Emails!!

As was completely obvious to anyone familiar with 1) the actual facts of Hillary Clinton’s email “scandal,” 2) how email actually works, and 3) the laws involved, the emails on Weiner’s laptop turned up nothing.

This Yglesias tweet captures it well:

And, this is a good excuse to post Yglesias‘ email story from a few days ago (already on my to-do list) which is, honestly, the best explainer of the whole email situation that I’ve read.  A few key bits:

In total, network newscasts have, remarkably, dedicated more airtime to coverage of Clinton’s emails than to all policy issues combined.

This is unfortunate because emailgate, like so many Clinton pseudo-scandals before it, is bullshit. The real scandal here is the way a story that was at best of modest significance came to dominate the US presidential election — overwhelming stories of much more importance, giving the American people a completely skewed impression of one of the two nominees, and creating space for the FBI to intervene in the election in favor of its apparently preferred candidate in a dangerous way…
And, indeed, it turns out Colin Powell also used a private email address for routine work. Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright didn’t use email, and back before Albright only weird nerds even knew what email was. So at the time Clinton took office, only one previous secretary of state had ever faced the question of what email account to use, and he reached the exact same conclusion Clinton did — just use your personal email address…
There are two possible interpretations here. One is that Clinton hatched the private email account plan as an elaborate dodge of federal record-keeping laws, but then months before the public became aware of the server’s existence complied with requests to turn them over. The other is that the federal records rule on the book was antiquated and a bit absurd, requiring officials to turn over paper copies of emails for no good reason, and simply got ignored out of sloppiness….

Suspicion at this point is then supposed to focus on the fact that she had her lawyers delete more than 30,000 emails from her server.

After Hillary left office, the State Department told her she had to turn all her work-related emails over to them, so she tasked a legal team with determining which emails were work emails and which were not. She turned the work emails over because that’s what she was legally required to do. She deleted the others, presumably because she did not want Trey Gowdy and Jason Chaffetz to rummage through her inbox leaking whatever they happened to find amusing to area journalists.

Now, is it possible that Clinton’s legal team simply decided to entirely disregard the law and delete work-related emails?

In some sense, sure. But there’s no evidence that this happened. Generally speaking, in life we assume it would be moderately difficult to hire a well-known law firm to destroy evidence for you without someone deciding to do the right thing and squeal.

Besides which, it would be almost comically easy to catch Clinton in the act of systematically destroying relevant emails. The vast majority of the work-related email correspondence of an incumbent secretary of state, after all, is going to be correspondence with other government employees…

As FBI Director James Comey concluded, “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring a case against Clinton over this matter. Almost all of the relevant statutes require an intent to mishandle classified information in order to bring a prosecution, a standard that Clinton’s conduct clearly does not meet. Critics have thus chosen to focus on 18 USC § 793, a statute that sets a lower “gross negligence” standard.

However, as Jack Goldsmith, one of the top lawyers in George W. Bush’s administration explains, such a prosecution “would be entirely novel, and would turn in part on very tricky questions about how email exchanges fit into language written with physical removal of classified information in mind.”

Well, then, a whole lot of sound and fury…

And, finally, I really liked this series of Jon Bernstein tweets (click on the first to read them all) that point out, with all these emails uncovered, HRC and her organization actually look remarkably good:

 

 

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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