Likely 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state is receiving another examination after reports revealed that she used a personal email account while she held the office. Clinton didn’t have a State Department email account and used a private email server registered to her home address, which allowed her to have more control over her email records.
The story blew up, with critics alleging that Clinton broke State Department rules or federal law, while Clinton claims she turned all her email over to the State Department. (Her office turned over 55,000 emails at the end of her time as secretary of state.) And Clinton even tweeted that she wants the public to see her emails — to clear it all up.
I want the public to see my email. I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 5, 2015
So is this a scandal or is it being blown out of proportion? Did Clinton break major rules? And will it affect her potential run for president?
Is Clinton a rulebreaker?
It’s still not clear. According to CNN, there’s currently no evidence that Clinton violated any of the State Department’s rules, but it’s possible that she did. While there isn’t a ban on using personal email accounts for government business at the State Department, there is a policy that employees should conduct “normal day-to-day operations” through the State Department’s official email system for security reasons. We haven’t seen the 55,000 emails Clinton handed over to the State Department, so it remains unknown if she disclosed sensitive information that could create security threats while using her personal account.
It seems odd that this has just now become an issue. Many are asking why her emails weren’t examined sooner or while she was in office. The rules on email use have changed a few times in the last decade, but while Clinton was serving as secretary of state, the Federal Records Act required government employees ensure personal emails tied to government business was conserved “in the appropriate agency record keeping system.” In 2014, after Clinton stepped down from the position, the law changed and now requires that official emails sent from a personal address be forwarded to an official government email within 20 days.
“The policy of my administration is to encourage transparency, which is why my emails, the BlackBerry I carry around, all those records are available and archived,” President Barack Obama said to CBS News. “I’m glad that Hillary’s instructed that those emails about official business need to be disclosed.”
The State Department is currently combing through Clinton’s emails to determine which ones should be publicly released in accordance with federal open records laws.
But this did allow her to conceal email from the public
Gawker filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see Clinton’s email exchanges with Sidney Blumenthal, a former Clinton White House staffer whose hacked emails revealed that he had Clinton freelance intelligence reports which included advice about the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Such information surely would be considered official State Department business.
“But the State Department replied to our request by saying that, after an extensive search, it could find no records responsive to our request,” Gawker’s J.K. Trotter writes. “That is not to say that they found the emails and refused to release them … Instead, the State Department confirmed that it didn’t have the emails at all.” Trotter suggest this is “exactly why Clinton used a non-State Department email server to conduct her official business.”
Will this “scandal” affect her chances at president?
While Clinton has still not announced any plans to run for president in 2016, many are wondering if this email controversy will affect her chances. She’s long been seen as the most likely democratic nominee. (She polls at nearly 60%.) Is her use of a personal email account and possibly concealing emails enough to turn voters against her?
According to a Fox News poll, the public’s opinion of Clinton’s honesty dropped in the last week. The results showed that only 44% of voters said the trait of honesty describes Clinton. This is a 10-percentage point drop from the 54% who viewed her as honest in April 2014. Over half the respondents in Fox News’ poll said Clinton wasn’t honest and trustworthy. The poll of 1,011 registered voters was conducted between March 1 to March 3, during which Clinton’s email story unfolded. Now it’s important to note that the poll did come from Fox News, which leans conservative. But will these numbers stick? Or is this just a momentary drop until this scandal is forgotten about?