“I was there. I was a senior advisor. I didn’t know that,” former White House political advisor David Axelrod said of Hillary Clinton’s shadowy private email practices. He offered that self-defense on June 17 in an unsolicited effort to defend former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, who claimed that he was similarly unaware of Clinton’s email methods. “The question is, what are people focused on? What do they care about?” Axelrod continued. His implication was that no one will or even should care about Clinton’s decision to jeopardize national security in service to her own cherished “convenience” and then lie repeatedly about the affair in a press conference. Axelrod was no doubt speaking for much of official Washington when he tried to wish Clinton’s email scandal away. Not only is he now implicated in it, it seems as though much of the American political class was well aware of Hillary Clinton’s careless and privileged communications practices.
Axelrod, it turns out, was one of the many members of Washington’s political elite that emailed Clinton directly on one of her private email accounts (yes, there are at least three and possibly more). “I have hesitated to email because I’m sure you are being inundated with good wishes,” Axelrod wrote to [email protected] in one of the approximately 3,000 emails released by the State Department on Tuesday night following a court order. Axelrod’s polite note puts the lie to the notion that, as he told MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, he “might have a few questions about” Clinton’s email practices had he known their extent.
“As I have said before, I knew HRC had private email,” Axelrod later tweeted in his defense. “I didn’t know she used it exclusively or had her own server.” That is a lawyerly evasion and an immaterial one. Even if this is true (a big “if”), it is irrelevant; if Clinton conducted State business via a private account, she was evading federal information preservation legal requirements. In the email exchange, the secretary of state proposes a meeting between herself and Axelrod, a senior White House advisor. Whether or not that constitutes official business is debatable, but it cannot be dismissed off hand as entirely personal in nature.
Axelrod isn’t the only household name caught up in Clinton’s pathological and compulsive pattern of deceit. Former White House Chief of Staff and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was granted access to Clinton’s private email address. Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden and the organization’s founder, John Podesta, also had access to Clinton’s private account. Former special counsel to Bill Clinton, Lanny Davis, emailed the former Secretary of State in regards to a Washington Times reporter being held captive in Iran. “He [the Washington Times executive editor] believes you are meeting with the Greek Foreign Minister tomorrow and hopes you can raise the issue with him,” Davis wrote in a message to [email protected] Even Democratic Senator Barbra Mikulski sent the former secretary well wishes on her private account.
There seems to have been a substantial amount of official American diplomatic business being conducted over Clinton’s private and poorly secured email server. In an email subject lined “confidential,” the wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Cherie Blair, was apparently engaged in an effort to set up a bilateral meeting between Clinton and the leader of Qatar. At one point, Clinton asked an aide to load her personal mobile device with the contacts for an unspecified number of State Department personnel. That device was understood to be “much less secure than the State Department-issued devices used by her staff,” Politico reported on March. “And the security risks were magnified because Clinton used her personal BlackBerry on travel in foreign countries where State Department employees are routinely cautioned about the use of mobile devices.” And all of this was in deference to Madame Secretary’s privileged desire to preserve the “convenience” to which she had become accustomed.
To the extent that the press will report on this, the focus will apparently be on the more trivial and humanizing aspects of the information released in this latest tranche of Clinton emails. They will dwell on the silliness of one email chain that indicated Clinton could not understand how to use a fax machine, or another in which she demanded that her staff provide her with a glass of ice tea. Still more dispatches will be written about Clinton’s apparent isolation from the Obama White House. At one point, she confessed that she had heard on the radio the president was convening a Cabinet meeting and asked her aides if she was invited. At another, Clinton arrived at the White House only to learn that the meeting she was scheduled to attend had been canceled. “This is the second time this has happened,” the secretary griped. “What’s up??”
This focus serves the interests of the members of the reporting class who were swept up in this latest release, too. But to focus on the human interest elements of Clinton’s email release does the public a disservice.
Only a small fraction of Clinton’s emails have been released. The public will likely never see the majority of them because, according to Clinton, they were personal in nature and summarily destroyed despite the fact that those emails were under subpoena. This week, it became clear that Clinton did not hand over to the State Department all the emails that were work related, but that some of those emails she did surrender had been altered. “Hillary Clinton withheld Benghazi-related emails from the State Department that detailed her knowledge of the scramble for oil contracts in Libya and the shortcomings of the NATO-led military intervention for which she advocated,” the Washington Examiner’s Sarah Westwood reported. “Clinton removed specific portions of other emails she sent to State, suggesting the messages were screened closely enough to determine which paragraphs were unfit to be seen by the public.”
To claim, as Axelrod did, that the public generally doesn’t care about this slow-motion scandal inaugurated by Clinton’s monumental disregard for the public good is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and one which serves the interests of those, like Axelrod, who are now implicated in it. Breaches of trust this glaring must be elevated to front page, above the fold, and should occupy a prominent position on every evening newscast. The public must be made to care; basic civic hygiene demands it. Those in the establishment press would acquit themselves well if they were to treat this affair with the seriousness it deserves. To fail to do so is to become complicit in a scandal that appears to be slowly engulfing much of Washington D. C.