Hil­lary on the ropes

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By An­drew P. Napoli­tano

Late last week, the in­spec­tor gen­eral of the State De­part­ment com­pleted a year­long in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the use by Hil­lary Clin­ton of a pri­vate email server for all of her of­fi­cial gov­ern­ment email as sec­re­tary of state. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion was launched when in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cials at the State De­part­ment un­der Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry learned that Mrs Clin­ton paid an aide to mi­grate her pub­lic and se­cret State De­part­ment email streams away from their se­cured gov­ern­ment venues and onto her own, non-se­cure server, which was stored in her home.

The mi­gra­tion of the se­cret email stream most likely con­sti­tuted the crime of es­pi­onage — the fail­ure to se­cure and pre­serve the se­crecy of con­fi­den­tial, se­cret or top-se­cret ma­te­ri­als.

The in­spec­tor gen­eral in­ter­viewed Mrs. Clin­ton’s three im­me­di­ate pre­de­ces­sors — Madeleine Albright, Colin Pow­ell and Con­doleezza Rice — and their for­mer aides about their email prac­tices. He learned that none of them used emails as ex­ten­sively as Mrs. Clin­ton, none used a pri­vate server and, though Gen. Pow­ell and Miss Rice oc­ca­sion­ally replied to gov­ern­ment emails us­ing pri­vate ac­counts, none used a pri­vate ac­count when deal­ing with state se­crets.

Mrs. Clin­ton and her for­mer aides de­clined to co­op­er­ate with the in­spec­tor gen­eral, not­with­stand­ing her oft-stated claim that she “can’t wait” to meet with of­fi­cials and clear the air about her emails.

The in­spec­tor gen­eral’s re­port is damn­ing to Mrs. Clin­ton. It re­futes ev­ery de­fense she has of­fered to the al­le­ga­tion that she mis­han­dled state se­crets. It re­vealed an email that hadn’t been pub­licly made known show­ing Mrs. Clin­ton’s state of mind. And it paints a pic­ture of a self-iso­lated sec­re­tary of state stub­bornly re­fus­ing to com­ply with fed­eral law for ve­nal rea­sons; she sim­ply did not want to be held ac­count­able for her of­fi­cial be­hav­ior.

The re­port re­jects Mrs. Clin­ton’s ar­gu­ment that her use of a pri­vate server “was al­lowed.” The re­port makes clear that it was not al­lowed, nor did she seek per­mis­sion to use it. She did not in­form the FBI, which had tu­tored her on the law­ful han­dling of state se­crets, and she did not in­form her own State De­part­ment in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy folks.

The re­port also makes clear that had she sought per­mis­sion to use her own server as the in­stru­ment through which all of her email traf­fic passed, such a re­quest would have been flatly de­nied.

In ad­di­tion, the re­port re­jects her ar­gu­ment — al­ready de­bunked by the di­rec­tor of the FBI — that the FBI is merely con­duct­ing a se­cu­rity re­view of the State De­part­ment’s email stor­age and us­age poli­cies rather than a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion of her. The FBI does not con­duct se­cu­rity re­views. The in­spec­tor gen­eral does. This re­port is the re­sult of that re­view, and Mrs. Clin­ton flunked it, as it re­veals that she re­fused to com­ply with the same State De­part­ment stor­age and trans­parency reg­u­la­tions she was en­forc­ing against oth­ers.

Here is what is new pub­licly: When her pri­vate server was down and her Black­Berry im­mo­bi­lized for days at a time, she re­fused to use a gov­ern­ment-is­sued Black­Berry be­cause of her fear of the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act. She pre­ferred to go dark, or back to the 19th-cen­tury tech­nol­ogy of hav­ing doc­u­ments read aloud to her.

This re­port con­tin­ues the cas­cade of le­gal mis­ery that has be­fallen her in the past eight months. The State De­part­ment she once headed has re­jected all of her ar­gu­ments. Two fed­eral judges have or­dered her aides to tes­tify about a con­spir­acy in her of­fice to evade fed­eral laws. She now awaits an in­ter­ro­ga­tion by im­pa­tient FBI agents, which will take place soon af­ter the New Jer­sey and Cal­i­for­nia pri­maries next week. Her le­gal sta­tus can only be de­scribed as grave or worse than grave.

We know that Mrs. Clin­ton’s own camp fi­nally rec­og­nizes just how dan­ger­ous this email con­tro­versy has be­come for her. Over the Me­mo­rial Day weekend, John Podesta, the chair­man of Mrs. Clin­ton’s cam­paign, sent an email to her most im­por­tant donors. In it, he rec­og­nizes the need to arm the donors with talk­ing points to address Mrs. Clin­ton’s rapidly de­te­ri­o­rat­ing sup­port with Demo­cratic pri­mary vot­ers.

The Podesta email sug­gests at­tempt­ing to min­i­mize Mrs. Clin­ton’s use of her pri­vate server by com­par­ing it to Gen. Pow­ell’s oc­ca­sional use of his per­sonal email ac­count. This is a risky and faulty com­par­i­son. None of Gen. Pow­ell’s emails from his pri­vate ac­count — only two or three dozen — con­tained mat­ters that were con­fi­den­tial, se­cret or top-se­cret.

Mrs. Clin­ton di­verted all of her email traf­fic to her pri­vate server — some 66,000 emails, about 2,200 of which con­tained state se­crets. More­over, Gen. Pow­ell never used his own server, nor is he presently seek­ing to be­come the chief fed­eral law en­force­ment of­fi­cer in the land.

The in­spec­tor gen­eral who wrote the re­port was nom­i­nated by Pres­i­dent Obama and con­firmed by the Sen­ate in 2013, af­ter Mrs. Clin­ton left of­fice. He did a com­mend­able job — one so thor­ough and en­light­en­ing that it has high­lighted the im­por­tant role that in­spec­tors gen­eral play in gov­ern­ment today.

Today ev­ery de­part­ment in the ex­ec­u­tive branch has, by law, an in­spec­tor gen­eral in place who has the author­ity to in­ves­ti­gate the de­part­ment — keep­ing of­fi­cials’ feet to the fire by ex­pos­ing fail­ure to com­ply with fed­eral law.

If you are cu­ri­ous as to why the in­spec­tor gen­eral of the State De­part­ment dur­ing Mrs. Clin­ton’s years as sec­re­tary did not dis­cover all of Mrs. Clin­ton’s law­break­ing while she was do­ing it, the an­swer will alarm but prob­a­bly not sur­prise you.

There was no in­spec­tor gen­eral at the State De­part­ment dur­ing Mrs. Clin­ton’s ten­ure as sec­re­tary — a state of af­fairs unique in mod­ern his­tory; and she knew that. How much more knowl­edge of her ma­nip­u­la­tions will the Jus­tice De­part­ment tol­er­ate be­fore en­forc­ing the law? An­drew P. Napoli­tano, a for­mer judge of the Su­pe­rior Court of New Jer­sey, is a con­trib­u­tor to The Wash­ing­ton Times. He is the au­thor of seven books on the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion.

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