistence that administration officials were told to use their government email accounts whenever possible. At the daily press briefing Wednesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest faced a second day of questions about administration email. Personal email isn’t off-limits, he said, but keeping government communications out of the public archive required by law is. For that reason, officials are told to forward private emails to their public accounts so the messages are legal…

But according to those that worked there, and public statements by Earnest, the administration atmosphere at least emphasized enforcement of the rules surrounding email usage. Inside the White House, the repeated warnings weren’t so much about using personal email accounts but about keeping any private emails they sent about their jobs out of the archived public record. Former staffers said they rarely if ever used personal email for government work, but if they did it was usually only when they were off-site and government email was down.

“They were pretty consistent about reminding us the rules,” one former White House official recalled. “Every once in a while there would be an email outage or something and you’d get a reminder that you shouldn’t be using your personal email for government business and that, if you had, you needed to immediately forward any emails to your .gov account so they’d be preserved.”

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In July 2011, Clinton gave a speech in Washington to inaugurate the Open Government Partnership, which her State Department co-chaired with Brazil.

When a government hides its work from public view, hands out jobs and money to political cronies, administers unequal justice, looks away as corrupt bureaucrats and businessmen enrich themselves at the people’s expense, that government is failing its citizens,” she said. “And most importantly, that government is failing to earn and hold the trust of its people. And that lack of trust, in a world of instantaneous communication, means that the very fabric of society begins to fray and the foundation of governmental legitimacy begins to crumble.”

Three months later, Clinton’s State Department made several commitments for the U.S. as part of the Open Government Partnership. One was to overhaul how the U.S. government stores and manages its records, to create “a reformed, digital-era, government-wide records management framework that promotes accountability and performance.”

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Now, if it is ever revealed that Clinton did keep private emails conducting official business from the State Department, then she will be guilty of a felony.

But that would require a third party gaining access to all of her personal emails…

“It’s somewhat ridiculous that we are trusting the decisions of private citizens hired by this person to preserve the country’s records,” John Wonderlich, policy director of the Sunlight Foundation, a government transparency nonprofit, told BuzzFeed. 

But, unless Clinton agrees to give her server to a third party, that is exactly the situation we are facing.

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While the former secretary of state remains a strong favorite to win the Democratic presidential nomination, she’s now more vulnerable to a party challenger – and, perhaps more ominously, more likely to give an already-alienated electorate new reasons to drop out of the political process

Big money that’s hard to account for? Forty percent of top donors over the past 10 years to the Clinton Foundation are based in foreign countries, McClatchy reported. Clinton was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, and she joined the foundation after leaving office. The flap is reminiscent of President Bill Clinton’s wooing big money by inviting well-heeled donors to attend fancy coffees or sleep over at the White House.

Secret, private emails? Could be an echo of the early Clinton administration, when first lady Hillary Clinton, in charge of overhauling the nation’s health care system, would not at first release the names of hundreds of people on her task force.

Transparency? “I think I’m the most transparent person in public life,” Clinton said in 2008. But would the public have learned of the email account if the Republican-led House committee investigating the 2012 Benghazi incident hadn’t uncovered it?

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“It adds more reason to get other people involved in this process, to make sure we have other strong, good candidates running,” said Larry Hogden, chairman of Iowa’s Cedar County Democrats. “Because, who knows? She could implode totally.”

“What I’m hearing from other people is that they want an actual primary,” said Iowa City activist and blogger John Deeth. “The main problem with this whole email thing is that at the moment there’s no real option. Jim Webb is not considered a serious option. [Martin] O’Malley has got the problem of being considered another old white guy. The only viable option I see out there is [Joe] Biden, [Bernie] Sanders, and [Elizabeth] Warren.”…

“There is some concern. Some people are saying, ‘Is this going to blow up in her face?,’” said Jack Hatch, the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for Iowa governor in 2014…

“Her [potential] campaign is so disdainful of anybody who raises any issues,” said former South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Dick Harpootlian, a long-standing booster of Vice President Joe Biden. “You need to get out ahead of it. How does she not see that one coming?”

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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.”…

A Granite State Democrat explained that both Bill and Hillary Clinton are coated in Teflon: “At this point, they have proven [the ability] to weather just about any kind of scandal. They undoubtedly have skeletons that will come out in this election, and it won’t matter at the end of the day – their base is that broad, and that committed.”

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“She’s a terrible politician,” said Florida-based GOP strategist Rick Wilson. “She has never won a genuinely contested election. She is spectacularly bad. If her name was ‘Hillary Jones’, she couldn’t get elected to a Mosquito Management Board in Florida. She is not a woman who has ever been able to win a hot race.”…

“The question of her political competence is definitely on display,” said Dan Judy of Republican firm North Star Opinion Research, which has previously worked with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) but does not currently have an affiliation with a likely 2016 GOP candidate. 

