Politics & Policy

Storm Clouds Form: Bob Woodward Compares Hillary Scandal to Watergate

(Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty)

Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal has been a difficult one for the public to understand and for journalists to explain. But Bob Woodward, the Washington Post reporter who helped uncover Watergate 40 years ago, clarified things a lot on Fox News Sunday today when he said that an e-mail in the most recently released batch shows Hillary trying to “subvert the rules” that she expected others to follow.

A few days earlier, Joe DiGenova, a well-respected former district attorney for the District of Columbia, told The Laura Ingraham Show that “there is vitriol of an intense amount developing” in the intelligence community and that FBI agents “are already in the process of gearing themselves to basically revolt if [the Justice Department] refuses to bring charges” against either Hillary Clinton or her former State Department staffers.

It was the State Department’s data dump in the wee hours of January 1 that revealed a particularly eyebrow-raising e-mail from Hillary Clinton: In one note in February 2011, she expressed surprise that a State Department employee was using a private e-mail to conduct State business. She wrote this e-mail, seeming to express dissatisfaction at the employee’s use of private e-mail, on her own private e-mail server — through which she sent all her e-mails while secretary of state.

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Four months later, she wrote another e-mail, also released last week, that is now the subject of some controversy. In this note, she expressed impatience that a set of talking points being sent to her was delayed due to trouble with a secure fax. She ordered staffer Jake Sullivan to circumvent the rules: “Turn into nonpaper w no identifying heading and send nonsecure.” The subject of the talking points has been redacted from the e-mail, almost certainly because it involved classified or confidential material.

The State Department has weakly responded that it has no knowledge “at this time” that the talking points were in the end sent to her. On Face the Nation today, Clinton insisted she never received them and that “there’s no there there.”

Not only is that implausible, but a report from the State Department’s inspector general released Thursday rebuked State for repeatedly providing inadequate and inaccurate responses to Freedom of Information Act requests about Clinton’s e-mails. That gives us little reason to believe that State’s response to the current controversy includes all the facts.

#share#In fact, State’s record on transparency is so bad that a federal judge had to order officials there to collect Clinton’s e-mails, vet them for classified material, and release them on a monthly basis. The latest batch contains 66 additional examples of classified material that ended up on Hillary’s server, bringing the total to more than 1,200. This demolishes Hillary’s claim that she didn’t send or receive classified material on her personal account. Among the security breaches: Clinton forwarded the name of a confidential CIA source to staff at State through her insecure server. Michael Isikoff, a noted investigative reporter, told MSNBC’s Morning Joe last August that the naming of a CIA source was “evidence of a crime by somebody”

Bob Woodward said the latest revelation about Hillary’s e-mails reminded him of Watergate. He recalled that Hillary served on the staff of the House impeachment committee investigating President Nixon. “And what was the lesson, one of the lessons from that?” he asked. “Never write anything down. . . . Here, many years later, she’s saying, ‘Oh, let’s subvert the rules,’ and writing it out herself?” He concluded:

It shows that she kind of feels immune, that she lives in a bubble and no one’s ever going to find this out. Well, now we have.

DiGenova, who led the prosecution of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard and conducted investigations of the Teamsters Union and former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, says that Hillary’s reckless and cavalier misuse of her e-mail system has infuriated the intelligence community. Last November, he told me that “people who are the least politicized professionals you’ll find in government are appalled at the idea there might be no consequences for leaving classified and secret material vulnerable to foreign hackers.” If the FBI recommends action against Hillary Clinton or her staffers, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch decides to reject the recommendation and bury the case, the intelligence community “will never be able to charge another federal employee with the negligent handling of classified information,” he told Laura Ingraham last week.

Hillary’s reckless and cavalier misuse of her e-mail system has infuriated the intelligence community.

A former top Justice Department official told me that he has no doubt that the FBI report will eventually leak, especially if the DOJ ignores its recommendations. Many old hands remember the intelligence problems the Bill Clinton administration caused when it misplaced the nuclear-launch codes, and also when Clinton conducted blackmail-bait, phone-sex conversations with Monica Lewinsky over secured phone lines that Russia and the Israelis were in fact monitoring. “There are a lot of serious people inside the government who think both Clintons have a pattern of being sloppy with national security, and there has to be some accountability,” DiGenova told me.

#related#Hillary Clinton’s latest e-mail imbroglio didn’t catch a lot of attention in mainstream media outlets. But it’s safe to expect, at a minimum, further embarrassing revelations. And if the FBI report is sharply critical of her actions, it could upend the conventional wisdom about the race for the Democratic nomination. Bernie Sanders is either just behind or just ahead of Hillary in the latest polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, and he could capitalize on any further damage to Hillary’s credibility. Hillary already has a big problem with credibility: Only 23 percent of independents view her as “honest and trustworthy” in the latest Quinnipiac poll. Other Democrats, including Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, would be remiss if they weren’t preparing a Plan B in case this number dips even lower, making her a more vulnerable general-election candidate.

— John Fund is NRO’s national-affairs correspondent.


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