WaPo fact check: Two Pinocchios for Hillary's classified-material defense

Just two? At least Glenn Kessler has scrutinized Hillary Clinton’s claims of innocence — or more accurately, the morphing of her initial claim of innocence into a legal defense resting on unprovable guilt. In his fact check today, Kessler slams the parsing and the “legalistic phrasing” to get to the heart of the matter — Hillary lied in March, and she’s still not telling the truth now:

Clinton’s very careful and legalistic phrasing raises suspicions. She refers to “classified material,” which could be code for documents, leaving open the possibility of “classified information” having been received. She also says she “did not receive any material that was marked or designated classified,” which of course leaves open the possibility of receiving classified information that was not correctly marked.

The Miliband e-mail is now labeled by the State Department to contain classified information, unfit for public disclosure. That holds true for other information that Clinton and her aides routinely exchanged over an unsecure network. The question thus turns on whether Clinton should have at the time recognized that this information could be deemed as classified and should have taken better steps to protect it.

At The Fact Checker, we judge statements through the perspective of an ordinary citizen. The classification rules are complex but, legal technicalities aside, the question is whether classified information was exchanged over her private e-mail system. Never mind the IG’s concerns. According to the State Department redactions of the released e-mails, the answer is yes. Clinton earns Two Pinocchios for excessively technical wordsmithing.

Glenn usually stays very disciplined in scope, and this is no different. However, in this case the “excessively technical wordsmithing” deployed now services the flat-out lie that Hillary Clinton used in March to fend off scrutiny of her secret e-mail server. The reason for its use is Hillary’s attempt to bridge the original denial over many pieces of evidence that this system violated the laws covering the protection of classified material and a presidential executive order (mentioned by Kessler) whose origins go back at least to Bill Clinton’s presidency. She used the secret server to pervert the legitimate and constitutional oversight of her actions as Secretary of State by Congress and the courts.

In my opinion, one cannot disconnect the dishonesty of her spin now from the flat-out lie of March, and from the fundamental dishonesty and corruption of the secret server. That seems like a four-Pinocchio situation. Still, kudos to Kessler for even addressing the issue at all.

In fact, not too many media outlets focus on the big picture here. As I write in my column at The Fiscal Times today, the coverage of the Saga of the Secret Server has almost entirely been a campaign-style story, where attention only focuses on the most recent revelation rather than on the pattern of arrogance, corruption, and abuse of power. This coverage misses the dark and ugly forest for the trees:

The commentary and coverage of the Hillary Clinton e-mail scandal mainly glosses over these concerns in favor of the daily up and down of campaign coverage. It puts the US media environment in the curious position of suggesting that there is less accountability for violators the higher rank they have. We now have a presidential candidate whose legal liabilities and moral responsibility for subverting oversight and risking our national security secrets go largely unmentioned, even while she argues for being given the highest level of trust and authority in American public service.

That is not just bizarre; it’s antithetical to the American identity. The distinctive concept of American exceptionalism is loyalty to the rule of law over pure nationalistic or ethnic identity. Officeholders pledge to support and defend the Constitution that guarantees the rule of law, rather than a parcel of land or tribal identity. That law binds all equally, from the humble American worker to the President of the United States, or so we expect. Even when applied imperfectly, we expect our institutions to try to make it a reality.

Hillary Clinton’s arrogance and its treatment by the media challenge that national identity to its core. Pundits have called Clinton’s second presidential run another attempted “coronation.” Perhaps that is more accurate than anyone cares to admit.

Perhaps Kessler’s accurate in assigning only two Pinocchios for Hillary’s statement and focusing his scope on just that point today. This is a fact check, not a broad analysis, and Kessler is better than most in keeping his efforts to the former rather than the latter. The rest of the media doesn’t have that excuse.

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