Kyle Wingfield

Political commentary and opinion from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's conservative blogger

Hillary keeps making email excuses, and they keep falling apart

"I did not send classified material. And I did not receive any material that was marked or designated classified -- which is the way you know whether something is." -- Hillary Clinton, at an Aug. 18 press conference

"While she was secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote and sent at least six e-mails using her private server that contained what government officials now say is classified information, according to thousands of e-mails released by the State Department." -- The Washington Post, in a story published online Tuesday night

Another day, another of Hillary's email explanations found factually wanting. While these six emails (so far) represent a relatively small number, their mere existence flatly contradicts her longtime story of having had, at most, only the passive role of receiving any classified information by email (which, of course, includes scores of emails).

In some of the emails, there wasn't a chain of classified information back and forth; Clinton was the first to add anything that could be deemed classified. For example, via The Federalist :

Note that this is a double-whammy: Not only did Hillary send the classified information herself, the recipient is Sidney Blumenthal, a former Clinton administration official who was barred from a State Department job by the Obama White House . This is a transmission from one private account (Clinton's) to another (Blumenthal's) at the request of someone (Blumenthal again) who was denied a job at State.

The nature of the information is also telling. While we don't know exactly what Clinton wrote -- duh; it's classified -- the context is instructive. On Nov. 10, 2009, Blumenthal asked, "How did it go in Berlin?" Clinton responded, "Berlin was terrific. Lots of good exchanges (with) leaders." The rest is redacted.

But we know what Clinton was doing in Berlin around that time. She was there to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall along with then-leaders Gordon Brown of Britain, Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Dmitry Medvedev of Russia and, naturally, Angela Merkel of Germany. It is a safe bet the "leaders" to whom she referred -- and whose comments presumably were related in the redacted portion of the email that followed -- weren't deans at local universities.

And we know that one category of classified information, per President Obama's executive order of December 2009, is "foreign government information," the unauthorized disclosure of which is "presumed to cause damage to the national security." And who is authorized to deem information classified? Among others, "agency heads" ... such as the secretary of state.

Judging by the Obama executive order's guidance on duration of classification, this must have been a clear-cut example of information that needed to be protected. The order sets a minimum of 10 years for classification "unless the original classification authority otherwise determines that the sensitivity of the information requires that it be marked for declassification for up to 25 years from the date of the original decision" (emphasis added). As the above markings indicate, this information's classification was set for 15 years, more than the default, minimum term.

While this particular email predates the executive order by a month and a half, it's not as if Obama were breaking with precedent in designating foreign government information as classified. In any case, Clinton wrote other emails with classified information after December 2009.

As I have pointed out before , the question of criminality and rule-breaking are only one aspect of this case.

  • None of this would be an issue had Clinton simply used a government email account, at the very least for these kinds of messages. She has yet to offer a good reason for declining a government account and putting this information at risk.
  • The emails we have are, pending any recovery of information from Clinton's server by the FBI, only those emails she didn't delete. At this point, given the way the facts have steadily undermined everything else she has said about the matter, Clinton does not deserve the benefit of the doubt that she only deleted emails of a personal nature.
  • Further to that point, we have no assurances she didn't simply deem emails related to the Clinton Foundation -- and the potential conflicts of interest between it and Clinton's work as secretary of state and, perhaps, one day as president -- to be "personal."

As the axiom goes, the cover-up is worse than the crime. Clinton's constantly changing, and disproved, explanations have all the hallmarks of a cover-up. The questions should be more about what we still don't know, rather than what's gradually coming to light.

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About the Author

Kyle Wingfield joined the AJC in 2009. He is a native of Dalton and a graduate of the University of Georgia.