This is actually one of the least substantive points made by defenders of Hillary Clinton in the e-mail scandal, but Glenn Kessler’s fact check makes a couple of important points. The media has often repeated the claim by Hillary and her team that the State Department has estimated that it could have found 90-95% of her e-mails by checking the server for those cc’d on the messages. Not only is that Hillary’s estimation and not State’s, it’s demonstrably false in any case:
First of all, the State Department is correct. The “90 to 95 percent” figure comes from the Clinton campaign. There has never been a calculation made by the State Department of the 55,000 pages of the e-mails provided by Clinton from her private e-mail account. So Clinton got that wrong.
“Of the more than 30,000 e-mails that Secretary Clinton provided to the State Department last year, more than 90 percent were sent to or from a state.gov e-mail address,” a Clinton campaign spokesman said. “That is observable by looking at the e-mails that were provided for release by the department. These messages would have been captured in the State Department’s record system. It has since been learned that the State Department’s archiving system did not maintain every e-mail, but that does not change that these messages were captured by State’s system and thus should have been available.”
Let’s unpack that statement. Essentially, Clinton’s lawyers looked through the e-mails and found that at least one person in the e-mail chain — either sending an e-mail to Clinton or receiving it — had a state.gov e-mail address. So in theory, if a search was requested of the e-mails of person who corresponded with Clinton, Clinton’s e-mails would have shown up.
The problem is, of course, that a requested search of Clinton’s e-mails would have turned up nothing, because she did not maintain a state.gov account. That’s why the State Department had trouble finding her e-mails in response to congressional and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in the first place.
Exactly. Searches for e-mails in response to legal inquiries would necessarily focus on the sender’s account, or that of a direct recipient. The decision not to use an official State Department e-mail account meant that Hillary’s e-mails would not be found in FOIA or Congressional demands — and that was the entire point of using a private server. Media outlets and activists filed numerous FOIA requests for those e-mails while Hillary was Secretary of State, and she allowed State to falsely represent to several federal courts that there were no records responsive to those requests.
That includes the Congressional inquiries as well. Congress held several hearings on multiple investigations of the sacking of the Benghazi consulate, and the State Department launched its Accountability Review Board probe. Hillary and her team said nothing about the private e-mail server, and only admitted to it when the current Select Committee on Benghazi discovered it in August 2014. It was only then that the State Department belatedly demanded the contents of Hillary’s server, and only then that Hillary provided the e-mails that she decided they could have.
This claim has been used by Hillary and her defenders as a smoke screen, a way to claim transparency where none existed before the select committee forced it on Hillary. For years, she misled Congress and federal courts to hide her communications even though both have legitimate oversight over the executive branch. Kessler’s fact check on this silly claim provides another reason to remind everyone of this base deception.