Stoddard: Clinton supporters tripping over email spin

Anyone seen Democrats trying to explain away the State Department report on Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWoman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Trump: CNN, MSNBC 'got scammed' into covering Russian-organized rally Pennsylvania Democrats set to win big with new district map MORE’s emails? As Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out 'subversion' at VA MORE would say: Sad!

In the wake of the release last week of the State Department’s Office of Inspector General report showing much of what the former secretary of State has said about her unprecedented email arrangement has been false, Democratic supporters and surrogates are miserably stammering through the presidential campaign’s woeful talking points to defend their party’s de facto nominee. 

It isn’t pretty.

There’s Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinLawmakers feel pressure on guns Feinstein: Trump must urge GOP to pass bump stock ban Florida lawmakers reject motion to consider bill that would ban assault rifles MORE, vice chairwoman of the Select Senate Intelligence Committee, saying “it is what it is, I don’t think we should make a federal case over it.” And Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGOP strategist confronts ex-Trump staffer: ‘I’m sick of you guys making excuses for him’ Shepard Smith goes after Trump for not condemning Russia in tweets Trump: Why didn't Obama 'do something about Russian meddling?' MORE, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, gave such a pathetic attempt at spin on “Fox News Sunday” last week that host Chris Wallace ended the interview with the following rebuke: “I expect more from you.”

The report destroyed much of Clinton’s oft-repeated rationale for housing government records — all of her business emails as secretary— on a secret server she neither sought approval for nor secured to protect against hacking. We already knew: that Clinton is the only Cabinet secretary to use a private server, that she deleted more emails than she turned over, that she provided emails in paper form that couldn’t be electronically searched, that she did not in fact turn over all of her work emails, and that more than 2,000 of them contained classified information.

But the new findings reveal Clinton had not likely hidden everything on her own server for convenience, as she had claimed, but in order to shield her communications from the Freedom of Information Act. In a new email from the report — mysteriously never before released — Clinton tells an aide she didn’t want to use the State Department email system because she didn’t want her personal emails to be accessible.

The report also shows her own staff believed the system had been hacked several times, contradicting her claims there had never once been a security breach. Though she has insisted this was all “above board” and “allowed,” she never sought permission for her server, nor would she have received it had she done so, according to the report. Though the report showed some former secretaries of State had used personal email for work occasionally, none had used an unsecured private server. As head of the department, Clinton had also signed a policy statement requiring employees to avoid using their personal email system for all work email in order to comply with the Federal Records Act.

So someone as respected as Schiff must have had quite a stomachache telling Wallace: “The OIG also found that retention by Secretary Clinton of her emails, the fact that she provided 55,000 pages of emails, mitigated the fact that she used a private server.”


Everyone took their signal from Clinton, who — shocker — doubled down, dismissed the report, and said “nothing has changed, its the same story.”

In an email to supporters, campaign chairman John Podesta wrote that Clinton knows her use of a secret server was a mistake, “and she has taken responsibility for that mistake.” Indeed Podesta’s memo brazenly attempts, as Clinton has from the start, to conflate a personal email account with the storing of government records on a private server without permission, stating “she believed she was following the practices of other secretaries and senior officials.”

Unfortunately the OIG report wasn’t the only news making Clinton loyalists and donors cringe this week. Cheryl Mills, chief of staff for Clinton during her four years at State, stated in sworn testimony that no one anticipated the unprecedented setup would create problems. “I wish that had been something we thought about,” Mills said, according to a transcript of a deposition in a suit brought against the State Department by Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group.

Oh dear. After being in the public sphere for decades and running for president since 2006, what we all know is that nothing escapes thought in Hillaryland. Not one thing. Aides may not have objected to her reckless idea of a rogue server, but surely every little thing they do is thought through. And through.

Surreal testimony in a sworn deposition may result from Mills’s legal exposure, as the Federal Records Act describes “whoever, having the custody of any such record, proceeding, map, book, document, paper, or other thing, willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, falsifies, or destroys the same, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both; and shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States.”

Why are Democrats squirming, why are Clinton and Podesta lying and why is Mills playing dumb? Perhaps because the OIG report reveals there truly is no good answer for what Clinton did.


Stoddard is an associate editor of The Hill.