Congress’ latest Benghazi committee asked former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to make available emails from her official State Department account. There was just one problem: Clinton never used email through her official State Department account.
Likely presidential candidate Hillary Clinton may have run afoul of federal record keeping regulations by using only a personal email account during her entire tenure as secretary of state, according to a new report from The New York Times. […]Clinton did not have an official government account while at State, using a personal email account to conduct all her business, the Times reported Monday evening.
A spokesperson for Clinton told the New York Times her use of the personal account is consistent with the “letter and spirit of the rules,” though it’s not yet clear how.
There’s no shortage of problematic angles to this. Obviously, there’s the question of transparency and compliance with the Federal Records Act. Clinton wasn’t the first Secretary of State to make use of a personal email account – Colin Powell did the same thing during his tenure in the Bush/Cheney administration – but preservation rules have changed and Clinton apparently faced more stringent requirements.
There’s also the matter of security: as Secretary of State, Clinton sent and received highly sensitive information on a daily basis, including classified materials, from officials around the world. By relying on private email, instead of an encrypted State Department account, Clinton may have created a security risk.
Politically, though, Republicans find themselves in an awkward position. The RNC issued a statement asking, “[I]t all begs the question: what was Hillary Clinton trying to hide?”
Putting aside the misuse of “begs the question,” the Republican track record makes this a difficult question to ask.
Eight years ago, for example, the Bush/Cheney White House ran into trouble when its officials were found to have routinely ignored the Federal Records Act. Among others, Karl Rove, who was accused of widespread abuses, used private email accounts instead of official accounts to conduct administrative business. At the time, Republicans en masse said the controversy wasn’t important.
Three years ago we learned that Mitt Romney oversaw the purchase of 17 state-issued hard drives, and wiped clean computers and servers that contained electronic copies of emails from his gubernatorial office. Romney later admitted the move was intended to hide official correspondence from the public and keep potentially-embarrassing information under wraps in advance of his presidential campaign. During the 2012 race, Republicans said this didn’t matter, either.
This certainly isn’t a defense of Hillary Clinton’s apparent misjudgment, which deserves scrutiny and warrants further explanation from the likely candidate. But Republicans will have to somehow come up with an explanation for why Clinton’s misstep is scandalous, while GOP officials and candidates who did the exact same thing are beyond reproach.