But seriously, folks … Hillary Clinton tried making light of her e-mail scandal over the past week, but her allies in Congress want her stage manager to bring out the hook. Her comedy routines have prompted fresh worries among Democrats on Capitol Hill as to whether their coronation candidate is really up for the task of campaigning, let alone governing, the Associated Press reports this morning:
Democratic lawmakers said Clinton’s campaign has not adequately explained the complicated nature of the email review and panned some of her attempts to use humor to talk about the probe. Clinton joked at a Democratic dinner in Iowa last week that she liked the social media platform Snapchat because the messages disappear by themselves. And she shrugged off questions about her server being wiped clean, asking facetiously in Nevada, “Like a cloth or something?”
“I don’t think the campaign has handled it very well,” Florida senator Bill Nelson told the Associated Press on Thursday. “I think the advice to her of making a joke out of it – I think that was not good advice.” …
In Republican-leaning Kentucky, Democratic representative John Yarmuth warned in an interview with WHAS-TV in Louisville: “I still think there is a chance that this could upend her campaign.”
“I just never feel like I have a grasp of what the facts are,” Yarmuth said on Wednesday. “Clearly she has handled it poorly from the first day. And there’s the appearance of dishonesty, if it’s not dishonest.”
Obviously, not everyone has a sense of humor about classified material getting out into the open because of the use of a secret e-mail server designed to thwart legitimate and constitutional oversight of the executive branch. Too bad — that’s usually quite a knee-slapper around the Clinton campfire these days.
That’s not to say that everyone’s heckling Hillary these days, but they’re not exactly flocking to the defense, either. Politico’s Bryan Bender spoke with former federal officials about classification and being “passive recipients of unmarked classified material,” the defense du jour from Team Hillary. That just doesn’t cut it — and Hillary knew better, they say:
While emphasizing that Clinton’s defense cannot be judged until the content of the messages are fully analyzed, fellow diplomats and other specialists said on Thursday that if any emails were blatantly of a sensitive nature, she could have been expected to flag it.
“She might have had some responsibility to blow the whistle,” said former Ambassador Thomas Pickering, who served under the former secretary of state and oversaw a department review of the deadly attack in 2012 on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, a subject of some of the most scrutinized of Clinton’s emails. …
He pointed out that all government officials given a security clearance are required to sign a nondisclosure agreement, which states they are responsible if secrets leak – whether the information was “marked or not.”
The agreement also stipulates that if they have doubts about any piece of information being shared outside a secure computer system “they are responsible to go out and seek appropriate guidance.”
Hillary’s defenders raise two more points in attempting to slough off the scandal. One, they complain about overclassification in general, an argument that I addressed in this post. Two, they claim that State had the authority to classify or declassify information that they themselves gathered. That’s true — to a point — but it still doesn’t apply to much of the material that went out unsecured. The referrals from the Inspectors General to the DoJ dealt with material from the intelligence community that was“classified when they were sent and are classified now.”
Even the data that State collected should have been classified and protected, as this example from Reuters demonstrates:
Clinton and her senior staff routinely sent foreign government information among themselves on unsecured networks several times a month, if the State Department’s markings are correct. Within the 30 email threads reviewed by Reuters, Clinton herself sent at least 17 emails that contained this sort of information. In at least one case it was to a friend, Sidney Blumenthal, not in government.
The information appears to include privately shared comments by a prime minister, several foreign ministers and a foreign spy chief, unredacted bits of the emails show. Typically, Clinton and her staff first learned the information in private meetings, telephone calls or, less often, in email exchanges with the foreign officials.
In an email from November 2009, the principal private secretary to David Miliband, then the British foreign secretary, indicates that he is passing on information about Afghanistan from his boss in confidence. He writes to Huma Abedin, Clinton’s most senior aide, that Miliband “very much wants the Secretary (only) to see this note.”
Nearly five pages of entirely redacted information follow. Abedin forwarded it on to Clinton’s private email account.
Our ally in Afghanistan passed along highly sensitive materials about a war zone in which both nations have active military operations, directed it to be handled as Eyes-Only to Clinton, and Abedin sent it out over an unsecured (and hacked at least once) communications system. That appears to meet the criteria for a criminal charge under 18 USC 793 (f)(1), at the very least, which does not require information to be classified, nor for specific malign intent, to prosecute. Note too that Reuters’ review shows that Hillary herself sent 17 e-mails with this kind of data, based on a sample of 30 e-mail threads.
This is no joke. Hillary may want to jolly it off as a partisan lark, but she’s the only one laughing.