What do you do when the truth is not enough? That is a question many of us have been asking ourselves throughout the Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal. When, in the course of a debate, hard facts no longer suffice — when reality is no longer a sufficient basis in which to ground your arguments — how do you proceed?
For many people, the answer seems to be, “Elect Hillary Clinton president of the United States.” That is their prerogative, but I’m not so sure. Before she is so elected, can we at least have a reckoning with the truth? Can grown men and women simply acknowledge certain facts regarding Hillary Clinton and her e-mail scandal?
There have been several strains of political commentary so far this month that suggest the answer is no. The first was exemplified by Mark Cuban, who, in a widely shared tweet, claimed that the FBI’s summary of its interview with Hillary Clinton “clears [her] 100pct.” Kevin Drum at Mother Jones felt the same: The report, he said, “is pretty much an almost complete exoneration of Hillary Clinton.” A great many others expressed similar sentiments.
The fact is, though, that the report did not exonerate Clinton. It actually did the opposite: It incriminated her.
According to the FBI, Clinton’s personal e-mail server contained around 100 e-mail chains comprising nearly 200 e-mails in total with classified information. That information ranged from the levels of Confidential to Top Secret, and it involved the State Department, the CIA, the Department of Defense, the FBI, and several other federal agencies.
For the purposes of this case, 18 U.S. Code § 793(f) clearly holds that anyone who exposes national-defense information to an unsecured environment “through gross negligence” is guilty of a felony. It is impossible to credibly argue that Clinton did not violate this law, which, it should be noted, does not make allowances for intent; even if Clinton didn’t mean to send or receive classified information on an unsecured server, she still did so, and is still by all appearances guilty of the gross negligence that the law specifies.
In other words, she has not been “cleared” or “exonerated” of criminal misconduct; she has been implicated in such misconduct, without a doubt. She should by all rights see the inside of a courtroom, and very likely the inside of a jail cell. The only way to argue otherwise is to literally lie about what Clinton did, disputing the truth of the FBI’s claims.
The second strain of commentary we’ve seen is one that asks, in effect, “What’s the harm?” Glenn Thrush of Politico exemplified this line of thinking: “[N]ame a national secret,” he tweeted, “exposed by Hillary’s use of a private email server?”
The first problem with this is that, as we’ve seen above, United States law does not require that any “national secrets” be “exposed” in the course of mishandling classified information for a crime to have been committed. This makes sense. The cops will arrest you for drunk driving even if you haven’t run anyone over, and they are supposed to arrest you for mishandling classified information even if said information hasn’t been exposed to security breaches.
Let’s at least acknowledge the facts of the e-mail scandal, and stop pretending that it’s a tempest in a teapot.
The second, and more important, problem with Thrush’s argument is this: The FBI directly admits that it does not have any of the 13 mobile devices Clinton used to send e-mail by way of her private server. Some of the devices were actually destroyed by Clinton aides using hammers. The report consequently concluded that, “The FBI could not make a determination as to whether any of the devices were subject to compromise.”
Got that? Hillary covered her tracks so cleanly that the FBI couldn’t even determine to its own satisfaction whether or not her security had been hacked. In effect, Glenn Thrush is asking us to verify a national-security breach that Hillary Clinton specifically prevented us from verifying. People who ask us to prove that Clinton suffered a security breach may think themselves clever, but they’re simply ignoring the cold, hard facts of the matter in favor of vain partisan snark.
The examples given above are pervasive; you encounter them at every turn in this never-ending debate. I am afraid that the truth seems altogether insufficient to combat such rampant denial of the facts. The pièce de résistance came not from sports magnates or incompetent journalists, but from the editorial board of the Washington Post, which declared the e-mail scandal “out of control”:
Ms. Clinton is hardly blameless. She treated the public’s interest in sound record-keeping cavalierly. A small amount of classified material also moved across her private server. But it was not obviously marked as such, and there is still no evidence that national security was harmed. Ms. Clinton has also admitted that using the personal server was a mistake. The story has vastly exceeded the boundaries of the facts.
As we have seen, the contentions and implications of the Post’s editorial are either false or viciously mendacious. It was not “a small amount of classified material;” it was dozens and dozens of e-mails. It does not matter if the material was not “obviously marked” as classified; the Secretary of State should know what is classified and what is not. And it is entirely possible that the only reason there is “no evidence that national security was harmed” is because Hillary Clinton deliberately destroyed said evidence.
#related#The Post should be ashamed of itself for getting so much wrong in so few words. But their final contention is the most wrong of all: that “the story has vastly exceeded the boundaries of the facts.” It has not. This story involves a Secretary of State endangering national security for her own bizarre and sleazy reasons, lying about her behavior, lying about lying about her behavior, and then ultimately being let off the hook by a federal department that laid out her serial lawbreaking in no uncertain terms even as it declined to recommend that she face criminal charges. This is a story that has not even begun to “exceed the boundaries of the facts.”
Those who lived through Bill Clinton’s time in the White House will surely recall the “scandal fatigue” that settled upon the nation by the end of the 1990s as a result of the First Family’s countless sleazy affairs and shady doings. Cuban, Thrush, Drum, the Post, and many others are evidently hoping that the public suffers from similar fatigue, moves on, and elects Hillary Clinton president. That may end up happening. But let’s at least acknowledge the facts of the e-mail scandal, and stop pretending that it’s a tempest in a teapot.
— Daniel Payne is a senior contributor at The Federalist. He runs the blog Trial of the Century.