Nel's New Day

July 1, 2016

Phoenixgate: Only Clinton Can’t Use Private Emails


On the presidential campaign trail, New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, said,”I turned over my email, both professional and personal, to all of the investigators who asked for them. And said, ‘Look at whatever you want to look at.'”  No, he didn’t. He slammed Hillary Clinton about using a private email account and asked his audience to imagine what would happen if he had done the same thing while being accused of closing the George Washington Bridge. Court documents show that he did exactly that. Christie’s personal email account he shared with his wife, Mary Pat, was never searched although he used it for government business.  Christie’s cellphone that he used during Bridgegate is also missing. And New Jersey taxpayers paid Christie’s lawyers $13 million to hide all this information. Christie is no longer a presidential candidate, but he’s in the top tier to be Trump’s VP.

Ten years ago, a judge ordered Donald Trump’s casino operation to turn over emails from 1996 to 2001. He was told that they had been erased. Judge Jeffrey Streitfeld had a “concern about credibility” in this claim because of Trump’s high-speed Internet provider, and defendants in the case brought by Trump said this was destruction of evidence. The charge was never resolved because  the case was settled before a court decision. Now Trump wants Hillary Clinton to “go to jail” even after she turned over all the business-related emails in her private server. Ten years later, Streitfeld, now retired, said that he remembered the claim because he was “incredulous that an organization of that significance doesn’t do email.” Both Trump and Clinton used private servers, but Trump’s emails permanently disappeared.

While governor of Florida, presidential candidate Jeb Bush used a private server for emails and didn’t release them until he was forced to do so, seven years after he left the office despite Florida law that he release them immediately. Like Clinton, Jeb Bush made personal decisions about what should be released, choosing not to share some related to “politics” and “campaign donors asking for favors”—topics relevant in a presidential campaign.

Many politicians use private addresses through commercial servers, more accessible to the public than private servers.  although they may not have private servers. During their time in office, presidential candidates Bobby Jindal (LA) and Rick Perry (TX), used private email accounts when they were governors. Mitt Romney, another presidential nominee, and his top aides used private email accounts for state business despite warnings against the practice from his own administration. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called Clinton’s use of private email an “outrage” after being part of a fund-raising controversy about his running a secret email network for his inner circle of advisers when he was Milwaukee County executive. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), past and perhaps future presidential candidate used his personal email to conduct business and then deleted the emails.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell used a private email address while in office, as did Condoleezza Rice, although she did not email extensively. Even Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), chair of the Benghazi Committee that highly criticized Clinton for her email situation, used a private address rather than a government one.

During the George W. Bush administration, as many as 22 political advisers to the president, including Karl Rove, used RNC email accounts for White House-related business. Because the RNC automatically purged emails after 30 days, as many as five million emails may have been lost from the White House’s official server.

The White House has no archived emails for many of its  offices, including president and vice president, for 473 days  between 2003 and 2005, according to the summary of an internal White House study that was disclosed yesterday by a congressional Democrat. All these days with missing emails were when VP Dick Cheney or his staff were in the news,, especially the outing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame and Cheney’s secret dealings with oil and gas executives who were directly influencing national energy policy.

As Clinton emails continue to dribble out and fascinate people, the GOP—which ignored all Republicans who concealed their own business emails—now claims to have another “smoking gun” against Clinton. When I heard about this mysterious “secret meeting” yesterday, I wondered what was said. Googling the GOP fury about the meeting, I discovered nothing. Actually, that’s what is known about what was said by this supposedly nefarious duo. Steve Benen describes the situation far better than I do:

When news reports surfaced yesterday about a private meeting between Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton, Republican outrage went from 0 to Hair-On-Fire with remarkable efficiency. It wasn’t long before Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) actually called for an independent prosecutor to investigate the “controversy.”

Given the apoplexy, one might have assumed that Lynch and Clinton arranged some kind of secret meeting in an undisclosed location to plot some nefarious scheme. The truth–the two crossed paths at an airport–appears to be far less interesting.

Ms. Lynch said at a press conference that the Clinton meeting was unplanned. Mr. Clinton was apparently waiting to fly out of the Phoenix airport when Ms. Lynch’s plane coincidentally landed there. The former president then walked over to the attorney general’s plane to speak to Ms. Lynch and her husband.

“Our conversation was a great deal about his grandchildren. It was primarily social and about our travels,” Ms. Lynch told reporters in Phoenix on Tuesday.

I realize there’s nothing the political world loves more than a Clinton “scandal,” but as an objective matter, it’s tough to get worked up about a casual chat at an airport between a president and an A.G. If your first reaction to Bill Clinton talking about his grandchildren is, “I hear Ken Starr is unemployed, so let’s give him something to do!” you might be a little too eager to exaggerate the significance of harmless social interaction.

The trouble is, the political world remains deeply invested in the idea that Hillary Clinton’s cabinet-level email server management is one of the most important issues in the country right now. Folks hear about Bill Clinton saying hello to Loretta Lynch, and their first reaction is to assume that this was an effort to prevent an indictment.

But that’s silly. For one thing, an indictment is ridiculously unlikely. For another, if Bill Clinton intended to launch some kind of back-channel pressure campaign to interfere with an investigation, he’d probably take steps less overt than a public chat at an airport.

The obvious explanation may sound naive, but it’s also the easiest to believe: the former president wanted to say hello to a prominent official he knows so he could talk about his grandkids. He wasn’t considering “media optics,” because as far as Clinton is concerned, there was no reason to care – why would anyone make a fuss about something so innocuous?

Nevertheless, the Attorney General will reportedly announce today that she will remove herself from any decision making role in the email matter, and will “accept whatever recommendation career prosecutors and the F.B.I. director make.”

And with Benghazi conspiracy theories having been discredited again this week, the far-right suddenly has something new to obsess over for a while.

The day after Clinton testified for 11 hours before the Benghazi committee, Sen. Mitch McConnell—yes the same Republican who is Majority Leader—said about Clinton, “She’s an intelligent and capable person, no question about it.” He added that he worked well with her in the Senate and could work with her as president.  About Trump, McConnell says that the candidate needs to change to be a “credible candidate.” Arguments against Clinton have nothing to do with her honesty and integrity. All the GOP has left against “an intelligent and capable” person who has more experience for the presidency than any other candidate during the past 260 years is a chance social meeting at a Southwest airport.

The GOP demonstrates their desperation when they believe that two leading politicians would have a secret meeting on the airport tarmac in full view of everyone. Just call it Phoenixgate.

In an aside, is it not curious that all the men who used private email accounts and destroyed the emails get a walk for doing so while a woman is held far more than accountable?


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