Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) responded to the revelation that classified information was sent to former Secretary of State Colin Powell's personal email account by highlighting how the right-wing-media-driven obsession over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's personal email account appears to be a partisan exercise designed to “target the Democratic candidate for President.”
According to a February 4 report from NBC News, the State Department inspector general has “determined that classified information was sent to the personal email accounts of former Secretary of State Colin Powell and the senior staff of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.”
As with classified information reportedly forwarded to Clinton's private email server while she was secretary of state, none of the material was reportedly marked classified at the time, but instead has been retroactively determined to have contained classified information.
While media outlets have fixated on the retroactive classification of emails sent to Clinton as uniquely damaging, the new revelations suggest that those emails are in fact part of what NBC News has termed “a longstanding pattern of senior officials at the State Department and other government agencies trying to talk around classified information over email, sometimes unsuccessfully.”
Powell has questioned the significance of the material sent to his private email account, telling NBC News the contents were “fairly minor” and asking it to be publicly released “so that a normal, air-breathing mammal would look at them and say, 'What's the issue?'” The Clinton campaign has also called for the release of a set of Clinton's emails currently being withheld from the public by the State Department, calling the decision to withhold their release “over-classification run amok.”
Cummings, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, responded to the State Department inspector general's comments about Powell and Rice's email use in a February 4 statement, amid reports that committee chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) is seeking to launch an investigation that would likely probe Clinton's email use, possibly against the wishes of Republican House leadership.
According to Cummings, the revelations about personal email used by Powell and top Rice aides gives credence to Cummings' concern that “Republicans are spending millions of taxpayer dollars singling out Secretary Clinton because she is running for President -- often leaking inaccurate information -- while at the same time disregarding the actions of Republican Secretaries of State.”
“Based on this new revelation, it is clear that the Republican investigations are nothing more than a transparent political attempt to use taxpayer funds to target the Democratic candidate for President,” Cummings continued in his statement.
Cummings' statement was issued as conservative media continue to push baseless claims about Clinton's private email server, which often fall apart under scrutiny.
Since the January 29 announcement by the State Department that 22 emails from Clinton's private email server would be withheld from public release because they had been retroactively classified, conservative media have touted anonymously sourced claims that the emails include “Holy Grail items of American espionage such as the true names of Central Intelligence Agency intelligence officers serving overseas under cover.”
NBC News debunked this claim in a February 4 article, explaining that several of the emails in question forwarded to Clinton reportedly contained “references to undercover CIA officers ... [b]ut contrary to some published reports, three officials said there was no email on Clinton's server that directly revealed the identity of an undercover intelligence operative.” A former senior CIA official told NBC News that “any suggestion that this email contained confirmation about the person or his cover, or any inappropriate information, is flat wrong.”
In addition, conservative media have also baselessly claimed that the emails being withheld contain the nonexistent “stand down order” Clinton is said to have issued during the 2012 terror attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and that there was a premeditated conspiracy to share classified information over email.