Late last night, Twitter suddenly erupted over what seemed to be the dramatic debut scandal of the 2016 presidential race, as scooped by Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times:
Hillary Rodham Clinton exclusively used a personal email account to conduct government business as secretary of state, State Department officials said, and may have violated federal requirements that officials’ correspondence be retained as part of the agency’s record.
Hillary may have violated what
? Don't leave us hanging!
Mrs. Clinton did not have a government email address during her four-year tenure at the State Department. Her aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved on department servers at the time, as required by the Federal Records Act.
Okay, this is sounding more serious.
But after reading the rest of the Times piece with a fine-tooth comb, I found no mention of any specific regulation that was actually violated. And that's because there wasn't one: The regulation to which they seem to be referring was signed into law nearly two years after she left the State Department, as USA Today later clarified in an amazing feat of actual journalism:
The laws and regulations regarding the handling of electronic communications among federal agencies has undergone several changes in recent years, including an amendment to the Federal Records Act that President Obama signed into law in November, 2014. The bill requires that e-mails dealing with official matters that are sent from a personal account must be forwarded to an official account within 20 days.
A September 2013 bulletin from NARA suggests federal employees "should not generally use personal email accounts to conduct official agency business." The bulletin suggests exceptions could be "emergency situations" or on occasions where the employee is contacted through their personal e-mail account.
Both the Federal Records Act amendment and NARA bulletin took effect after Clinton left the State Department in February, 2013.
Now that you know this, carefully read that second section from the original Times piece again and take note of the journalistic sleight of hand: "Her aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved on department servers at the time
, as required by the Federal Records Act."
Catch that? To actually be damning, the words "at the time" would have to be at the end of the sentence: "Her aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved on department servers, as required by the Federal Records Act at the time."
Obviously, had the Times written that, they would have been lying instead of merely insinuating.
But it doesn't stop there.
Regulations from the National Archives and Records Administration at the time required that any emails sent or received from personal accounts be preserved as part of the agency’s records.
But Mrs. Clinton and her aides failed to do so.
Again, the Times does not clarify which exact regulations may or may not have been followed. If they are again referring to the Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments of 2014
, this statement is misleading at best. But even if similar regulations were in place during Secretary Clinton's tenure, the emails from her personal account are still
retained because they were received on Department email accounts. As later noted
by The Hill, this conforms to the letter of the law:
A spokesman for Hillary Clinton is defending the former secretary of State’s use of a private email account for official business, arguing her actions are not unique.
"Like Secretaries of State before her, she used her own email account when engaging with any Department officials. For government business, she emailed them on their Department accounts, with every expectation they would be retained," Nick Merrill said in an email.
"When the Department asked former Secretaries last year for help ensuring their emails were in fact retained, we immediately said 'yes.' "
"Both the letter and spirit of the rules permitted State Department officials to use non-government email, as long as appropriate records were preserved," he said.
"As a result of State’s request for our help to make sure they in fact were, that is what happened here. As the Department stated, it is in the process of updating its record preservation policies to bring them in line with its retention responsibilities.
The Times continues to confuse elsewhere:
Before the current regulations went into effect, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who served from 2001 to 2005, used personal email to communicate with American officials and ambassadors and foreign leaders.
Again, are they referring to the new 2014 regulations? If so, why did they make it clear that Colin Powell was off the hook, but not Hillary Clinton? And why didn't they point out this very relevant tidbit
, as NPR does?
The department says it is updating its records preservation policies, taking steps that include regularly archiving all of Secretary John Kerry's emails.
"For some historical context," says Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf, "Secretary Kerry is the first Secretary of State to rely primarily on a state.gov email account."
So, now that we know that Secretary Clinton's ominous "secret" emails have been preserved after all, there's simply the matter of getting them. Except that they have already been gotten...making this particular Times piece even more worthless than it already was.
It was only two months ago, in response to a new State Department effort to comply with federal record-keeping practices, that Mrs. Clinton’s advisers reviewed tens of thousands of pages of her personal emails and decided which ones to turn over to the State Department. All told, 55,000 pages of emails were given to the department. Mrs. Clinton stepped down from the secretary’s post in early 2013.
55,000 pages of emails? That comes out to an average of over forty pages of emails a day over the course of her four years as Secretary of State...all handed over in what must be an unparalleled level of transparency. But this still isn't good enough for the New York Times, who just can't help itself:
The revelation about the private email account echoes longstanding criticisms directed at both the former secretary and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, for a lack of transparency and inclination toward secrecy.
Oh does it now? I'd actually say that this so-called "revelation" sounds like the exact opposite
of secrecy. But thanks for placing your non-story in a tidy right-wing smear machine context.
I'm sure Fox News can take it from here.
Originally posted at Hillary HQ