Hillary Clinton flack Nick Merrill calls this a clarification; the rest of the political world may find other terms for it. Last week, her team distributed a document of the process they used to delete 30,000 supposedly personal e-mails from Hillary’s four years as Secretary of State, using keyword searches on topics and names to eliminate official business from the stack, and then deleted all the rest. Late last night, they abruptly changed course and said that of course they read all the e-mails before deleting them:
Hillary Clinton’s camp late Sunday issued a significant clarification about the steps they say were taken to review thousands of personal emails before they were deleted, claiming her team individually read “every email” before discarding those deemed private.
Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill made the clarification in a written statement to Fox News. This comes after the former secretary of state’s office revealed last week that while more than 30,000 “work-related” emails were turned over to the State Department, nearly 32,000 were deemed “private” and deleted.
This admission raised questions over how her team decided to get rid of those messages. Merrill on Sunday clarified an earlier fact sheet that described some of those methods but did not say every email was read.
“We simply took for granted that reading every single email came across as the most important, fundamental and exhaustive step that was performed. The fact sheet should have been clearer in stating that every email was read,” Merrill said.
Er … sure they did. If they intended on reading the messages marked for deletion, then why do searches to exclude only a few dozen State Department personnel, for instance? In fact, why do keyword searches at all? Reading every e-mail negates the value of keyword searches, which is to identify subsets of data that are either specifically relevant or specifically irrelevant to the task at hand.
Let’s remind ourselves of the context of these numbers, too. Hillary Clinton served officially as Secretary of State from January 21, 2009 to February 1, 2013, a span of 1,472 days. In order for 32,000 of the 62,000 e-mails on the server to be “private,” Hillary would had to have sent and received twenty-one personal e-mails each and every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. As the gross numbers show, she’d have to get more personal e-mail than work e-mail. Who in the world has that kind of “personal” e-mail flow, especially among high-ranking government officials?
One has to suspect that a great many of the “personal” and “private” e-mails had to do with Clinton Foundation business. With the revelations of connections between Hillary and donors from the corporate and foreign-government communities, the big suspicion would be that the “personal” emails might show some “pay for play” access while Clinton served as Secretary of State, as Ron Fournier has suspected for the last week or so.
The only way to settle the question would be to get the server, but Hillary refuses to part with it. Since the revelation about Hillary Clinton’s e-mail went public two weeks ago as a consequence of the Benghazi select committee’s investigation, people have demanded that committee chair Rep. Trey Gowdy subpoena the server. It’s not that simple, Gowdy told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace yesterday. The scope of their authority does not include the power to subpoena private property — but the House could choose to issue a subpoena for it, and they just might:
WALLACE: Now, you say your committee can’t subpoena personal property. They can documents, papers, but not personal properties like a server. On the other hand, the House of Representatives, the full House, can. Should they?
GOWDY: Well, we shouldn’t have to. I hope it doesn’t get to that point. It’s an open legal question and any time you litigate something you’re talking about years and years. I think an imminently reasonable alternative is for her to turn over that server to an independent, neutral third party.
She says she deleted personal e-mails. Chris, I have zero interest in looking at her personal e-mails. I don’t care about her yoga practice. I don’t care about bridesmaids dresses. I don’t want to see that.
But who gets to decide what’s personal and what’s public? And if it’s a mixed-use e-mail and lots of e-mails we get in life are both personal and some work, I just can’t trust her lawyers to make the determination that the public is getting everything they’re entitled to.
WALLACE: But she said in that news conference, because she was specifically asked about this idea, have an independent person, somebody neutrally agreeable come in and look at the server, and that’s when she said it will remain private.
GOWDY: Well, there are lots of ways to motivate people in life, Chris. One is public pressure. If it becomes an issue for her, if the public believes it is reasonable for her to turn over that server which contains public information to a neutral, detached arbiter, not Congress but a retired judge or an archivist or an inspector general, then she’ll be forced to do so. Otherwise, the House as an institution, may be forced to go to court to try to get access to that.
But again, the house has no business looking at purely personal e- mails, but by the same token, she doesn’t get to decide what is purely personal and what is public.
Gowdy would prefer to see Hillary shamed into surrendering the server, but the truth is that Hillary’s pretty shameless. Her press conference last week reminded everyone of that long-enduring truth. If we are to get to the bottom of the deleted e-mails, then Gowdy needs to start pressing John Boehner into taking action.
Update: Fox’s Martha McCallum says “Hillary [hit] the backspace button” on her explanation:
Ed Henry tells McCallum that “it’s curious that the story is changing.” No kidding.