Hillary Clinton entered this race treating the press like a nuisance at best; marks whom she could easily distract with a bit of misdirection. When she’s not corralling photographers in their allotted, roped-off stations, she’s mocking their efforts to cover her serial mendacities. In March, while delivering the keynote address during the awarding of the Toner Prize for excellence in journalism, Clinton issued a self-effacing series of jokes joking about her own penchant for paranoid secrecy and her unfolding email scandal. It was a display of arrogance and chutzpah that would make Donald Trump blush. “Too many of our most important debates occur in what I call an evidence-free zone,” she told a roomful of reporters, counseling them to pursue their craft with vigor in 2016. Indeed, they should. In every one of the minimal interactions the former secretary of state has had with the press, she has made a series of debatable or outright falsifiable statements. The political media would do well to internalize just how little the prohibitive Democratic nominee thinks of their institution or their individual talents.
Clinton’s Toner Prize address occurred in March, just days after the snowballing effect of the scandal involving her email practices compelled the former secretary to abandon caution and finally address the press. Over the course of a news conference at the United Nations and a Q&A period, Clinton disseminated a convincing defense of her behavior. Though the first handpicked questioner attempted to contend that Clinton’s travails were the result of latent American sexism toward the most powerful woman in U.S. history, the remaining reporters asked admirably cutting questions and elicited some informative responses. But as the ensuing days passed, many of the assertion’s Clinton made in that presser came into question.
“The server contains personal communications from my husband and me,” Clinton said of her private “homebrew” system on which she kept her emails. This, she contended, was one of the reasons why she summarily destroyed over half of the emails she sent to the State Department for vetting and eventual release. But according to Clinton’s husband’s spokesperson, the former president had sent a total of two emails in his entire life and both of those were fired off while Bill Clinton still occupied the Oval Office.
“Going through the emails, there were over 60,000 in total, sent and received. About half were work-related and went to the State Department, and about half were personal,” former Sec. Clinton contended before the United Nations lectern. Not so, according to emails provided to House investigators by longtime Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal. Clinton withheld emails from State related to Benghazi, oil contracts in post-war Libya, and the NATO-led intervention in that North African country. What’s more, Blumenthal’s correspondences indicated that some of the emails that she did provide to the State Department had been altered with some portions removed.
Hillary Clinton claimed that she only used one mobile device on which she checked her emails because it would be “easier” – a practice that is discouraged by the State Department due to the increased likelihood that foreign intelligence services can gain access to those devices. That, too, was not true. “Hillary Rodham Clinton emailed her staff on an iPad as well as a BlackBerry while secretary of state, despite her explanation she exclusively used a personal email address on a homebrew server so that she could carry a single device,” the Associated Press revealed in March.
“The vast majority of my work emails went to government employees at their government addresses, which meant they were captured and preserved immediately on the system at the State Department,” Clinton insisted. She had to be aware that the agency she led was unprofessionally lax about its archival practices. “[In 2011], Department employees created 61,156 record emails out of more than a billion emails sent,” a recent State Department Inspector General’s report read.
Clinton also insisted that her email communications contained no classified material. In the latest tranche of 3,000 emails State released last week in response to a court order, the department revealed that 25 of them were redacted because they contained information reviewers deemed classified. This should come as no surprise to reporters who cover the State Department and are regularly frustrated by the culture of over-classification in that agency that allows diplomatic personnel to skirt transparency laws.
You might expect at least one of these discrepancies to have come up in Clinton’s much-anticipated interview with a bona fide member of the press corps this week, but CNN’s Brianna Keilar failed to note that a variety of assertions Clinton made in March have since proven dubious. So why wouldn’t the former secretary continue to mislead?
“I’ve never had a subpoena,” Clinton contended when asked about her decision to delete 33,000 allegedly personal emails. But she did receive a subpoena after House investigators drew one up in March. “This letter will respond to (1) the subpoena duces tecum issued by the Benghazi Select Committee to the Hon. Hillary R. Clinton and served by agreement on March 4, 2015,” read a letter addressed to House Select Committee on Benghazi members. Clinton’s supporters in the campaign and in the Capitol Building contend that she understood the question Keilar asked to pertain only to December, when that subpoena was only pending and when the emails at issue were deleted.
“Everything I did was permitted,” Clinton further averred. “There was no law. There was no regulation. There was nothing that did not give me the full authority to decide how I was going to communicate.” In order to support this contention, Clinton and her abettors cite an interim directive issued in October of 2014 that advises State employees to take only “personal papers” and “non-record materials” with them when they leave the agency. But, as the Washington Post noted, State’s Foreign Affairs Manual made it perfectly clear that “correspondence or e-mail received or sent in an employee’s capacity as a Department official is not personal.” That guideline was issued well before Clinton ever joined the State Department.
“In reality, Clinton’s decision to use a private e-mail system for official business was highly unusual and flouted State Department procedures, even if not expressly prohibited by law at the time,” the Post’s fact-checkers admonished. “Moreover, while she claims ‘everything I did was permitted,’ she appears to have not complied with the requirement to turn over her business-related e-mails before she left government service. That’s a major misstep that she has not acknowledged.” Clinton earned three out of four “Pinocchios” for this particular fib.
At some point, the political press has to tire of being used and underestimated by Hillary Clinton. Until that time, she will continue to flagrantly mislead the press and the public, making a mockery of the journalistic profession in the process.