Overnight, Donald Trump repeated the latest conspiracy theory making the rounds on the alt-Reich, a claim that Hillary Clinton’s email had been hacked by the Chinese. The claim, which started with an anonymously sourced report on the website Daily Caller, has been repeated both on the air and on the net by Fox News. According to the report, investigators for the intelligence community Inspector General uncovered the intrusion and attempted to get the FBI to take action, only to be stopped by Clinton-loving FBI officials, including the recently fired Peter Strzok. But now the FBI is pushing back on the unsupported claims, saying once again that there is no evidence that Clinton’s private email server was compromised.
According to the Washington Post, when asked to respond, the FBI simply stated that it has “never found any evidence” of a breach in Clinton’s private servers. Trump has often deliberately confused the server that Clinton’s staff maintained while she was secretary of State with the server at the DNC which was breached by Russian hackers, who went on to steal thousands of emails. Clinton’s server, and the emails it contained, were the subject of multiple investigations by the FBI and congressional committees. None of those investigations turned up the slightest scrap of evidence that the security of the server had been violated by China or anyone else.
In a late-night tweet, Trump insisted that the “next move” by the FBI and Department of Justice “better be” looking into the situation. But Trump’s actual purpose in these tweets doesn’t seem to be starting any serious investigation. He treated the story as another opportunity to trot out a list of familiar accusations about the FBI’s “missteps” and threaten that the agency’s “credibility” is in danger.
Trump’s tweets, and the promotion of the story by Fox, are giving support to a story with no apparent basis. Because that story serves the ongoing purposes of villainizing Clinton, demeaning the FBI, and disparaging the notion that there is any objective truth. It’s a line of attack that was highly successful for Trump in 2016 … but someone might want to let him know that Hillary Clinton is not on the ballot this year.
It’s been so long since the original round of “but her email” stories, that it seems worth a brief review.
Hillary Clinton set up the server at her home in 2009. Clinton did not have an email account on any actual State Department server, which used systems at the time that were regarded as both clumsy and insecure. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell also used a personal email account during his time in office and wrote to Clinton to explain how he had operated.
The private server had already been shut down for two years when the New York Times ran a front-page story in 2015, suggesting that the server violated federal guidelines. It was only after that story ran, with Clinton already the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination, that Republicans in the House and Senate seized on the server as a point of weakness. In the next year, they held more hours of hearings on Clinton’s use of email than had been held on the 9/11 attacks.
An FBI investigation into the server was initiated, even though everyone acknowledge that the server use was in a very “gray area,” with both laws and regulations concerning such email accounts changing frequently both during the time Clinton served as secretary of State and after. The FBI determined that 110 of the emails that appeared on the server over a four-year period had been, at some point, classified, but only three of them appeared to carry any indicators that they contained classified material. In July 2016, then-FBI director James Comey made an extraordinary public announcement that Clinton had been “careless” in handling the email system, though the FBI found no evidence that the system had been violated, and recommended that no charges be filed.
In October, just over a week before the election, Comey issued a note that he was reopening the investigation to look at emails found on a laptop belonging to former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who was the husband of one of Clinton’s aides. That investigation found no sign of additional classified material. Polls have suggested that this letter by, on its own, was enough to tip the balance of the election.
And that is … pretty much it. Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server, even though it reflected the actions of the previous secretary of State—which merited exactly zero investigations—has since been inflated into such a High Crime that Republicans are quick to condemn her to prison, if not death, even though few of them could explain even the basics of what she did wrong.
After Republicans insisted that the Inspector General look into the FBI investigation of this non-issue, a second report was issued in 2018 stating that there was no evidence that prosecutors were affected by bias. However, that report chastised Comey for violating department rules through his public announcements both at the time of the July 2016 report and the announcement that the investigation was being reopened in the week before the election.
That final Inspector General report confirmed that the agency was “fairly confident” that Clinton’s servers had not been violated.