“The thing is, when people talk about the Clintons’ political talent, you think of Bill. She is not Bill. She has been very successful in politics but she is not a very talented politician — and I think that was on display in the 2008 primary, and it has been on display again since the time she left as secretary of State.”…

“It looks like the Democratic donor community would like to rally around Hillary Clinton if she would let them,” [Ron Bonjean] said. “But with the type of fodder she is providing at the moment, I think Republicans would very much welcome her to the race.”

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When Todd Akin’s drivel can become the intense focus of our attention for weeks but Hillary’s neglect of law begins morphing into a Washington process story after a few days, I think it’s probably fair to question whether the media is corrupt. It’s certainly fair to wonder whether the conservative establishment will ever be able to fight back effectively…

“This is a bad story for her and her presidential campaign because it reinforces many things people already don’t like about the Clintons,” Chris Cillizza explained. Not a bad story because she’s unethical politician who for two decades has hopped from one unscrupulous incident to another, but bad because people have been paying attention and “believe” these things may be true. The Clintons, are always, somehow, “finding themselves” in the middle of these controversies. The Clinton email controversy is just a “debacle.” This is how we cover Hillary

Moreover, when a Democrat is implicated, journalists are compelled to spend a lot of their time examining how the damning evidence was uncovered and how those who uncovered it act after the scandal breaks. When all these stories are exhausted, journalists will start asking why America cares anymore. And when conservatives continue to press, we’re going to hear about how bitter and partisan Washington has become. The scandal will be throw in into a crockpot with all the scandals that went nowhere. The media will start wondering why Republicans insist on tearing this country apart, rather than why so many of them don’t do their jobs.

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In May 1996, when Clinton appeared on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, she was asked if she planned to write a book someday about her experiences in the White House. “Are you keeping a diary?” Lehrer asked. “Are you keeping good notes on what’s happened to you?”

“Heavens no!” Clinton responded with a laugh. “It would get subpoenaed. I can’t write anything down.”

People around her didn’t write anything down, either. “I don’t put anything down in writing,” Clinton loyalist Sidney Blumenthal told the Washington Post during the scandal years. (That policy eventually changed; Blumenthal was one of the first discovered to be sending emails to Secretary of State Clinton’s private address, clintonemail.com.)…

So now, as prosecutor Jackie Bennett suggested, Clinton’s obsession with secrecy as secretary of state, whether it broke any law or not, is entirely consistent with her performance in public office for decades. And that leads to one obvious lesson: If Hillary Clinton is elected president, the patterns of a lifetime won’t change.

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Here’s my theory [about the private e-mail account]: She was preparing for failure.

Mrs. Clinton knows – she must know, at some level – that she has been grossly unprepared for every position she has held in public life other than that of first lady. She was a New York senator who knew the parts of the state more than 40 miles from a park-view room at the Plaza about as well as Robert F. Kennedy Jr. knows Muleshoe, Texas. She was a presidential candidate whose only recommendations were ovaries and a surname beloved – but not quite enough — by Democratic primary voters. And then she became a secretary of state appointed to the position mainly to appease the bruised feelings of Clintonites and to keep her from making mischief in case of a first-term Obama administration meltdown…

Mrs. Clinton’s career in public office has been nothing more than a tribute to her husband, a fact that you would think would rankle the feminists who are so enthused about the former first lady’s presidential ambitions. Maybe it’s time to take off the presidential kneepads and admit what everybody knows: She isn’t very good at this sort of thing, and promoting her to her next level of incompetence is an invitation to disaster. 

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The press is painting all this as a story about how Mrs. Clinton, in her love for secrecy and control, has given ammunition to her enemies. But that’s not the story. The story is that this is what she does, and always has. The rules apply to others, not her. She’s special, entitled, exempt from the rules—the rules under which, as the Federalist reports, the State Department in 2012 forced the resignation of a U.S. ambassador, “in part for setting up an unsanctioned private e-mail system.”

Why doesn’t the legacy press swarm her on this? Because she is political royalty. They are used to seeing her as a regal, queenly figure. They’ve been habituated to understand that Mrs. Clinton is not to be harried, not to be subjected to gotcha questions or impertinent grilling. She is a Democrat, a star, not some grubby Republican governor from nowhere. And they don’t want to be muscled by her spokesmen. The wildly belligerent Philippe Reines sends reporters insulting, demeaning emails if they get out of line. He did it again this week. It is effective in two ways. One is that it diverts attention from his boss, makes Mr. Reines the story, and in the process makes her look comparatively sane. The other is that reporters don’t want a hissing match with someone who implies he will damage them. They can’t afford to be frozen out. She’s probably the next president: Their careers depend on access…

Sixteen years ago, when she was first running for the Senate, I wrote a book called “The Case Against Hillary Clinton.” I waded through it all—cattle futures, Travelgate, the lost Rose law firm records, women slimed as bimbos, foreign campaign cash, the stealth and secrecy that marked the creation of the health-care plan, Monica, the vast right-wing conspiracy. As I researched I remembered why, four years into the Clinton administration, the New York Times columnist William Safire called Hillary “a congenital liar . . . compelled to mislead, and to ensnare her subordinates and friends in a web of deceit.”

Do we have to go through all that again?

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