In his latest piece, National Review’s Charles Cooke related a choice exchange he had with a former Clinton White House staffer who attempted to defend Hillary Clinton’s role in this latest scandal involving her determination to avoid using an official and secure email address, as is mandated by law.
“It’s ‘worth remembering,’ a former Clinton administration staffer assured me quickly on Twitter, ‘that Hillary didn’t have email until she was in her forties. She was clueless.’” Cooke wrote. “‘I just mean,’ he added, desperately, that “she’s no dummy — except possibly with computers — where she kinda is.’”
So the Democratic Party’s anointed 2016 nominee who, we are assured, possesses the intellect and the acumen of a transformative political figure born to shatter glass ceilings devolves into a timid and irrational Neanderthal when confronted by technological marvels like electronic mail? It’s not especially convincing, but at least it is a defense.
As reporters go digging into this most recent Clinton controversy, however, it turns out that that the former secretary of state may have possessed a touch more technological prowess than her supporters initially led the public to believe. At least, those around her were savvy in their pursuit of a parallel email system that was apparently designed to evade federal oversight.
“Hillary Clinton created her own private email system that she exclusively used as secretary of state, ignoring ‘very specific guidance’ from the White House by not even creating, let alone using, a government email account,” The Daily Beast revealed on Wednesday citing a bombshell Associated Press investigation.
America’s gentle but technologically enfeebled grandmother-in-chief was, in fact, operating email servers and an internet domain that were run out of her family home in Chappaqua, New York. “The highly unusual practice of a Cabinet-level official physically running her own email would have given Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, impressive control over limiting access to her message archives,” The AP reported. “It also would distinguish Clinton’s secretive email practices as far more sophisticated than some politicians, including Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin, who were caught conducting official business using free email services operated by Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc.”
This little trick was not only evasive and quite probably illegal, but also unique to Clinton. It is going to prove increasingly difficult for the former secretary’s defenders to back her behavior while preserving their own integrity. When figures like Karl Rove and Sarah Palin ran afoul of the press as a result of lost emails or the use of private accounts to conduct official business, the reaction from the political class was anything but muted.
Operating her own server would have afforded Clinton additional legal opportunities to block government or private subpoenas in criminal, administrative or civil cases because her lawyers could object in court before being forced to turn over any emails. And since the Secret Service was guarding Clinton’s home, an email server there would have been well protected from theft or a physical hacking.
But homemade email servers are generally not as reliable, secure from hackers or protected from fires or floods as those in commercial data centers. Those professional facilities provide monitoring for viruses or hacking attempts, regulated temperatures, off-site backups, generators in case of power outages, fire-suppression systems and redundant communications lines.
It was unclear whom Clinton hired to set up or maintain her private email server, which the AP traced to a mysterious identity, Eric Hoteham. That name does not appear in public records databases, campaign contribution records or Internet background searches. Hoteham was listed as the customer at Clinton’s $1.7 million home on Old House Lane in Chappaqua in records registering the Internet address for her email server since August 2010.
Hillary Clinton had to know that this would someday come to light. She must have been aware that her scandalous behavior would one day jeopardize her political future and, as a result, her political party’s viability. Moreover, as the AP reported, her use of unsecure email servers might have endangered American diplomatic security had she ever communicated anything of a sensitive nature via email, though we may never know if she did for sure. And the most charitable claim one could make in Clinton’s defense is that all of this was done merely to preserve Clinton’s sense of privilege and self-entitlement.
Relax, the Clinton camp assures the public. We have all of the former secretary’s emails on file, and they can be provided at your request. According to The New York Times, that’s simply not true.
In 2012, congressional investigators asked the State Department for a wide range of documents related to the attack on the United States diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. The department eventually responded, furnishing House committees with thousands of documents.
But it turns out that that was not everything.
The State Department had not searched the email account of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton because she had maintained a private account, which shielded it from such searches, department officials acknowledged on Tuesday.
With the news growing rapidly worse for Team Clinton, Media Matters for America founder and former pro-Hillary Super PAC board member David Brock appeared on MSNBC to douse the flames of controversy lapping at Clinton’s heels. In that effort, Brock spent most of his time attacking the “sloppy” reporting at The New York Times, the credulity of Times’ reporters, and even the hosts of the program of which he was a guest.
This is a scandal, and the Clinton camp’s determination to dig in and avoid contrition at all costs is only making it worse. What makes this truly damaging for Clinton is that the media does not have to translate this controversy to the public. Every American understands plainly what conditions might lead someone to conduct official business on a private email account that is free from oversight, and none of them are virtuous. The public understands intuitively the ramifications of this disreputable behavior, and Clinton’s defenders are only throwing gasoline on the fire by attacking the integrity of those responsible for investigating this episode.