As we anxiously await the results out of Iowa, where we’ll get the first real test of whether “protest” candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have a legitimate shot at upending America’s political establishment, Hillary Clinton is fighting to convince the electorate that the scandal involving her use of a private e-mail server to transmit state secrets is largely a distraction dreamed up by the GOP to derail what might otherwise have been a largely uncontested run for The White House.
Last week, the State Department admitted that 22 of the e-mails Clinton sent on her private server were indeed “top secret” and would not be released to the public. 18 additional e-mails from Clinton to President Obama are also being withheld. “The disclosure of the top secret emails, three days before Iowans vote in the first-in-the-nation caucuses, is certain to fuel the political debate over the unclassified computer server,” The New York Times wrote on Friday. “The top secret emails lent credence to criticism by Mrs. Clinton’s rivals in the presidential race of her handling of classified information while she was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013."
The Clinton campaign respondeed by saying that the process for reviewing the e-mails "appears to be over-classification run amok" - whatever that means.
“This is very much like Benghazi,” Clinton said during an interview with ABC. “Republicans are going to continue to use it, beat up on me. I understand that. That's the way they are.”
The extent to which the controversy has dented Clinton's reputation with voters is still up for debate but it's probably safe to say that the former First Lady would be polling stronger had she kept state business out of her personal inbox when she was Secretary of State.
Put simply, to the extent Americans trusted Clinton in the first place, the e-mail controversy undermines their faith in one of Washington's most seasoned politicians.
On Monday, Clinton spoke to CNN about the e-mails and about what separates her from Bernie Sanders, the only serious challenge she faces for the Democratic nomination.
In what may go down as one of the most amusing soundbites of her campaign, Clinton told CNN she that she's "asking people to hold her accountable."
"I know how you get things done. I am a progressive who wants to make progress and actually produce real results in people's lives. That's what I'm offering," Clinton said.
"I'm not over-promising," she continued. "I'm laying out the plans that I have, I'm asking people to look at them and I'm asking people to hold me accountable, because I want to get back to working together, to try to unite this country."
We assume that since Clinton wants us to "hold her accountable", she'll happily march over to the Justice Department and indict herself.
Separately, former State Department inspector general and Harvard-educated lawyer Howard Krongard says Clinton's use of a personal server was no accident.
“This was all planned in advance” to skirt rules governing federal records management," he told The New York Post which notes that Clinton "was never assigned and never used a state.gov email address like previous secretaries."
“That’s a change in the standard. It tells me that this was premeditated. And this eliminates claims by the State Department that they were unaware of her private email server until later,” Krongard said in an exclusive interview. “How else was she supposed to do business without email?”
Krongard also points out the "unusual" absence of an inspector general during Clinton's term as America's top diplomat. “This is a major gap. In fact, it’s without precedent,” he said. “It’s the longest period any department has gone without an IG.”
“It’s clear," Krongard concludes, "that she did not want to be subject to internal investigations.”