Politico reports that the State Department inspector general has concluded that Hillary Clinton violated State’s recordkeeping protocols. The finding is contained in a much anticipated report provided to Congress today.
Significantly, the report also reveals that Clinton and her top aides at State — Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan, Huma Abedin, and possibly others — refused to cooperate with the IG’s investigation despite the IG’s requests that they submit to interviews.
The report is devastating, although it transparently strains to soften the blow. For example, it concludes that State’s “longstanding systemic weaknesses” in recordkeeping “go well beyond the tenure of any one Secretary of State.” Yet, it cannot avoid finding that Clinton’s misconduct is singular in that she, unlike her predecessors, systematically used private e-mail for the purpose of evading recordkeeping requirements.
“Secretary Clinton should have preserved any Federal records she created and received on her personal account by printing and filing those records with the related files in the Office of the Secretary,” the report states. By failing to do so, and compounding that dereliction with a failure to “surrender all emails dealing with Department business before leaving government service,” Clinton, the IG finds, “did not comply with the Department’s policies.”
This articulation of Mrs. Clinton’s offense is also sugar-coated. By saying Clinton violated “policies,” the IG avoids concluding that she violated the law. But the IG adds enough that we can connect the dots ourselves. The “policies,” he elaborates, “were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act.” To violate the policies — as Shannen Coffin has explained here at National Review — is to violate the law.
The IG report elucidates that Clinton and her aides knew this to be the case. Politico notes:
The report states that its findings are based on interviews with current Secretary of State John Kerry and his predecessors — Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, but that Clinton and her deputies declined the IG’s requests for interviews.
Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan, and Huma Abedin are among those who did not cooperate with the investigation.
The importance of this goes unstated but we can connect the dots. When a government official or former government official refuses to answer questions in a formal government investigation into potential wrongdoing, this in effect is the assertion of a legal privilege not to speak — otherwise, there is no valid reason not to cooperate.
So what conceivable legal privilege do Clinton, Mills, Sullivan, and Abedin have that would allow them to refuse to answer investigators’ questions? Only one: the Fifth Amendment privilege — i.e., the refusal to answer on the grounds that truthful responses might be incriminating.
I foreshadowed this a few days back in a column, surmising that Ms. Mills must have gotten some form of immunity in exchange for agreeing to be interviewed by the FBI and federal prosecutors:
Earlier this year, a State Department inspector general (IG) issued a report regarding the department’s appalling record of non-compliance with FOIA during Clinton’s tenure. It noted that Mills was well aware that Clinton’s e-mails circumvented State’s filing system and therefore were not searched in order to determine whether some were responsive to FOIA requests. This was a violation of federal law, which requires each government agency to undertake a search that is “reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant documents.” (See Report at p. 8 & n.29 and pp. 14-15.) Mills not only failed to ensure that such a search was done; she knowingly allowed the State Department to represent — falsely, it turned out — that it possessed no responsive documents.
We now know that, when IG investigators attempted to question Mills to ascertain why she did that, she told them, through her lawyer, that she refused to speak with them. (See January 27, 2016, letter of Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) to Secretary of State John F. Kerry.) She had good reason to take that position: Obstructing an agency’s lawful compliance with a FOIA request could constitute a felony. For present purposes, though, the point is that Mills’s refusal to cooperate with the State Department IG suggests she has concerns about potential criminal jeopardy. It thus seems highly unlikely that she consented to an interview by FBI agents conducting a criminal investigation unless she was given some form of immunity. . . .
So was Mills given at least qualified immunity in exchange for answering the FBI’s questions?
The media was abuzz a few months back when it emerged that Brian Pagliano, the old Clinton hand who was placed on the State Department payroll to service Hillary’s homebrew server, had been given immunity for prosecution in exchange for cooperating with the FBI. Why was it such a big story? Because the conferral of immunity implied that Pagliano believed he’d be incriminating himself if he cooperated with investigators.
Well . . . what are we to make of the refusal by Clinton, Mills, Sullivan, and Abedin to cooperate with the Obama State Department IG?
What are we to make of Mrs. Clinton’s public posturing that of course she is prepared to cooperate — and encourages her subordinates to cooperate — with government investigators?
And how is a former high government official who systematically evaded federal records requirements and then refused to cooperate with a government investigation into that evasion conceivably fit to be president of the United States?