Only the most conspiratorial among us suspected that the State Department’s decision to release a tranche of Hillary Clinton’s private emails on the Friday before a long holiday weekend just might be an effort to bury the revelations. Well, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.
The journalists who combed through the emails learned, among other things, that State officials spent quite a bit of their time investigating leads sent to Clinton via her longtime associate Sidney Blumenthal. Though Barack Obama’s White House blocked Clinton’s request to add Blumenthal to her staff at State as a speechwriter, it seems that the Clinton confidant served as a key outside advisor to the former secretary of state.
But some of the most compelling details in those emails regarding Clinton’s conduct were in regards to the deadly 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi. The emails reveal that the White House regarded Clinton as the “public face of the U.S. effort in Libya” in 2012. “She was instrumental in security the authorization, building the coalition, and tightening the noose around Qadhafi and his regime.” The White House noted that Clinton had been a “critical voice on Libya,” working closely with the president, NATO, and a number of contact groups both during the coalition intervention and in its aftermath. And when officials received a presidential briefing three days after the September 11, 2012 attack that took the life of a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, Hillary Clinton was asleep.
“I just woke up,” Clinton wrote in an email sent at 10:43 a.m. ET on the morning of Saturday September 15, 2012. Surely, those Republicans tasked with crafting political advertisements in 2016 will not fail to contrast this revelation with Clinton’s famous 2008 spot in which she suggested that she would be a better candidate to take the crisis call that comes in at 3 a.m. When the crisis arrived, Hillary was literally napping.
When Clinton’s first private email account was exposed earlier this year, she belatedly took to a podium at the United Nations to control the spiraling damage that the scandalous revelation was doing to her political prospects. Clinton was asked if she was ever “specifically briefed on the security implications” of using a private email to conduct State affairs. To this inquiry, Clinton launched into a response that centered on the fact that she had never sent classified information over the one “homebrew” server of which the public was aware.
“I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email,” Clinton insisted. “There is no classified material. So I’m certainly well-aware of the classification requirements and did not send classified material.” Once again, America, whether Clinton engaged in any impropriety depends on what the definition of “is” is.
No one asked Clinton about classified information, per se. And it was revealed this week that Clinton had, in fact, received sensitive/unclassified materials via her email account. One of the emails released by the State Department on Friday indicated that the former secretary of state had receive electronic correspondences that included a classified document, but that document was only officially awarded classified status on the same day those emails were released – more than 32 months after the Benghazi attack. Curious.
As The Washington Free Beacon’s Lachlan Markay observed, Clinton wrote in her 2014 autobiography Hard Choices that her first thoughts after she learned of the attack were with the late U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. In an interview with Wall Street Journal reporter Monica Langley, an exchange apparently so fawning that Clinton’s aides exchanged a series of emails mocking the reporter’s obsequiousness and repeated invasions of Clinton’s personal space, the secretary made it clear how hard she had taken his loss.
“I sent Chris Stevens to Benghazi at the height of the Libyan conflict [during the Arab Spring],” Clinton told Langley. “He was eager to go and was very effective. I recommended him as ambassador.” Except that Clinton was apparently not even fully aware of Stevens’ name. In an email sent to her confidants at state on the evening of the attack, Clinton referred to him as Chris Smith, noted that she had received informal confirmation of his death, and asked when that news should be disclosed.
Finally, Clinton seemed to be acutely aware of the political damage that might have been done by the administration’s ill-considered efforts to blame the attacks on a spontaneous demonstration related to a YouTube video. In a September 30 email to her aides at State, Clinton asked if she had ever described the conditions prior to the assault on the Benghazi outpost as a “spontaneous” demonstration. Her aides relieved her of any stress when they noted that she had been appropriately cautious with her words.
Indeed, even Reuters noted that the frequency with which Clinton and her cadre of aides prioritized protecting Clinton’s image in the wake of the deadly attack was conspicuous.
“The emails from Clinton’s personal email account made public by the State Department do not appear to contain any revelations that could badly damage her bid for the presidency in 2016 or provide fodder for Republicans who accuse her of being negligent before the Benghazi attacks,” the Reuters dispatch read. “But they offer a glimpse into how Clinton’s team was concerned about her image immediately afterward.”
There is nothing like a little beauty rest to help image maintenance. These emails are only a fraction of those released to the State Department for review, and those are just the emails that Clinton’s team did not summarily delete. Surely, these are not the only embarrassing revelations about Clinton’s behavior at State that will be disclosed in coming days.