Media Adopt Double-Standard With Demands For Independent Review Of Clinton Email

Media outlets are demanding that Hillary Clinton be subject to an independent review of her personal email account to disprove their own baseless suggestions that she engaged in illicit activity or failed to properly disclose all work-related correspondence. The demand ignores that every State Department employee, regardless of whether they use government or personal accounts, decides for themselves whether or not to preserve their emails.

Media Baselessly Suggest Clinton Inappropriately Deleted Government-Related Emails

Wash. Post: “There Is No Way To Check” That Clinton Turned Over All Work-Related Email. The Washington Post editorial board claimed that Clinton's decision to withhold personal emails from scrutiny meant “there is no way to check” that she properly documented all work-related correspondence:

By Ms. Clinton's account Tuesday, the sorting of more than 60,000 e-mail messages from her time at the State Department -- to separate the personal and the work-related -- was carried out entirely by her and her lawyer. She claims that all the work messages have been turned over to the department, but there is no way to check. She disclosed Tuesday that the remainder, the personal e-mails, were deleted. [The Washington Post3/10/15]

WSJ: “No One Else Will Be Able To See How Much Of That 'Private' Business Was Really Private.”   The Wall Street Journal's editorial board claimed that it wassuspiciously “convenient” for Clinton to choose which emails were work-related and which were private:

The biggest news Tuesday was Mrs. Clinton's disclosure that she has since destroyed the rest of the emails that she didn't turn over to State. These were “personal” business, she averred, and “I didn't see any reason to keep them.” They were about, you know, things like daughter Chelsea's wedding, her mother's funeral, and her “yoga routines,” and “no one wants their personal emails made public.”

Now, that's what we call convenient. With those emails gone, and her private server off-limits to investigators, no one else will be able to see how much of that “private” business really was private. Though Mrs. Clinton conducted both State business and personal business in her personal account, only she gets to determine what was really personal and what was the business of State. [The Wall Street Journal3/10/15]

Media Say Clinton's Personal Emails Require Independent Review

Wash. Post Calls For A “Neutral Arbiter” To Settle Email Controversy. The Washington Post's editorial board claimed that Clinton's use of personal email  “reveals a cavalier attitude to the public's legitimate claim on government records.” The editorial concluded by asking that Clinton submit her personal records to “a neutral arbiter” for examination:

The tweet also does not address a number of questions that Ms. Clinton should answer: Why did she use a private account? What discussions did she have with advisers and other State Department or White House officials about it? How many messages, if any, have been omitted from those turned over to the department? Will she permit a neutral arbiter -- say, from the National Archives -- to examine any withheld messages? [The Washington Post3/9/15]

CNN's David Gergen Says Clinton's Private Email Serve Should “Go Into The Protection Of The U.S. Government. CNN contributor David Gergen and Margaret Hoover implored Clinton to hand over her private server to the National Archives for inspection. Gergen concluded that Clinton ” has to take concrete steps" to ensure there is a “process of reviewing” all of her emails:

GERGEN: Hillary Clinton has been badly damaged by these eight days or so of silence. And while the polls don't yet show it, she's been taking a nosedive in the press, among a lot of people who actually respect her for all sorts of other reasons. But this reminds them of some of the worst aspects of the nineties. I think today she has to reverse that by taking concrete steps that will ensure that the server is -- does go into the protection of the U.S. government -- that there is some process of reviewing not only the 55,000 [emails] that she's turned over, but whatever number there still are out there." [CNN, CNN Newsroom3/10/15]

NYT's Frank Bruni: Clinton Should Accept Investigation To Eliminate “Distrust.”  New York Times columnist Frank Bruni blamed the email controversy on Clinton's desire for privacy and suggested that she should rely on an outside arbiter:

She shouldn't simply be assuring voters that they can trust her and that no outside arbiter is needed. She should be eliminating the shields and shenanigans that create room for distrust in the first place. [The New York Times3/10/15]

WaPo's Milbank: An Independent Arbiter “Would Be A Good Start.”  Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank derided what he termed Clinton's “reflexive secrecy” and “debilitating caution,” and urged Clinton to turn over the full contents of her private email to the National Archives for independent review, writing:

“It's the kind of step that arouses suspicion, even if it does not violate the letter of the law,”  said Steven Aftergood, a specialist in government secrecy with the Federation of American Scientists. He suggests Clinton could clean up the mess by inviting in officials from the National Archives to examine her private email server to confirm that all official emails have been transferred to the government's possession.

