WASHINGTON — The furor over Hillary Clinton’s decision to conduct her government communications through a personal, hideaway, email account isn’t going away.
Clinton’s abbreviated, 20-minute news conference Tuesday raised more questions than answers. The chief one: Who gave her the right to determine which emails were personal and thus deleted?
Not only is the secret email revelation growing into a politically damaging story, the Senate Judiciary Committee is also investigating a little-known government program Clinton used where some of her top political agents worked for her at the State Department while still in private employment.
When the blockbuster story broke about the former secretary of state’s obsessive, rule-breaking secrecy, New York Sen. Charles Schumer said it would blow over in a day or so and eventually “be regarded as a slight hiccup.”
Instead, it has mushroomed into a major scandal that threatens her second run for the presidency, reminding voters of her imperious habit of hiding critical details about her official acts in government. In this case, details that may explain why the State Department initially attempted to cover up what led to the murders of four Americans in a terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Some of us still remember the photo of Clinton in 2011 on her Air Force C-17 typing some message on her BlackBerry as she traveled from Malta to Tripoli, which we now know was surreptitiously stored away in her private email server at her home in Chappaqua, New York.
“Given the paranoid/legalese perspective that permeates Clintonland, this made sense,” writes New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, a one-time Hillary cheerleader.
“It’s hard to request emails from an account you don’t know exists. Clinton Inc. can tough it out and even make stuff disappear,” Dowd says.
To this day no one knows the full story about how she handled or mishandled the explanation behind the terrorist attacks in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012.
“It strains credibility to believe if you’re on your way to Libya to discuss Libyan policy that there is not a single document to turn over to Congress,” Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina said on the CBS program “Face the Nation” Sunday.
“There are gaps of months and months and months” in the public record, said Gowdy, who chairs the House Select Committee that is investigating Clinton’s handling of the terrorist attack her department originally said was not led by terrorists.
As is her habit, Clinton has stonewalled the calls on Capitol Hill to hand over her workday emails, saying little, if anything, substantive about why she did not use the government’s internal computer accounts — until Tuesday.
She said she had asked the State Department to make the emails public. But officials there say that it will take a lot of time to comb through the ones she’s turned over to them before making any of them public.
You can see where all of this is headed, can’t you? So can Gowdy. “It’s not up to Secretary Clinton to decide what’s public record and what’s not,” he said.
But Hillary’s troubles worsened this week when it was reported that Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, is investigating yet another troubling aspect of her leadership as secretary of state.
Grassley is demanding internal documents, including emails, about a program in which some of Clinton’s political advisers and fixers worked for her at State while still in the private sector.
Not only that, they used only her private email account to keep their work-related political communications secret within the department. Hillary didn’t address what became of these emails in her news conference. Why not?
Among Clinton’s political aides who were permitted this unusual double status were: Huma Abedin, her longtime confidante; Maggie Williams, her former campaign manager; Jonathan Prince, a speechwriter for Hillary and Bill Clinton; and Jeremy Rosner, one of her campaign pollsters.
Grassley thinks this political arrangement smells and has no place in the corridors of government.
“The public’s business ought to be public with few exceptions,” he said in a statement over the weekend. “When employees are allowed to serve the government and the private sector at the same time and use private email, the employees have access to everything and the public nothing.”
Grassley has dug into many scandals over his long career and plans to dig deeper into this cozy arrangement that Clinton set up while occupying the highest Cabinet post in the government. He’s demanding all of her emails and other documents be immediately turned over to his committee.
Moreover, he wants the State Department “to answer for any blurring of the lines between public and private service and any concealing of the blurred lines through private email.”
It is common knowledge in political circles that Hillary’s husband is her chief campaign strategist. Did Bill Clinton have access to inside information from the State Department via his wife’s email account and the political aides who used it?
Throughout all of the media disclosures that have come out in recent weeks, Clinton had refused to comment on the story, hoping the controversy would simply melt away of its own accord.
She broke her silence only after top Democrats urged her to respond, warning that it would hurt her politically if she continued to stonewall the story much longer. “From this point on, the silence is going to hurt her,” California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Sunday on “Meet the Press.”
In the end, her excuse for using a private email account was a matter of “convenience.” But it was also a way to hide communications.
Remember those long-lost Rose Law Firm records in the Clintons’ Whitewater scandal that suddenly were found in a White House closet after they’d been subpoenaed? And the secrecy surrounding the development of her doomed health care plan that even Democrats in Congress couldn’t stomach?
If you despise transparency, but love secrecy and rule-bending in government, Hillary Clinton is your candidate.