By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media
While Republicans are deciding among themselves whether to open a separate investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email controversy, evidence keeps piling up that shows serious problems ahead for Mrs. Clinton. Yet the media continue feasting on what they perceive as turmoil in the GOP presidential race. When looked at objectively, Mrs. Clinton’s problems should prove far more consequential than anything facing the Republicans. And current polls reflect that problem.
The media are still basking in Hillary’s great October turnaround. Not only did she have what they considered to be a strong debate performance, but Vice President Joe Biden announced he wasn’t running for the presidency, and Hillary, they assure us, scored a big victory in the Benghazi hearings. Game over. The march to the White House can proceed unimpeded.
But a closer look at what should be very troubling issues to the media, and to Democrats who want a candidate without so much baggage, reveals much that they should be concerned about.
The latest batch of emails was released on October 30, revealing an additional 266 messages that are now “deemed classified, bringing to 666 the total number of messages so far,” as reported by The Washington Times, but ignored by most of the media. “One of the messages, sent by a State Department staffer, even labeled itself ‘confidential’ in the subject line to Mrs. Clinton, despite her insistence that none of the information should have been secret at the time. The email contained what the staffer called ‘a good report’ from a top German official who’d met with then-Serbian President Boris Tadic. All information gleaned from foreign governments is deemed classified.”
Other revelations from this latest drop included correspondence showing that in response to security concerns in Benghazi, Mrs. Clinton “made an effort to help evacuate the acting Libyan prime minister from Benghazi amid a crumbling security situation.” This was released about a week after her testimony to the House Select Committee on Benghazi that she had not seen some 600 requests from Libya that had to do with the security of American personnel, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, who died in the terrorist attack at the Special Mission Compound on September 11, 2012, in Benghazi. A case of misplaced priorities?
Remember, the FBI is investigating whether or not classified materials were mishandled on Mrs. Clinton’s private, unsecured email server. This occurred as a result of the Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCulloch III saying back in July that he had found four of Mrs. Clinton’s emails that were classified out of the first 40 he viewed, including one that was Top Secret.
It got worse. In August, “the scandal deepened, as Mr. McCullough sent a memo to the House and Senate intelligence committees that said two emails contained top secret information that was compartmentalized as Special Intelligence (SI) and Talent Keyhole (TK),” reported The Washington Times. “The two codes mean that the material came from communications intercepts of a foreign target and also from military spy satellites. Such data are considered the crown jewels of intelligence, for which access is greatly restricted.”
Rowan Scarborough, reporting for the Times, wrote that “Intelligence officials are aghast it sat in Mrs. Clinton’s at-home server, susceptible to hacking by adversaries such as China and Russia.
“‘SI information is not just top secret,’ said the former intelligence official,” adding that “it’s compartmented. It’s the highest level of classification you can get. It’s code word. It’s extremely sensitive.”
“‘You have a massive spill, a massive leak of classified information,’ the former official said. ‘The responsibility for that server is on Hillary Clinton directly.’”
Mrs. Clinton’s defense has changed from a complete denial: “I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material,” she said back in March of this year at her press conference at the United Nations.
Then, after two Obama-appointed IGs discovered classified material in her emails, she switched her story to saying that she didn’t knowingly send any classified material, and finally that she did not send or receive anything that was “marked as classified.”
But as former congressman and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) wrote in a column for the New York Post, co-authored with Victoria Toensing, a former chief counsel for the Senate Intelligence Committee, “…that statement ignores how the process works. The reason government officials with security clearances are required to keep their correspondence on the appropriate government server is so the material can be vetted and classified prior to hitting ‘send’ to an uncleared recipient.”
Ron Fournier of the National Journal wrote a column entitled “Parsing Clinton: Deflection, Deception, and Untruths,” in which he said, “What Clinton doesn’t want you to know: Federal rules put the onus on government officials like the Secretary of State to protect classified material, even when it’s not marked as such. Government officials have been convicted of mishandling unmarked classified material. Any chain of events or excuses that led to the disclosure of these documents begins with Clinton’s decision to go rogue with government email.”
President Obama compounded matters when he told Steve Kroft on CBS’s 60 Minutes on October 11 that he didn’t know about Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State, and that he didn’t think it posed a national security problem. But back in March, after first saying that he learned about her use of a private server for all of her government emails “the same time everybody else learned it—through news reports,” he backtracked through his spokesman, Josh Earnest, saying he knew she used a private server some of the time, but didn’t know the full extent, or how it was set up.
Of course he knew. He had exchanged emails with her, emails which he is nowrefusing to hand over to the committee investigating Benghazi, raising further suspicions.
And when he told Kroft that “This is not a situation in which America’s national security was endangered,” he was prejudging the case under investigation. This “angered” members of the FBI who are investigating Mrs. Clinton’s handling of classified material, and who spoke with The New York Times following President Obama’s comments. The Times also spoke with Ron Hosko, “a former senior F.B.I. official who retired in 2014 and is now the president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund,” who “said it was inappropriate for the president to ‘suggest what side of the investigation he is on’ when the F.B.I. is still investigating.
“‘Injecting politics into what is supposed to be a fact-finding inquiry leaves a foul taste in the F.B.I.’s mouth and makes them fear that no matter what they find, the Justice Department will take the president’s signal and not bring a case,’ said Mr. Hosko, who maintains close contact with current agents.”
This, along with recent news about a spin-off of the Clinton Foundation having to refile tax returns because in the earlier filings they had failed to disclose millions of dollars in foreign donations; and the obvious lies, inconsistencies and omissions from Hillary’s Benghazi testimony before the committee last month, are taking their toll.
When asked in the latest Quinnipiac poll, “Would you say that [Candidate] is honest and trustworthy or not?” when compared to all of the leading Republican candidates, Clinton was the lowest with just 36 percent who said yes, and the highest at 60 percent who said no. The poll shows that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is currently ahead of her by 46 to 43 in a head to head match-up. Several others were beating her as well.
Even a slumping Bernie Sanders is reconsidering the “Get out of jail free” pass that he gave Mrs. Clinton during the one Democratic debate, when he said, “the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails.” He now says it’s a legitimate issue to pursue. “Let the investigation proceed unimpeded,” he told The Wall Street Journal.
The Democratic front-runner is under investigation by the FBI for her mishandling of classified information. There’s no doubt that she did. The only questions are, did she know at the time that classified material passed through her computer that it was classified? Should she have known? Does it matter whether she knew or not? What about the gross negligence aspect of not knowing? If the FBI refers the case to the Justice Department for a criminal referral, would Attorney General Loretta Lynch indict her, or would she turn to President Obama to get his okay on whether or not to indict? Is Joe Biden still waiting in the wings?