WaPo fact check: Three Pinocchios for Bill Clinton's "pathetic and misleading" lies on Hillary e-mails

Remember the “load of bull” speech last week that Bill Clinton delivered on behalf of his wife? He called the allegations in James Comey’s original statement “the biggest load of bull I ever heard.” The former president then claimed that Comey walked back the statement in a Congressional hearing, that Hillary never transmitted classified information, and that her predecessors and her successor all did exactly the same thing she did. Bill then complained that Hillary gets held to a double standard. It’s quite the performance, and comes complete with his trademark finger wag:


Oops, sorry, wrong finger wag:

Washington Post fact-checker Michelle Ye Hee Lee calls this a load, too, although not the biggest she’s heard. She gives it three Pinocchios and characterizes it as “pathetic and misleading”:

Bill Clinton is correct that Comey “amended” his statement in the hearing, to provide more details about what the FBI had found. But Comey did not say Hillary Clinton “had never received any emails marked classified.” Two of three emails that had portion markings were call sheets that were improperly marked, and State Department considers the markings no longer necessary or appropriate at the time they were sent. Comey acknowledged that Clinton may not have been sophisticated enough to know what the little-C marking meant.

The whole dispute over the little “c” versus big “C,” portion markings versus header, and so on, is the political equivalent of three-card monte. Democrats, like Bill Clinton, have cherry-picked Comey’s comments from the five-hour hearing to declare Hillary Clinton vindicated. But what they conveniently sweep under the rug are the 110 emails — which were not a part of the 2,000 that were retroactively classified — that were found to “contain classified information at the time they were sent or received.”

Moreover, the diversion to “little-C” markings is an effort to distract the public from the disturbing finding by the FBI that Clinton was “extremely careless” in handling her emails, and should have protected the information whether or not it had a classification marking. And it distracts voters from the fact that for more than a year, Clinton modified her excuse over and over to position herself in a way she can declare she was technically right in some form or another.

Bill Clinton also repeated the Democratic excuse that she used a personal email just like her predecessor, and that she turned over more email records than her predecessors did. This comparison is a pathetic and misleading attempt to normalize Hillary Clinton’s use of her personal email account, and take away from the fact that she was the only secretary of state to use a private server. The decision to use a private server is the root of all of the political difficulties concerning her email practices.


We’ve covered the e-mail scandal well enough that most readers can recognize who’s carrying the load of bull in this transaction. Lee’s correct that the use of a private e-mail system — actually more than one server — for the nation’s top diplomat is the root of all the issues in this scandal. Even that is only part of the story, though. Comey made it clear that Hillary’s proffered excuses about “convenience” was utter hogwash. Why did she insist on exclusively using just the unsecured and unauthorized e-mail system for official business? It allowed her to hide her communications from Congress and the courts, that’s why — it was a corruption of legitimate oversight over an executive-branch department.

Lee’s role is in fact-checking, though. It was the FBI’s role to connect those dots. Right now, they’re on the defensive about Comey’s decision to drop the matter without going to a grand jury, and they’re telling Congress it was a no-brainer:

“As the Director stated, the FBI did find evidence that Secretary Clinton and her colleagues were extremely careless in their handling of certain, very sensitive, highly classified information,” FBI Acting Assistant Director Jason V. Herring wrote. “The Director did not equate ‘extreme carelessness’ with the legal standard of ‘gross negligence’ that is required by the statute. In this case, the FBI assessed that the facts did not support a recommendation to prosecute her or others within the scope of the investigation for gross negligence.” …

Herring, who directs the FBI’s Office of Congressional Affairs, wrote that someone else who engaged in the type of conduct of which Clinton was accused might face “severe administrative consequences,” and the FBI was in the process of providing relevant information to other government agencies. The State Department, for instance, is conducting its own internal review of whether classified information was mishandled.

Their conclusions could affect future security clearances for possible members of a new Clinton administration who may have violated rules when they previously worked at Clinton’s State Department.

But Herring also asserted that investigators found no evidence Clinton intended to mishandle classified information, noting that even three emails marked as classified did not originate with her and that State had determined two of them did not contain classified information.


Bear in mind that Hillary’s job explicitly includes protecting classified information, and that the State Department provides communications infrastructure to do just that. The prevailing statute (18 USC 793 (f)) makes clear that intent is not necessary for prosecution. Her deliberate choice to use an unauthorized and unsecured system, rather than State’s official and authorized system, for communications that would necessarily include sensitive information and topics despite explicit warnings about the potential consequences isn’t carelessness in regard to her duty to protect such data, not even to an extreme degree. That is gross negligence to her duty to protect that information at the least, and almost certainly malicious in its purpose of evading the Federal Records Act. A grand jury should have been convened to consider whether that was “extremely careless” or “grossly negligent.”

Bill Clinton isn’t the only one carrying around loads of bull these days.

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