By late Friday afternoon, there had been no official comment from Hillary Clinton on the announcement that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will retire next month, but it would be surprising if the Democratic presidential frontrunner, at least in private, wasn’t giving profuse thanks for Boehner’s timing. The surprise announcement that the long-serving Ohio Congressman would step down was a very effective distraction from a trio of revelations about the private email server Clinton used while secretary of state.
The fact that Clinton, while running the State Department used a private email server for her correspondence is now well known. Clinton, after much prodding, finally admitted that failing to use the department’s internal email system was an error in judgment. She eventually handed over the server to the FBI, but not before erasing thousands of emails that she claimed were “private” and not subject to federal records retention requirements.
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However, Clinton has maintained that she delivered all the “work-related” emails to the State Department. The State Department, in turn, has said that it provided all emails related to the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya in 2012, to a House select committee currently investigating the attack and Clinton’s role in the response.
According to news reports Friday, evidence suggests that neither of those claims is necessarily true.
A story by the Associated Press says the Pentagon discovered an exchange of emails between Clinton and General David Petraeus from early in her tenure at State, while he was leading U.S. Central Command. The emails were forwarded by the Defense Department to the State Department and are not among the emails that Clinton turned over to State earlier this year.
Even if the content of the email is innocuous, the revelation that there were work-related emails that Clinton did not turn over to State will raise the question of what other correspondence might have been withheld.
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In addition, the State Department admitted Friday that it had not provided the House Select Committee on Benghazi with all of the emails related to the attacks that Clinton had turned over. According to The Daily Beast, the State Department on Friday informed the committee that they would be delivering a “handful” of previously undisclosed emails. The number of emails in that so-called handful? 925.
“In the past week, the State Department has confirmed on-the-record it requested Secretary Clinton’s emails in response to the Benghazi Committee and that it was Committee inquiries early after it was created that led the Department to realize it did not have the former Secretary’s emails,” the select committee communications director Jamal Ware said in a statement. “Now State is confirming it failed to previously disclose all Libya and Benghazi-related messages from the former Secretary.”
Ware added, “The Committee is not yet in receipt of this new production, and will not be issuing any statements regarding it until it can be thoroughly examined. If indeed this is a sign the stonewalling and political protection effort that was previously being run by the Department is diminishing, the Committee welcomes it. The proof will be in the production.”
All this comes on top of a New York Times report Thursday that the FBI is closely examining a number of Clinton’s emails to try to determine “whether aides to Mrs. Clinton mishandled delicate national security information when they communicated with their boss.”
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It’s anybody’s guess what the FBI has turned up in recovering the thousands of personal and work-related emails that former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton thought had been wiped clean from her private computer server. But whatever the FBI computer wizards have plucked from the ether, it no doubt will add to the Republican narrative that she mishandled highly sensitive government documents.
The FBI was already poring over about 30,000 emails that the Democratic presidential frontrunner gave to the State Department last year in response to a request from a special House select committee investigating her role in responding to the terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya in 2012. The inspector general for the intelligence community and other investigators turned up copies of several emails that contained sensitive or classified information.
It is not clear whether Clinton realized that some of the information she was receiving and sending was indeed classified, and authorities say that she is not personally a target of the investigation. While Clinton is paying a heavy political price for what she only recently conceded was a serious mistake in judgment by utilizing her personal email server to conduct State Department business from 2009 to 2013, it now appears that some of her former aides must share in her culpability.
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There is no evidence at this time that any of the sensitive email correspondence was hacked by outsiders or compromised U.S. national security. Indeed, some of the correspondence referenced published material that addressed sensitive national security or foreign policy matters. But one of the things investigators are trying to determine is whether Clinton’s aides and other State Department officials violated federal rules or laws when they emailed material to her.
One of the emails under scrutiny, according to The Times, described a “rapidly deteriorating situation” in Libya in the run-up to the terrorist attacks on the U.S. compound that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. The email described snipers shooting people in the streets as rebels sought to depose President Muammar el-Qaddafi, and included U.S. officials’ plans for closing down the compound.
The email was written by an aide to Clinton and contained an update from the Defense Department’s Africa Command with details of Libyan military movements. The message was forwarded to the secretary of state by one of her top advisers, Huma Abedin, and should have been considered classified according to intelligence officials.
The constant drip-drip of revelations – familiar to anyone with a passing acquaintance with Washington scandals – suggests that despite Clinton’s best efforts to dismiss the email issue as a distraction ginned up by her political opponents, the questions about it are not going to go away anytime soon. And while Boehner may have helped change the media’s focus on Friday, Clinton can expect to be asked detailed questions about the new revelations when she appears on the Sunday talk shows this weekend.