All three network evening broadcasts ignored State Department spokesman John Kirby’s explanation that two emails sent to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were erroneously marked confidential after a staffer failed to change the markings on a routine email that should have been marked sensitive but unclassified (SBU).
Journalists seized on FBI Director James Comey’s July 5 statement that “a very small number of the emails containing classified information bore markings indicating the presence of classified information” to claim that Comey, in the words of The Washington Post, “directly contradicted Clinton’s claim that she did not send or receive materials ‘marked’ classified.”
But in his July 6 press briefing, State Department spokesman Kirby provided an explanation for the discrepancy, saying that the “markings were human error” and should not have been included in the documents, which were call sheets for Clinton. From the July 6 daily press briefing (emphasis added):
I’m not going to comment on their findings and recommendations or all the documents that they reviewed. I am aware that there have been media – a media report pointing to call sheets within the Clinton email set that appear to bear classification markings. So let me just talk to that in a sense.
Generally speaking, there’s a standard process for developing call sheets for the secretary of state. Call sheets are often marked – it’s not untypical at all for them to be marked at the confidential level – prior to a decision by the secretary that he or she will make that call. Oftentimes, once it is clear that the secretary intends to make a call, the department will then consider the call sheet SBU, sensitive but unclassified, or unclassified altogether, and then mark it appropriately and prepare it for the secretary’s use in actually making the call. The classification of a call sheet therefore is not necessarily fixed in time, and staffers in the secretary’s office who are involved in preparing and finalizing these call sheets, they understand that. Given this context, it appears the markings in the documents raised in the media report were no longer necessary or appropriate at the time that they were sent as an actual email.
NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News, and ABC’s World News Tonight all covered the Clinton email investigation during their July 6 broadcasts, but each ignored Kirby’s press briefing.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch closed the Clinton email investigation today with no criminal charges.