… from Today, actually, although the event did not take place on the NBC morning show. Excerpts from Hillary Clinton’s What Happened reported by the Daily Mail and National Enquirer have the erstwhile presidential candidate pointing a finger at Matt Lauer for his “pointless ambush” during a forum last September. And what, pray tell, was the subject of this “ambush”? What shocking and completely unforeseen subject did Lauer throw at Hillary? Er …
Clinton also goes after NBC’s ‘Today Show’ host Matt Lauer for his handling of a presidential forum, conducted on the U.S.S. Intrepid in New York last September.
She writes that she was ‘ticked off’ and ‘almost physically sick’ by Lauer’s persistent focus on her email scandal.
‘Lauer had turned what should have been a serious discussion into a pointless ambush,’ she vented.
That’s an ambush? Bear in mind that this was one of the first general-election forums/debates last year, one that specifically focused on leadership. NBC billed it, as you’ll see below, as “The Commander-in-Chief Forum,” with a heavy tilt toward national security issues. By that time, the probe had shown that Hillary’s unauthorized system had transmitted classified information hundreds of times, including a few dozen chains that contained Top Secret and compartmented national-security data. How could Hillary not expect to answer for that in a forum dedicated to fitness for command?
Here’s the four-minute exchange. The full transcript can be found at Time Magazine, but I’ll just include the question that came from the audience. Was that an ambush too?
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, thank you very much for coming tonight. As a naval flight officer, I held a top secret sensitive compartmentalized information clearance. And that provided me access to materials and information highly sensitive to our warfighting capabilities. Had I communicated this information not following prescribed protocols, I would have been prosecuted and imprisoned.
Secretary Clinton, how can you expect those such as myself who were and are entrusted with America’s most sensitive information to have any confidence in your leadership as president when you clearly corrupted our national security?
CLINTON: Well, I appreciate your concern and also your experience. But let me try to make the distinctions that I think are important for me to answer your question.
First, as I said to Matt, you know and I know classified material is designated. It is marked. There is a header so that there is no dispute at all that what is being communicated to or from someone who has that access is marked classified. And what we have here is the use of an unclassified system by hundreds of people in our government to send information that was not marked, there were no headers, there was no statement, top secret, secret, or confidential.
I communicated about classified material on a wholly separate system. I took it very seriously.
When I traveled, I went into one of those little tents that I’m sure you’ve seen around the world because we didn’t want there to be any potential for someone to have embedded a camera to try to see whatever it is that I was seeing that was designated, marked, and headed as classified.
Not for nothing, but the transcript shows that Hillary invited this line of questioning in her previous response, too. She told Lauer that judgment and “absolute rock-steadiness” were the most important characteristics for a commander-in-chief. Her handling of official State Department communications — and especially the decision to bypass official State systems and hide those communications from Congress and the courts — go directly to judgment.
Furthermore, Hillary demonstrates her lack of same with her answer. Contra her repeated assertions, markings don’t drive classifications — the nature of the information does. Nothing in 18 USC 793 or any other governing statute provides a defense for violations on the basis of a lack of markings, nor does it require that the information divulged or exposed come from documents in the first place, marked or otherwise. Note the “or information” in paragraph (f), which is the most applicable to Hillary’s situation, emphases mine:
(f) Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
This was no ambush. It was a legitimate line of questioning, and remains so to this day for a former Cabinet official who exposed a wide range of classified information while violating the Federal Records Act and undermining legitimate constitutional oversight of her office. Calling this an “ambush” is nothing more than whining over rational scrutiny of a candidate running to be Commander in Chief — and an apt demonstration of her unfitness for that job.
Addendum: I wonder how many journalists will object to this characterization of Lauer’s question publicly, and how many of Hillary’s interviewers will challenge her on it. Over to you, Jane Pauley …