Clinton’s Publicity Plan Derailed by Email Scandal
Policy + Politics

Clinton’s Publicity Plan Derailed by Email Scandal


It seems safe to say that things didn’t go as planned for Hillary Clinton on Friday. The front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination had scheduled a major policy announcement for a sleepy summer Friday in July, guaranteeing that news about her plan to revamp the capital gains tax – not normally the stuff of front-page news – would get some extra coverage.

Instead, the Clinton team woke up to a story in The New York Times reporting that two separate Inspectors General had requested that the Justice Department open a criminal investigation into her handling of her email while serving as Secretary of State. Clinton used a private email server for her work email, creating serious concerns about security and the ability of the State Department to retain critical records in her time in office.

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The Times story initially suggested that Clinton herself was the subject of the probe, and that it was criminal in nature. By mid-morning, the headline and copy of the article had been changed, apparently in response to push-back from the Clinton campaign, to say that the investigation being requested was not focused on Clinton herself, and was not criminal in nature. The Justice Department later confirmed to various news sources that it had not been asked to launch a criminal probe.

By that time, though, Clinton’s opponents were already measuring her for handcuffs on social media, and reporters across Washington were scrambling to figure out just what was really going on.

Since the news about her private email server broke earlier this year, Clinton has been emphatic in her claims that she never used the system to transmit classified information, suggesting that the security concerns were unfounded. However, she has declined to make the server itself available to investigators and admitted that she had already had tens of thousands of emails on it destroyed. (She said that her legal advisors had made the determination that the material destroyed did not constitute public records.)

However, in a memo to the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees from the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, I. Charles McCullough, it was revealed that investigators believe the estimated 30,000 emails the remain on the servers, and which Clinton eventually provided to the State Department, contained classified material.

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“[M]y office’s limited sampling of 40 of the emails revealed four contained classified [Intelligence Community] information which should have been marked and handled at the SECRET level,” McCullough wrote.

Unclear, though, is whether the material was considered classified at the time Clinton emailed it. The same memo says that none of the emails examined were labeled as classified. However some material can be retroactively classified when circumstances require it.

A spokesperson for the IG, however, told The Wall Street Journal on Friday, the four “were classified when they were sent and are classified now.”

A key figure in the Clinton email scandal has been South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, the Republican who chairs the House Select Committee on Benghazi. The fact that there is any doubt at all about whether investigators have full access to Clinton’s email archive has been a source of endless argument within the committee.

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In a statement on Friday, Gowdy called the situation “a serious and nonpartisan national security matter by any objective measure.”

He added, “The number of questions surrounding Secretary Clinton’s unusual email arrangement continues to grow. The best—the only way—to resolve these important factual questions is for her to turn over her server to the proper authorities for independent forensic evaluation. Regardless of whether the server is voluntarily relinquished or acquired by other lawful means, there is clearly sufficient cause to examine the contents of said server for the presence of other classified information. Moreover, whether it was classified initially or later classified, it is appropriate for the Executive Branch and intelligence community to determine where these now classified documents are housed and by whom they are possessed.”

In the end, the Clinton team blasted The New York Times, and said that it would continue to work with the investigators.

Oh, and Clinton also gave her speech on taxes. Her plan is to change the way high-income investors are taxed on the profits when they sell stocks. Currently, profits on stocks held longer than one year are now taxed at a 20 percent rate. For wealthy investors, that’s likely well below their marginal tax rate on other income, which can go as high as 39.6 percent.

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The Clinton plan, which would only be applied to people in the highest income bracket, or about one-half of one percent of the taxpaying population, would require an investment be held for six years in order to qualify for the 20 percent rate. Everything held for less than two years would be taxed as regular income, while taxes would be paid on a sliding scale for investments held between two and six years.

The ostensible reason for the change is to alter the incentives facing investors in order to reduce the focus on short-term gain and stimulate long-term investment in the economy and in job creation.

Whether such a plan would work is, to say the least, controversial. But, given what else the media had to chew on Friday, that’s a controversy that’s taken a back seat for now.