By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media
Hillary Clinton has been desperately trying to sell a number of lies to the American people about her inexcusable behavior as Secretary of State, but it is mainly the mainstream media who are buying her excuses. And even that avenue appears to be drying up as a source of support. Despite her protestations of innocence, it is clear that she has violated both the spirit and the letter of the law in an attempt to skirt accountability and stay on track to win the Democratic Party nomination for president in 2016.
However, most mainstream journalists are not interested in holding her accountable. Instead, news organizations run headlines about how Mrs. Clinton has finally apologized for her private server.
“As I look back at it now, even though it was allowed, I should have used two accounts,” said Clinton on ABC News on September 8. “That was a mistake. I’m sorry about that. I take responsibility.” But the next day, in an interview with Ellen DeGeneres, in a show to air on Thursday, she was back to apologizing only for the “confusion that has ensued.”
Anne Gearan reports for The Washington Post that Hillary claimed that she “did not send or receive classified material on the account” and was making an effort toward greater transparency.
Each of these assertions are demonstrably false. Whether or not classified information was sent and received, not whether or not it was marked classified—which is the current iteration of her evolving explanation—is the real issue. As Secretary of State, most of Mrs. Clinton’s communications were highly sensitive, guaranteeing that at some point classified information would pass through her server.
According to The Washington Post, among the emails released to the public, at least six of those sent by Mrs. Clinton have been marked as containing classified information. Reuters reports that 87 email threads to date contain information that should have been presumed classified.
Mrs. Clinton’s much-publicized apology is, in effect, no apology at all. It is, instead, an attempt to still justify her actions, with the aid of the media.
During a previous facile attempt at accountability, NBC anchor Andrea Mitchell actually stopped questioning this presidential candidate in order to avoid making her feel uncomfortable.
“Are you sorry? Do you want to apologize to the American people for the choice you made?” asked Mitchell on September 4.
“Well, it wasn’t the best choice,” responded Mrs. Clinton. “And I certainly have said that. I will continue to say that. As I’ve also said many times, it was allowed. And it was fully above board.”
Mitchell told MSNBC’s Morning Joe on September 8 that she felt, after a dozen minutes of pressing Mrs. Clinton about her emails, that “out of concern that they would cut it off, obviously, that I had to move on.”
In other words, Mitchell allowed the Clinton campaign to set the tone of the interview, rather than doggedly pursuing the facts.
But the best line from Hillary in the interview with Mitchell was when she said she “was not thinking a lot when [she] got in. There was so much work to be done. We had so many problems around the world.” So therefore, she “didn’t really stop and think what kind of e-mail system will there be.”
Shannen Coughlin, a former George W. Bush Justice Department official, demolished that assertion. Writing in National Review, Coughlin fired off a list, starting each point with, “So she didn’t think when she…” For example, “paid a former campaign staffer to build the server and set up ‘Clinton.com’ e-mail addresses for herself and close State Department aides, including her deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin.” And, “So she didn’t think when she neglected to report her server to the Department of Homeland Security, as required by law, so DHS could audit the security of her system as part of its mission to protect the government’s Internet security.” You get the picture. It’s worth reading the whole article.
However, mainstream reporters seem uninterested in exposing Mrs. Clinton’s ongoing lies. Instead, the Associated Press asked Mrs. Clinton on September 7 “why she won’t directly apologize,” offering an opening for her to further justify herself or show some real contrition.
“What I did was allowed,” she told the AP. “It was allowed by the State Department. The State Department has confirmed that.” Yet when Mrs. Clinton still maintained on ABC News that her actions were allowed by the State Department, Gearan characterized this as “the furthest Clinton has gone in showing remorse for” her personal server. Remember, Mrs. Clinton was head of the State Department at the time she is saying they “allowed” it.
To the contrary, Daniel Metcalfe, former director of the Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy, told Politifact that “Anyone at [National Archives and Records Administration] NARA would have said you can’t use a personal email account for all of your official business.”
Politifact refused to give Mrs. Clinton a truth-o-meter rating—which might have involved exposing her blatant lies—because it argued that the truth wasn’t “clear cut” enough.
Reporters’ reticence to label these falsehoods for what they are empower Mrs. Clinton to continuing lying to the public while claiming that she has made a full apology.
