"What, with a cloth or something?," Democratic frontrunner (for now anyway) Hillary Clinton said earlier this week, in a sarcastic and fairly condescending reply to a reporter who pressed her on whether she had attempted to wipe her private e-mail server clean before turning it over to the FBI.
That was the second time in a week that Clinton has attempted to deflect questions about the server with a dark mix of humor and disdain, and it’s backfired both times.
When Clinton first handed over the server along with a thumb drive, an attorney for the Colorado-based company that managed Clinton's private e-mail said the server the FBI got "is blank and does not contain any useful data." That only exacerbated GOP lawmakers’ aggravation and may well have cost Clinton in the polls, as the socialist Bernie Sanders surged ahead in New Hampshire.
Subsequently, reports surfaced that an audit of the e-mails the former First Lady turned over to the State Department revealed that at least two e-mails may have contained top secret information about the CIA’s drone program.
With the controversy unlikely to dissipate any time soon, and with many analysts claiming that the issue could well imperil her run for The White House, Clinton has now admitted that in fact, her private server did contain classified e-mails. Here’s the story from WSJ:
Hillary Clinton’s campaign said Wednesday that emails on the private server she used when she was secretary of state contained material that is now classified, the clearest explanation thus far of an issue that has roiled her bid for the presidency.
At the same time, the campaign sought to play down the disclosure by saying the material had been retroactively classified out of an abundance of caution by U.S. intelligence agencies.
“She was at worst a passive recipient of unwitting information that subsequently became deemed as classified,” said Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign.
Mrs. Clinton has been criticized for using a private email server when she was in office. Since 2013, the server was maintained by a small Denver company and stored at a secure data center in New Jersey until it was turned over to the FBI last week. Her use of the server has prompted an FBI counterintelligence investigation.
Republicans portrayed the Clinton campaign’s disclosure as a tacit admission that her previous statements about the partisan direction of the investigation were in error. Earlier this year, Mrs. Clinton said “there is no classified material,” before shifting her emphasis to say she didn’t receive any materials marked as classified.
“Secretary Clinton has repeatedly made false claims about her email records, and her charge that these investigations are partisan have been widely ridiculed. If she and her campaign are having a change of heart, she should personally admit the truth and retract her false statements,” said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner.
While it's certainly disconcerting that the nation's one-time top diplomat was sending and receiving sensitive information over an unsecure private e-mail server, the issue for Clinton - because it would probably be naive to think that anyone besides voters will actually hold her accountable - is that her handling of the ordeal has served to reinforce the perception that she's too arrogant and untrustworthy to be given the reins to the country.
That is, the public was already wary of electing yet another member of America's political aristocracy (or oligarchy, if you will) and the fact that Clinton apparently expects Americans to believe that she had no idea the information she was receiving on her home server might one day be deemed classified (even though she's been privy to such information in various capacities for decades) seems to underscore her arrogance and highlight her propsensity to, as Jean Claude-Juncker famously put it, lie when "things become serious."