It’s time to close the books on ‘Putingate’
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The 2016 presidential campaign was a tale of two sets of emails.

One set was governed by the State Department and subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and intended to be preserved for the ages. That set was intentionally deleted by Team Clinton and that act was a breach of the law and the compact with Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin Anti-Trump protests outside White House continue into fifth night Opera singers perform outside White House during fourth day of protests MORE’s employer, the American taxpayer.

The other set of emails were private exchanges that we had no claim to read. These emails were mostly sent and received by prominent Democrats whose tone reflected the understanding that such digital communication would be protected.

In both situations, it is my strong belief that crimes occurred. The Clinton deletions were intended to disguise history. The WikiLeaks emails added jaw-dropping detail to the campaign.


That Russia, U.S. enemies, U.S. allies and other global powers are trying daily to access privileged and classified information should not be breaking news. After all, it was the Obama administration that hacked Angela Merkel’s mobile phone. Cyber espionage is the new spy game. 007 has traded in his Aston Martin for a smartphone.

It is still unknown what Russia did or did not do to impact the 2016 election; in fact, a complete picture may never emerge.

The loss of privacy in our society, feeding our desire for voyeurism, is creepy. At first the exposed Democrats denied the WikiLeaks emails were genuine. But Clinton ended that dishonest strategy by answering questions in two debates that confirmed the emails’ accuracy. The Clinton team had a real problem it could not solve, so it did what it always did: it demonized the exposers in an effort to avoid answering the tough questions concerning Clinton’s wrongdoing. The litany of tormentors includes “bimbos,” the “vast right-wing conspiracy, “extremist” Republicans, Newt Gingrich, and now Vladimir Putin.

The Clinton campaign pushed hard on the theme that Putin was involved in trying to elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpWSJ: Trump ignored advice to confront Putin over indictments Trump hotel charging Sean Spicer ,000 as book party venue Bernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin MORE in every conceivable way. During numerous interviews I gave during the campaign, including on CNN and MSNBC, the role of Russia in the election was discussed more frequently than either candidate’s plan to fix or replace ObamaCare, the federal tax code, or education reform. Every engaged voter was exposed on a daily basis to the role of Russia during the campaign. The only thing missing was hard facts.

On Thursday, Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainObama, Bush veterans dismiss Trump-Putin interpreter subpoena Controversial Trump judicial nominee withdraws Trump vows to hold second meeting with Putin MORE (R-Ariz.) rightly began hearings to gain answers on what Russia did, as it’s time for the selective leaking and hushed briefing to preferred members of the media to end. The imperative is to give as full an explanation to the voters as is possible.

One thing is clear to anyone who is objective: The Obama administration clearly tipped off the Clinton campaign very early that it could have been Putin behind the embarrassing email leaks. This claim meshed nicely with the Clinton theme that Trump had a man-crush on the Russian strongman. Clinton pushed the Putin story with a curious degree of confidence on the charge, which had scant public facts to back it up.

Hillary Clinton and her staunchest defenders have still not accepted the results of the election. They continue to believe that victory was theirs and that it was only denied because of foul play.

But not even Vladimir Putin was wily enough to end the Clinton dynasty. His agenda is to earn points by appearing to influence our elections — he may fancy himself the author of Hillary’s demise.

But the truth is that only Clinton is to blame for her epic political downfall. The day she decided to break the law and communicate secretively from her bathroom server, she cemented in the minds of Americans that another Clinton term would be accompanied by the same old Clinton hijinks, at a time when the American worker never felt so low.

No, a powerful world leader is not what ended our Clinton Camelot. Simply put, ordinary voters, some with their names stitched on their work uniforms, did it. Election Day 2016 reminded all of us that the little folks in flyover country still outnumber the rich and powerful, and collectively they can be inspired to get involved and can still determine who gets the keys to the Oval Office.

We all want the straight facts on Putin and Russia, but it is time to close the book on the never-ending Clinton campaign and the conspiracy theories of 2016.


Schlapp is chairman of the American Conservative Union and CPAC. He was the White House political director to former President George W. Bush.

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