Last night, the New York Times ran an exclusive report that seemed quite important, especially as it relates to the leading Democratic presidential candidate.
Two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether Hillary Rodham Clinton mishandled sensitive government information on a private email account she used as secretary of state, senior government officials said Thursday.
Soon after, however, the story, the headline, and even the url changed without explanation. Now, the article begins this way:
Two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in connection with the personal email account Hillary Rodham Clinton used as secretary of state, senior government officials said Thursday.
Politico noticed the “significant changes” to the Times’ original reporting – the first report suggested Clinton could be the target of the potential criminal probe, while the second, revised report did not.
A U.S. official, meanwhile, told the Associated Press that the referral from the inspectors general “doesn’t necessarily suggest wrongdoing by Clinton herself.”
Oh. Well, that’s pretty far afield from what the Times first reported last night. In fact, what we appear to have are questions about whether the State Department mis-classified some sensitive materials. That may be fascinating to observers who study the executive bureaucracy at a granular level, but for everyone else, there doesn’t appear to be much here. Indeed, the original effort to suggest Clinton was personally facing a possible criminal probe, at least given what we now know, seems quite irresponsible.
Nick Merrill, a Clinton spokesperson, added in an official statement, “Contrary to the initial story, which has already been significantly revised, she followed appropriate practices in dealing with classified materials. As has been reported on multiple occasions, any released emails deemed classified by the administration have been done so after the fact, and not at the time they were transmitted.”
As for who fed the New York Times this story in the first place, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the Benghazi Select Committee, issued a statement this morning that not only further disputes the original allegations, but seems to point the finger in a specific direction:
“I spoke personally to the State Department Inspector General on Thursday, and he said he never asked the Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation of Secretary Clinton’s email usage. Instead, he told me the Intelligence Community IG notified the Justice Department and Congress that they identified classified information in a few emails that were part of the FOIA review, and that none of those emails had been previously marked as classified.“The Benghazi Select Committee has obtained zero evidence that any emails to or from Secretary Clinton were marked as classified at the time they were transmitted, although some have been retroactively classified since then. This is the latest example in a series of inaccurate leaks to generate false front-page headlines – only to be corrected later – and they have absolutely nothing to do with the attacks in Benghazi or protecting our diplomatic corps overseas.”
Update: The Justice Department confirmed this morning that the referral in this matter is unrelated to alleged criminal activity. The Times’ reference to “criminal investigation” was incorrect.