Did the State Department engage in willful denial about Hillary Clinton’s secret e-mail server? A new report from State’s Inspector General scolds the department for giving an “inaccurate and incomplete” response to FOIA requests, report Carol Leonnig and Rosalind Helderman for the Washington Post, while noting that senior executives knew about Hillary’s secret system but failed to acknowledge it. In fact, the IG accuses the State Department of lying about whether they bothered to look at all for the records being sought:
Two years before the public learned of Hillary Clinton’s private server, the State Department gave an “inaccurate and incomplete” response about her email use when it told an outside group that it had no documents about Clinton’s email accounts beyond her government address, according to a report from the State Department’s inspector general to be released Thursday.
The State Department made its statement in response to a 2012 records request from the independent watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). The response came even though Clinton’s chief of staff, who knew about the secretary’s private account, was aware of the inquiry, the report says. In addition, the IG review found that agency staffers had not searched Clinton’s office for emails.
The incident was one of four cases that the report highlights as examples of flawed responses to public-records requests made while Clinton was in office. The report found it was part of a long-standing problem stretching back through previous administrations.
“Flawed” is certainly one word for it. Fraud might be a better term, or at least obstruction of justice when it comes to representations made by the State Department about Hillary’s e-mail during FOIA lawsuits. One has to wonder whether courts involved in those cases might sanction State over serial misrepresentations — or Hillary Clinton herself, for that matter.
As internal reviews go, this one seems a day late and a dollar short … or to use the IG’s own term, incomplete. The FBI has a probe under way to look into the thousand-plus transmissions and retentions of classified information over the unauthorized and unsecured system. The State Department IG may be trying to catch up, though:
But the new report demonstrates the potential peril Clinton still faces over the issue. In addition to the FBI probe, the State Department inspector general, Steve Linick, indicated that his work is not done.
His office is preparing an additional report that could touch even more directly on Clinton’s conduct — examining the use of personal email and its effect on the department’s compliance with its duty to preserve records.
Peril may be too strong a word, relatively speaking. Hillary’s true peril will be from the potential prosecution she faces over serial violations of 18 USC 793 and 18 USC 1924, and that only exists to the extent that the Department of Justice will be willing to charge her at all. The risk that the State Department IG poses is entirely political. And let’s face it — if Hillary doesn’t get charged with criminal conduct, a finger-wagging, wrist-slapping report from the IG isn’t going to stick. If she does get charged with a crime, no one will remember a ridiculously belated shaming from an IG’s office that was strangely absent during Hillary’s tenure.