In the days ahead, we're going to keep hearing about Hillary Clinton's emails. Republicans, who did not get the FBI indictment they hoped for, will now focus on "she lied" because of discrepancies in some things she has said with what Comey testified.
Let me interject here: I watched both Comey's press conference, where he announced his findings, and his 4+ hour testimony for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. I also know and admire his integrity from his history as Acting Attorney General, when AG Ashcroft was in the hospital gravely ill and Comey stood up to President George Bush and refused to sign on to something he knew to be illegal.
While I do not doubt for a moment that Comey acted with the utmost integrity and respect for the law, without political bias or pressure, it is a simple fact that, in his testimony, he was not acting as Clinton's defense attorney. And that's appropriate; he was the prosecutor, making the best case he could. But it did leave some times when I wanted him to put things in context that would give her more benefit of doubt. Or show that the national security risk that he said was possible, was actually pretty minimal, even though possible. In sticking strictly to the facts of his findings (as a good prosecutor should), he gave Republicans lots of sound bites and raw meat without the necessary context. So here, I'm going to act as that defense lawyer for Clinton.
One of the "lies" Republicans are accusing her of is her saying that none of the emails she sent or received were marked classified -- and she later added "at the time," because some were retroactively classified.
In his sworn testimony to the House Committee, Comey had already explained how classified documents are marked with (C). Questions also brought out the fact that, of more than 30,000 emails the FBI examined, only 10 had what they deemed to be highly classified material -- AND ONLY 3 OF THOSE HAD BEEN MARKED CLASSIFIED.
But then time ran out for the committee member asking that question, so it was left there. Later, a Democratic member of the committee, Mart Cartwright, came back to it to get some clarity. Here is the transcript of that exchange:
MATT CARTWRIGHT: You were asked about markings on a
few documents, I have the manual here, marking national classified
security information. And I don't think you were given a full chance to
talk about those three documents with the little c's on them. Were they
properly documented? Were they properly marked according to the manual?
JAMES COMEY: No. [...]
MATT CARTWRIGHT: According to the manual, if you're going to classify something, there has to be a header on the document? Right?
JAMES COMEY: Correct.
MATT CARTWRIGHT: Was there a header on the three documents that we've discussed today that had the little c in the text someplace?
JAMES COMEY: No. There were three e-mails, the c was in the body, in the text, but there was no header on the email or in the text [I think he meant at the beginning of the text].
MATT CARTWRIGHT: So if Secretary Clinton really were
an expert about what's classified and what's not classified and were
following the manual, the absence of a header would tell her immediately
that those three documents were not classified. Am I correct in that?
JAMES COMEY: That would be a reasonable inference.
Doesn't this answer the question about whether Clinton lied about this? And the other lies that they say she told? One was saying that "all the emails have been turned over." In fact, the FBI found some others, from the email archives of staff she corresponded with, that were not in the ones she turned over. But isn't it possible that she honestly thought they had turned everything over? Perhaps those were no longer in her archives for whatever reason? With over 30,000 --- isn't it reasonable that some quirk in the system eliminates one here and there. Is there any reason, from the content the FBI did find on those, to suggest she would have wanted to conceal those few? They haven't said so.
Another "lie" is Clinton having said repeatedly that using her private server was "allowed" by the State Department. That's debatable. Their policy since 2005 is that an approved system with the proper level of security should be used. But they knew she was using a private server. And she continued to do so. So isn't that "allowing" it? As to other Secretaries of State using private emails, yes Colin Powell did have a private email that he used occasionally; but he actually just didn't use email very much in his work. Same for Condelessa Rice.
The other "lie" was shot down absolutely by Comey in his testimony: that the system had been hacked by a notorious hacker who calls himself Guccifer, and who had boasted about it online. Comey said the FBI had questioned this individual and that he admitted to them that he had lied about it. He had not hacked her email. The truth is that there is no evidence that Clinton's private server was ever successfully hacked. Meanwhile, one Democrat in the hearing read off a long list of other government agencies that were hacked, including: the Dept. of Homeland Security and the Pentagon. And, get this: the State Department.
To quote Bernie Sanders from the second Democratic Primary debate: "Enough about your damned emails!"