New Hillary Clinton e-mails released by the State Department on Monday show that the secretary of state was often confused about and unfamiliar with State Department activity in the wake of a serious concussion, relying on her staff to explain department policy and even help her remember her own actions.
Clinton suffered a severe fall in early December 2012, which gave her a concussion and put her in the hospital for several weeks, postponing her planned congressional testimony on her response to the Benghazi attacks. She returned to work on January 7, 2013, when State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said she was “fully recovered.” But an e-mail released by Judicial Watch earlier this week showed top aide Huma Abedin admitting on January 26 that Clinton was “often confused.”
The latest e-mails further underscore that confusion. On January 27, Clinton sent an e-mail to top aide Cheryl Mills and State Department undersecretary Patrick Kennedy. “The Brits have just called for their citizens to leave Somalia. What’s our position?” she asked. Kennedy gently replied that the American government “[has] a long-time published travel warning against all travel to Somalia. It was last update [sic] on 12/26/12.”
It was the second time in as many days that Kennedy had to explain State Department policies to Clinton. In a January 25, 2013 e-mail titled “Benghazi,” she appeared unaware that the department was warning Americans not to travel to the embattled Libyan city. “Since the Brits, Germans and Dutch have told their citizens to leave Benghazi, why aren’t we doing the same?” she asked her top staff, citing a report from NPR. Kennedy explained that the department had already told American citizens not to travel to Benghazi on January 2 — a warning they had reiterated on January 24, just one day before her e-mail.
At times, Clinton had to turn to her staff to help her remember her own actions. The secretary of state seemed unable to recall whether she’d replied to a December 31, 2012, e-mail from Lynn Forester de Rothschild, who wished her a speedy recovery. “Did I respond yet?” Clinton asked aide Robert Russo on January 10, 2013. Russo replied that yes, she’d written back immediately to the entire Rothschild family in December, and had written another e-mail specifically to Lynn “earlier this week.”
Clinton wrote the e-mails during the same time period as her January 23, 2013, Benghazi testimony, when she clashed with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on whether the attacks were caused by an anti-Islamic YouTube video. “What difference, at this point, does it make?” she asked Republican senators at the time.
With today’s document dump of 7,800 pages, the State Department says it has now released 66 percent of e-mails retained on Hillary Clinton’s private server and turned over to the federal government. A judge has given the department until January 31 to release all of the e-mails.
—Brendan Bordelon is a political reporter for National Review Online.