I realize that in the past we’ve had more than a little fun with the Washington Post fact checkers and the frequently odd results they produce. (The most recent and classic was their Four Pinocchio rating of Mike Huckabee for a series of things he never said.) But if there are any trends to be observed in the series, at least they’ve been consistent in rating Republicans far more harshly than they ever do Democrats. With that scale in mind, it’s possibly still worth noting that they took a swing at CNN’s hard hitting interview of Hillary Clinton this week and her claim that the email server scandal was just nothing to see here.
First, for those who missed it, the answer she gave when the CNN reporter tentatively dared to broach the subject.
Everything I did was permitted. There was no law. There was no regulation. There was nothing that did not give me the full authority to decide how I was going to communicate. Previous secretaries of state have said they did the same thing. …. Everything I did was permitted by law and regulation. I had one device. When I mailed anybody in the government, it would go into the government system.
The reporter just allowed her to lay that one out there and did little or nothing to challenge the answer. (Perhaps not shocking, since the journalist in question went into the interview fresh off attending the wedding of one of Clinton’s aides. ) But the WaPo grabbed hold of the answer and found it, er… lacking.
But that does not mean that, when Clinton was secretary of state, there were not already in place State Department rules on how to handle e-mails and whether to use a personal e-mail account. While Clinton says that other secretaries “did the same thing,” none had set up an exclusive and private e-mail server for all of their departmental communications. (In fact, only Colin L. Powell has ever said he sent e-mails from a personal account, so Clinton’s use of plural is misleading.)
The rules also quickly became clearer. In 2009, just eight months after Clinton became secretary of state, the U.S. Code of federal regulations on handling electronic records was updated: “Agencies that allow employees to send and receive official electronic mail messages using a system not operated by the agency must ensure that Federal records sent or received on such systems are preserved in the appropriate agency record-keeping system.” The responsibility for making and preserving the records is assigned to “the head of each federal agency.”
After dancing around a few of the dates when various rules were put into place and how they were interpreted by other high level government representatives, the WaPo concludes that this is all a bit much even for them to swallow.
In reality, Clinton’s decision to use a private e-mail system for official business was highly unusual and flouted State Department procedures, even if not expressly prohibited by law at the time. Moreover, while she claims “everything I did was permitted,” she appears to have not complied with the requirement to turn over her business-related e-mails before she left government service. That’s a major misstep that she has not acknowledged.
We wavered between Two and Three Pinocchios, but Clinton’s excessive spin finally tipped us toward Three. She’s goes too far in suggesting her actions were ordinary–and did not stretch the limits of existing laws and regulations.
If that’s how far the Washington Post is willing to go, Hillary’s claims go well beyond the range of just being a whopper. It’s unlikely that she’ll ever be called onto the carpet and prosecuted for her actions regarding the email server, but at least the question has made it into the public record. But will it matter? It’s been said that Hillary also lied about whether or not she received a subpoena over Benghazi. She said she didn’t receive it, so who are we to question that? Sure, a member of Congress showed up and actually had the aforementioned subpoena in hand, but does that make what she said a lie? Perhaps someone else received it and signed her name? (It could have been that lady from Saturday Night Live…. they may as well be twins.) Or perhaps she did receive it, but just forgot about it. She had a fairly severe blow to the head not that long ago, and it’s not really “a lie” if she’s just wrong through an honest failure of memory, right?
It’s like the 90s all over again, folks. Except we don’t even get Oasis releasing Wonderwall out of the deal. Speaking of which, let’s just watch the music video. It’s got to be better than listening to Hillary Clinton any further.