When reporters asked Barack Obama about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server for official business, he immediately declared that he knew nothing of it:
I have some questions here pic.twitter.com/ufkeoZCx2m
— Katherine Miller (@katherinemiller) March 7, 2015
That clip came from an interview Obama did with CBS News reporter Steve Plante in the immediate aftermath of the exposure of Hillary’s private e-mail server. Clearly he wanted to maintain his distance from the scandal, but his unequivocal statement sent Hillary’s team into a panic. In a new release by Wikileaks of e-mails stolen from John Podesta’s files, it prompted a late-night exchange between Jennifer Palmieri, Nick Merrill, both of whom work on Hillary’s presidential campaign, and Cheryl Mills. Mills replied directly to Podesta, “we need to clean this up”:
At the time, Podesta had left his position as Obama’s chief of staff three weeks earlier. Presumably, he still had the ability to advise Obama informally. Whether he did or not, Obama didn’t clean up his story for months — if at all. In October 2015 — seven months after Mills sent up the clean-up on Aisle 1600 flare — Obama categorically denied any knowledge of Hillary’s private server in an interview with CBS’ Steve Kroft:
Later, the story would “evolve” into Obama having some awareness of Hillary’s use of private e-mail, but that he didn’t know she used her clintonemail.com address exclusively. Rather than just say that much, Obama lied repeatedly about his own knowledge of the e-mail server scandal.
Unfortunately, we may have to quote Hillary herself on this issue: What difference at this point does it make? We know that the White House has been dishonest on the e-mail issue, but this White House hasn’t exactly built a reputation for honesty before now, anyway. Obama will retire in three months regardless, and his role in Hillary’s communications will likely get buried in executive privilege (and legitimately so, at least to some extent). The only real risk involved is if this e-mail contradicts statements from some of these figures to investigators, which would carry a potential five-year term for obstruction of justice. But given FBI Director James Comey’s obvious desire to quash any potential prosecution, I doubt that any such contradictions will emerge from the 302s.
The real value in this story is seeing exactly how dangerous Team Hillary thought this story might be, and their panic at having Obama publicly contradicted by the evidence they knew would eventually emerge from the investigation. But even that just offers some minor vindication of a point assumed by Hillary’s critics all along.