Jonah Goldberg puts Clinton’s apologies in perspective, asking, at National Review, “Who gives a rat’s ass?” about her apology.
He continues: “Note that she’s apologizing for the narrowest definition of her transgressions, which is a clever way of trying to minimize the scandal. It was perfectly allowed…but I should have used two email addresses. My bad. This is a strange way to ‘take responsibility,’ after months of saying you did absolutely nothing wrong and attacking anyone who said otherwise. If she’s going to apologize for anything, she should apologize for that. Or she could apologize for putting national security at risk. Or she could apologize for violating rules rank-and-file people can get sent to jail for. This ‘apology’ is a response to her falling poll numbers and nothing more. That’s because everything she does these days is in response to poll numbers.”
The Washington Post’s David Ignatius continues to dismiss this as a fake scandal. “After talking with a half-dozen knowledgeable lawyers, I think this ‘scandal’ is overstated,” he wrote. “Using the server was a self-inflicted wound by Clinton, but it’s not something a prosecutor would take to court.”
“It’s common’ that people end up using unclassified systems to transmit classified information,” former CIA general counsel Jeffrey Smith told him. Smith described this crossover as “inevitable, because the classified systems are often cumbersome and lots of people have access to the classified e-mails or cables.”
One thing Ignatius left out is more background on his source: Jeffrey “Smith served as a ‘close’ national security adviser for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and that Smith has a history with the Clintons going back to at least President Bill Clinton’s election in 1992.” Not that that would influence his judgment on this matter.
“Several former prosecutors said flatly that such sloppy, unauthorized practices, although technically violations of law, wouldn’t normally lead to criminal cases,” argues Ignatius.
Mrs. Clinton’s exclusive use of a private server can hardly be equated with opting for a more convenient, yet normal, mode of communication. Neither can one excuse the mishandling of classified information under the excuse that everyone does it.
“Intent to do wrong or to leak material is not required to justify a prosecution and many officials, including some high ranking ones, have been subjected to embarrassing prosecutions that either ruined their careers or actually resulted in jail time,” writes Jonathan S. Tobin for Commentary Magazine. “But the FBI does not investigate civil cases or machines,” he adds. “They do criminal probes and if, as the Inspector General has just told us, she mishandled classified information, she and her aides are in serious trouble.”
Mrs. Clinton’s abuse of the system was egregious, deliberate, and systematic. Those reporters who continue to believe that this is a fake scandal have mired themselves in the technicalities at the expense of moral clarity, parsing legalese in order to, somehow, let Mrs. Clinton off the hook. But Hillary’s cover-up has been so blatant that it doesn’t even survive the legal challenge.
“The law says that no one has to use email, but it is a crime (18 U.S.C. section 1519) to destroy even one message to prevent it from being subpoenaed,” wroteRonald D. Rotunda in an opinion for The Wall Street Journal in March. “Prosecutors charging someone with obstruction don’t even have to establish that any investigation was pending or under way when the deletion took place.”
Mrs. Clinton didn’t just destroy one message—she destroyed thousands of them in order to prevent them from later being accessed by government officials. Arguments about the precise timing of her actions serve as a distraction.
By failing to challenge Mrs. Clinton’s obvious lies and technical hairsplitting, the mainstream media perpetuate this presidential candidate’s dishonesty. But no further information is necessary in order to demonstrate that Mrs. Clinton has not been forthcoming with the American people about Benghazi or her emails. The question is, when will the liberal media admit this to themselves?
It’s clear that within the ranks of the liberal media establishment and the Democratic Party, their concerns are increasing. Though they ran it on page A22, today’s New York Times has a story entitled “Democrats Concerned About Clinton’s Swoon Consider a Big-Name Plan B.” It offers a cutting criticism from a long-time Democratic activist:
“‘You have Democrats beginning to panic about the one thing that a lot of them never worried about, which was Clinton’s electability in the general election,’ said Robert Shrum, a veteran strategist who was a senior adviser to Mr. Gore and Mr. Kerry during their presidential runs. ‘You still have to think of her as the odds-on favorite for the Democratic nomination. But the challenge she faces in the general election is both the trust problem and the likability problem.’”