That would be a good start, but the reflexive secrecy is a symptom of Clinton's broader problem, which is her debilitating caution. Just as her determination to avoid embarrassing disclosure leads to much bigger problems with secrecy, her efforts to avoid mistakes on the campaign trail make her a plodding and lifeless candidate. Her unimaginative, play-it-safe 2008 campaign left an opening for Barack Obama. [The Washington Post3/6/15]

Even If Clinton Had Used A Government Account, Like All State Employees She Would Have Chosen Which Email Messages To Preserve

State Department Regulations: Employees “Must Decide Whether A Particular Message Is Appropriate For Preservation.”  According to the U.S. Department of State's official guidance for “e-mail communications,” the specific creators and recipients of electronic correspondence “must decide whether a particular message is appropriate for preservation.” The guidelines specifically note that the State Department does not intend to preserve “every e-mail message” sent or received by employees:

The intention of this guidance is not to require the preservation of every E-mail message. Its purpose is to direct the preservation of those messages that contain information that is necessary to ensure that departmental policies, programs, and activities are adequately documented. E-mail message creators and recipients must decide whether a particular message is appropriate for preservation. In making these decisions, all personnel should exercise the same judgment they use when determining whether to retain and file paper records. [U.S. Department of State, Foreign Affairs Manual, accessed 3/11/15]

Hillary Clinton Submitted 55,000 Pages Of Correspondence From Her Time At Dept. Of State. Hillary Clinton submitted roughly 55,000 pages of documented email correspondence to the State Department relating to her time as secretary of state:

More than ninety percent of the 55,000 pages of emails handed over were found by searching for exchanges with email addresses hosted on a ".gov" domain, the document says. They also searched for the first and last names of over 100 officials at the department.

“This included all Deputy Secretaries, Under Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, Ambassadors-at-Large, Special Representatives and Envoys, members of the Secretary's Foreign Policy Advisory Board, and other senior officials to the Secretary, including close aides and staff,” the Q&A said. Clinton's team added that “to account for non-obvious or non-recognizable email addresses or misspellings or other idiosyncrasies, the emails were sorted and reviewed both by sender and recipient.”

They also searched for certain specific terms, including “Benghazi” and “Libya.” [The Hill3/10/15]

Clinton Said She Ensured All Relevant Correspondence Was Captured By Government Servers. According to press materials provided by her office, then-Secretary Clinton took steps to ensure that any information relating to work carried out by the State Department was forwarded to official “state.gov” address where it would be automatically archived (emphasis original):

Was the Department able to respond to requests related to FOIA or Congressional requests before they received printed copies of her work-relatedemails? 

Yes. As the Select Committee has said, the Department provided the Committee with relevant emails it already had on the state.gov system before the Department requested any printed copies from former Secretaries, and four months before the Department received the printed copies.

For example, in the well-publicized hack of Sid Blumenthal's email account, a note he sent Secretary Clinton on September 12, 2012 was posted online. At first blush, one might not think this exchange would be captured on the state.gov system. But in fact, Secretary Clinton forwarded the email, that very same day, onto the state.gov system. And the email was produced by the Department to the Select Committee, and acknowledged by the Select Committee, in August 2014.

This example illustrates: 1) when an email from a non-".gov" sender had some connection to work or might add to the understanding of Department officials, it was Secretary Clinton's practice to forward it to officials at their "state.gov" address; and 2) the Department was able to search and produce Secretary Clinton's emails when needed long before, and unrelated to, receiving the printed copies as they were already captured on state.gov accounts. [The Office of Hillary Rodham Clinton, 3/10/15]

Politicians And Government Officials Frequently Keep Emails Out Of Public Record

ProPublica: Congress Is Exempt From FOIA Requirements, Keeping Their Emails Secret. As ProPublica noted, “The public can request information from federal agencies, but Congress, the federal courts and some parts of the Executive Office of the President are exempt.” [ProPublica, 1/31/13]

Politico: Former Secretary Of State Colin Powell Did Not Save Personal Emails Sent During His Tenure. Politico reported that former Secretary of State Colin Powell used a personal email account during his time at State and “did not keep a cache of them” :

Appearing on ABC's “This Week”  Sunday, Powell responded to revelations that he used a personal email account, rather than a government one, when he was in charge of the State Department. Questions about his email use arose last week when it was disclosed that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used a personal email account during her tenure.

“I don't have any to turn over. I did not keep a cache of them. I did not print them off. I do not have thousands of pages somewhere in my personal files,” Powell said. “A lot of the emails that came out of my personal account went into the State Department system. They were addressed to State Department employees and state.gov domain, but I don't know if the servers in the State Department captured those or not.” [Politico3/8/15]

Tampa Bay Times: Jeb Bush "Conducted All His Communication On His Private Jeb@Jeb.Org Account And Turned Over The Hand-Selected Batch." The Tampa Bay Timesreported that Jeb Bush followed the same procedure as Clinton, using a private email for work while governor of Florida and then turning over a select batch of “hand-picked emails” :

Gov. Jeb Bush, who had his own battles over transparency, used Florida's broad open records law to his advantage.

Bush announced in December he would make available to the public more than 250,000 hand-picked emails from his time as governor to help build his case for a 2016 primary run for president.

[...]

The Bush files, though enormous, are not complete, however.

The former governor conducted all his communication on his private Jeb@jeb.org account and turned over the hand-selected batch to the state archives when he left office. Absent from the stash are emails the governor deemed not relevant to the public record: those relating to politics, fundraising and personal matters while he was governor. [Tampa Bay Times,1/3/15]