Kurt Eichenwald: Clinton Did "The Exact Same Thing As Her Predecessors" And They "Did Nothing Wrong"
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Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald debunked the partisan assertions that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton improperly used a private email account, pointing out that her predecessors similarly used private email accounts that received information that was retroactively classified.
For months, conservative media figures baselessly hyped claims that Clinton violated the law by receiving State Department emails on her private email account while secretary of state. On February 4, reports emerged that Colin Powell and aides to Condoleezza Rice also used private email accounts when they served under President George W. Bush and some of their emails contained information that was subsequently classified on a retroactive basis.
In a February 8 article for Newsweek, Kurt Eichenwald explained that Powell and Rice's aides' use of a private email account was "meaningless except that it sets up a rational conversation (finally) about the Hillary Clinton bogus 'email-gate' imbroglio" and showed that the fixation on Hillary Clinton's emails "has been a big nothing-burger perpetuated for partisan purposes." Eichenwald wrote that Powell and Rice, like Clinton, "did nothing wrong" and that "this could only be considered a scandal by ignorant or lying partisans":
This news involving Powell and Rice is meaningless except that it sets up a rational conversation (finally) about the Hillary Clinton bogus "email-gate" imbroglio. Perhaps the partisans on each side will now be more willing to listen to the facts. From the beginning, the "scandal" about Clinton using a personal email account when she was secretary of state--including the finding that a few documents on it were retroactively deemed classified--has been a big nothing-burger perpetuated for partisan purposes, with reports spooned out by Republicans attempting to deceive or acting out of ignorance. Conservative commentators have raged, presidential candidates have fallen over themselves in apoplectic babbling, and some politicians have proclaimed that Clinton should be in jail for mishandling classified information. The nonsense has been never-ending, and attempts to cut through the fog of duplicity have been fruitless.
So did Powell and the aides to Rice violate rules governing classified information, since the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) staff has recently determined that some of their years-old personal emails contain top-secret material? No. The rules regarding the handling of classified information apply to communications designated as secret at that time. If documents that aren't deemed classified and aren't handled through a SCIF when they are created or initially transmitted are later, in retrospect, deemed secret, the classification is new--and however the record was handled in the past is irrelevant.
In other words, just because the FOIA staff years later labeled emails sent from Powell and Rice's aides as classified does not mean those records contain some crown jewels of critical intelligence. In fact, usually they are quite benign. I have seen emails called "top secret" that contained nothing more than a forwarded news article that had been published. (The Associated Press has reported that one of Clinton's "secret" emails contains an AP article.)
The bottom line: Democrats may try to turn the revelations about the email accounts used by Powell and Rice's staff into a scandal. They may release press statements condemning the former secretaries of state; they may call for scores of unnecessary congressional hearings; they may go to the press and confidently proclaim that crimes were committed by these honorable Republicans. But it all be lies. Powell and Rice did nothing wrong. This could only be considered a scandal by ignorant or lying partisans.
So there is no Powell or Rice email scandal. And no doubt, that will infuriate the Republicans who are trying so hard to trick people into believing Clinton committed a crime by doing the exact same thing as her predecessors.
Eichenwald joins other lawmakers and media commentators who agree that the revelation that Powell and aides to Condoleezza Rice also received retroactively classified information indicates that the allegations against Hillary Clinton are part of a partisan smear campaign.