Here’s What You Need To Know About The Hillary Clinton Email Situation
At this point, you’ve likely heard something or another about Hillary Clinton, personal email addresses, and “maybe it’s time we look for a new Democratic frontrunner,” but maybe you don’t know exactly what’s going on. Or maybe you did, and then you heard that the scandal just keeps getting worse each day. And it does! Which, to be fair to scandals, is generally how they go as more information is revealed, but either way, here we are to help you cut through the clutter of the biggest email scandal to hit America since the time Google tried to make everyone switch from Gchat to Hangouts.
What did Hillary do?
On Monday, The New York Times reported that while Clinton was in office as Secretary of State, she used a personal email address to conduct government affairs. Her aides also failed to save her personal emails on government servers. As the Times reported, both actions violate federal law. According to said law, any letters and emails that are received by federal officials while in office are required to be saved by the government. The correspondence is registered as official government records, and members of the media, academics and congressional committees are allowed to access them (except for instances in which the documents are redacted or withheld for classified and sensitive emails) via the Freedom of Information Acts (or FOIAs).
Why is this such a big deal?
Aside from the above mentioned breaking of laws, it takes away from the transparency in government. While government officials have used personal email addresses in the past, it usually is in times of emergency. For Clinton to use it exclusively is a massive breach, and not at all compliant with the law — or our government’s ability to be transparent. While you could argue that perhaps she didn’t realize how massive a breach it was (not a great argument for someone in her position, but maybe you’re feeling generous), the Obama administration had just inherited a very similar problem from the Bush administration.
As Vox reported in a followup, from 2007-2009, the Bush administration was dealing with congressional investigations over a fired US attorney that unearthed the fact that the administration had sent millions of government business-related emails over personal email accounts — and deleted the records. It is a widely held belief by the Congressional committee that White House officials, such as Karl Rove, did this specifically so that communications around shady dealings wouldn’t be recorded. This was a huge scandal that the Obama administration had to deal with when they came into office in 2009, so there’s no way Clinton wouldn’t have known using personal email was a major no-no.
How did it get worse?
Two days after the Times story, the Associated Press reported that Hillary didn’t just use any old personal email account, the servers she used were registered to her home in Chappaqua, NY. As the AP reported, by having so much control over her emails, down to the servers where they could be indexed and stored even if Clinton deleted them, it would give her an unprecedented amount of control over keeping her emails private, as the Bush administration had done in years prior — and suggest that it was done much more purposefully than politicians like Mitt Romney or Sarah Palin, who continued to use their free email addresses. As Gawker reported shortly after, two of Clinton’s top staffers, Huma Abedin and Philippe Reines, also used the private email addresses to conduct federal business.
What is Hillary’s email address?
So what now?
Hillary tweeted out her only statement on the matter, saying that she turned all her emails over to the State Department, because she wants the public to be able to access them as per federal law. The government says it is trying to make them available as quickly as possible, but that given the sheer scope of the documents handed to them, it will take some time to properly sort through, and redact for classified details.
I want the public to see my email. I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 5, 2015
There has been wide speculation that this may prove disastrous to the upcoming presidential campaign Hillary was rumored to be launching later this month — much earlier than any other candidates had planned to announce. There’s even talk of Clinton losing the nomination, except that the Democrats don’t currently have anyone nearly close to taking her place if she were to lose the nomination. There’s talk of people like Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont, a current Independent who votes along Democratic lines, might be in contention, but no one even comes close in the conversation of who could replace Hillary Clinton.