It’s not the topline result from the latest Washington Post/ABC poll, but it’s an eyepopper anyway. Hillary Clinton still leads the field among Democrats and leaners 42/24 over Bernie Sanders, with Joe Biden getting 21% even without announcing a bid. Without Biden in the race, Hillary picks up most of his support to lead Sanders 56/28. The nearest Democratic option in the latter field is Martin O’Malley at 3%. And yet, a majority believes Hillary broke the law with her secret e-mail server, and a slightly higher majority believes she covered it up:
Here’s another interesting data point in this poll: even with these numbers, a plurality of adults thinks that the e-mail scandal is not a legitimate issue, 44/49 against. That’s rather astounding, and it’s difficult to lay blame for it on the framing of the question, even though the framing is weak. “Use of personal e-mail” makes it sound like she used an official system for unofficial business rather than hiding a private system for more than five years. Still, it’s the same question that got majorities on the other two questions, so the only takeaway from this is that there is a subset of people in this poll that believes a major presidential candidate broke the law while in office, covered it up, and … that’s not a legitimate concern in a run for the presidency.
One might be tempted to call this subset Democrats, but one would be mistaken. It’s independents, or at least a subset of them, that appear to want an end to the e-mail scandal. They believe by a 2:1 margin that Hillary broke the law (54/26), and by almost a 2:1 margin that she covered it up (59/30, almost exactly the flip side of Democrats on that question), and yet, only 48% of independents think it’s a legitimate issue for the election.
The Post’s analysis of the poll shows another big problem for Hillary, though:
In the contest for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Rodham Clinton has lost significant ground over the past two months, as she has struggled to manage the controversy over her use of a private e-mail server while secretary of state. She still leads the field of Democrats, but for the first time her support has dropped below 50 percent in Post-ABC surveys, with the biggest decline coming among white women.
Bear in mind that this was the demographic that was supposed to get excited for Hillary. Team Hillary told these voters that this was going to be yet another opportunity to make history by electing the country’s first woman President; Hillary herself has explicitly stated her gender as a leading quality to consider in the race. So far, that argument looks like a flop, and increasingly, so does Hillary Clinton.
Meanwhile, the Republican race is pretty much what one expects, with Donald Trump (33%) comfortably leading, and Ben Carson (20%) holding strong in second place. Jeb Bush is a distant third at 8%, only edging out Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who get 7% each. Among women, it’s Trump over Carson at 29/24, with Rubio in third place at 9%. And among independents, it shifts dramatically to … er … Trump 31, Carson 22, and Bush 10. The only real surprise among independents? Scott Walker jumps from 2% to 6% for fourth place.
Finally, one last shiver to send down Democratic spines. In a head-to-head matchup, the WaPo poll (with its D+11 sample) shows Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by only 46/43. Trump leads among independents, 44/39. That should have some of her donors thinking hard about a Joe Biden option. I’ll have more on that later.
Update: Paging Rose Mary Woods to the red courtesy phone. Judicial Watch has received documents through their FOIA demands that the e-mails Hillary finally produced for the State Department show significant gaps in time exist in the records:
Judicial Watch today released newly obtained Department of State documents showing a nearly five-month total gap in the emails former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decided to return to the State Department late last year. The documents also show that one key State Department official did not want a written record of issues about the Clinton emails. The documents also raise new questions about the accuracy of representations made to Judicial Watch, the courts, Congress, and the public by the Obama administration and Clinton.
The documents were produced under court order in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit Judicial Watch filed on May 6, 2013 (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:15-cv-00687)). The lawsuit was filed after the Obama State Department violated federal law and failed to respond to two separate FOIA requests, including a request for records about the actual production of the emails records by Clinton to the State Department.
The first batch of documents obtained by Judicial Watch contains a heavily redacted email from State Department official Eric F. Stein to Margaret P. Grafeld, dated April 21, 2015, with the subject “HRC Emails.” Stein is deputy director of global information systems at the State Department and Grafeld is deputy assistant secretary of global information systems. Stein reports to Grafeld that the “gaps” in Clinton’s emails include:
Jan. 21 – March 17, 2009 (Received Messages)
Jan. 21 – April 12, 2009 (Sent Messages)
Dec. 30, 2012 – Feb. 1, 2013 (Sent Messages)
The question would be whether Hillary was using her e-mail system extensively at these points in time, perhaps especially in the first few months of her tenure at State. Regardless of whether Hillary was sending e-mails, though, it would seem odd if her team was not sending her information on e-mail until March 17, 2009. The final gap listed is particularly odd; with the end of her term as Secretary of State approaching, one would expect Hillary to have been tying up loose ends from projects and assisting in the transition to John Kerry.
Interestingly, the State Department’s FOIA compliance officer told her office in October 2014 to stop e-mailing about Hillary’s communications:
Another new State Department email shows that one of the agency’s top officials for the records management and public disclosure did not want to create a written record about issues. State Department FOIA official Peggy Grafeld, in an October 20, 2014, email wrote to her colleagues,“Fyi. I’d prefer to discuss, rather than email. Thx.” The State Department redacted details about what caused Grafeld’s desire for secrecy.
Do FOIA compliance officers in executive agencies routinely instruct their teams to not create paper trails for later accountability?