Matthew Vadum: Dems Spin Furiously for Hillary

Democrats are circling the wagons to shield their likely 2016 presidential nominee after it was revealed that Hillary Clinton transacted sensitive government business using her personal email during her time as America’s top diplomat.

The Benghazi bungler, the nation has learned, set up an email system worthy of a James Bond movie villain when she became U.S. secretary of state in 2009. Mrs. Clinton used private instead of government email and even established her own private email server that has been traced back to her Chappaqua, N.Y., home address.

“You do not need a law degree to have an understanding of how troubling this is. There are chain of custody issues, there are preservation of material and documents issues [and] there spoliation of evidence issues,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), head of the Benghazi select committee. “One should also be concerned about the national security implications of former Secretary Clinton of using exclusively personal email accounts for the conducting of official U.S. foreign policy.”

Hillary, the longtime Saul Alinsky groupie who believes the ends justify the means, went through all this trouble because she didn’t want her performance in office to be an obstacle to her pursuit of the presidency. Eliminating a trail of documents that might have an adverse impact on her expected 2016 presidential run improves Clinton’s electoral chances. Clinton has turned over thousands of emails from her personal account to the Department of State in recent months, but that doesn’t change the fact that the records were not available to the public the last six years by way of Freedom of Information Act requests.

We can only imagine what’s in the missing trove of electronic correspondence. There could be evidence of Clinton’s mishandling of the terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead. There could be evidence that the donations that foreign governments have been flooding the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation with in recent years are in fact anticipatory bribes given in advance of a second Clinton administration. (There is already evidence that not all foreign donations to the foundation were vetted by the State Department.) The foundation itself serves as Mrs. Clinton’s de factocampaign headquarters and employs individuals likely to move over to her official campaign whenever she gets around to officially declaring herself a candidate for president.

Predictably, Democrats brushed off the discovery.

“I don’t think there’s any ill intent in this,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.

“People have different ways of communicating,” said Sen. Benjamin Cardin of Maryland. “I have a granddaughter who does nothing but text. You’ll never find a letter written with her. So everybody’s different.”

Steve Elmendorf, a Washington strategist and lobbyist, said the issue would fade away. It is “a chattering class issue that means nothing for her long-term prospects to win the election.”

Some Democrats are trying to defend Clinton by throwing out red herrings and raising irrelevant side issues, a favorite ploy of the Left.

“I don’t believe that the secretary of state should be responsible for figuring out whether it was dot gov vs. dot com, and quite honestly I don’t think most Americans wake up in the morning thinking about it,” said Rep. Steve Israel of New York, former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman.

Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware said, “I’d be surprised if a number of secretaries of state hadn’t done that for as long as we’ve had email.”

“That’s a nothing burger. Total,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer of California. “There isn’t one secretary of state that ever did that because the law didn’t change until after she left, so they’re making a mountain out of a molehill.”

Boxer is correct in saying that a new law governing official use of email came into effect after Clinton left Foggy Bottom, but she left out the fact that for decades before that federal law already required that official emails be preserved.

At National Review Online, Ian Tuttle refutes the silly claim made by Clinton defender David Brock that Clinton didn’t break the law by transacting official State Department business via a personal email account because “requirements to maintain such records did not exist during her tenure.”

Brock’s assertion is “bunk,” Tuttle writes.

He notes that the Federal Records Act of 1950 states:

The head of each Federal agency shall make and preserve records containing adequate and proper documentation of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions of the agency and designed to furnish the information necessary to protect the legal and financial rights of the Government and of persons directly affected by the agency’s activities.

The State Department itself ruled in 1995, long before then-First Lady Hillary Clinton was to become the nation’s top diplomat, that emails are records within the meaning of the law. The “Foreign Affairs Manual” states:

Another important modern improvement is the ease of communication now afforded to the Department world-wide through the use of E-mail. … All employees must be aware that some of the variety of the messages being exchanged on E-mail are important to the Department and must be preserved; such messages are considered Federal records under the law.

Jason R. Baron, a lawyer at Drinker Biddle & Reath who was previously director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration, also weighed in. He told reporters that he believed that “the sole use of a private email account by a high-level official to transact government business is plainly inconsistent with the Federal Records Act and longstanding policies of the National Archives.”

But facts rarely get in the way of political spin in Brock’s world. His pretended media watchdog group, Media Matters for America, put together a dishonest blog post that purports to exonerate Clinton. The title of the item, “Fox Legal Experts Agree: Hillary Clinton Did Not Violate The Law With Email,” sounds like a slam dunk.

The problem is the legal experts on Fox News Channel who spoke with Gretchen Carlson yesterday didn’t make definitive pronouncements clearing Clinton. The two former prosecutors carefully used their words during a rapid-fire discussion.

Former prosecutor Jonna Spilbor of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., first said Clinton didn’t break the law but then in the same breath qualified her remarks to make it clear she was assuming that Clinton has preserved the elusive emails and will make them available. In fact it is far from certain if the withheld emails still exist or whether they will ever see the light of day:

I’m going to say “no” because at the time that she did what she did, when she used her own personal email, the law was very nebulous. All it basically said is, if you’re going to use your own — it didn’t even say you couldn’t use your own personal email — it said any government use of email had to be preserved, so what did she violate? If we can get those emails now if she saved them on her desktop or wherever she saved them and they were preserved there’s no law broken.

Those are some mighty big ifs.

Former prosecutor Arthur Aidala of New York, N.Y., said Clinton is going to have trouble if there is “a huge gap” in the emails. “The email is a problem.”

Aidala continued:

“Benghazi is her biggest problem that we know of. That’s what they’re going to be looking at. They’re going to look at the sequence of what is turned over. This is what they do in a criminal case when you’re a regular person, but in terms of, was there a crime? You can’t be convicted of a crime that didn’t exist at the time you committed it,” he said, reciting a legal axiom that does not apply to this case.

He added that “When you become the secretary of state there is a common sense assumption that you’re going to use ‘Secretary Clinton’ at ‘US,’ blah blah blah blah, ‘dot’ US dot gov and not to Yahoo.”

Of course, whether the post at Media Matters actually makes sense is a separate question. Anyone reading the headline who doesn’t bother to watch the accompanying Fox News video will come away with the impression that legal experts think Clinton is being railroaded.

The Clinton email fiasco is a reminder of just how underhanded and lawless the Obama administration is. The email situation and the difficulty in locating former IRS senior official Lois Lerner’s computer hard drives together underscore how effective the administration is at making problems disappear.

Although President Obama once promised “the most transparent administration, ever,” his administration routinely ignores laws it doesn’t want to follow. This includes laws governing official use of email.

“Some ploys in this war on transparency are sophisticated, others comically crude,” writes Christopher C. Horner, author of The Liberal War on Transparency: Confessions of a Freedom of Information ‘Criminal’. “Many violate the letter of the law, and all of them violate the spirit of laws enacted to ‘let the public know what their government is up to.'”

Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and director of litigation for the American Tradition Institute, has detailed the abusive email practices of this administration.

Former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson used an email account registered to “Richard Windsor,” a fictitious EPA employee. Jackson conducted official business on the account with individuals both inside and outside the government. Department of Energy officials accessed 14 private email accounts to execute the loan guarantee program that benefitted scandal-plagued Solyndra.

When he was deputy chief of staff at the White House, Jim Messina reportedly used an AOL email account to convince industry to support the creation of Obamacare. Messina now runs Organizing for Action, Obama’s pressure group.

The Obama White House used a privately owned computer server to communicate with others when discussing the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the international organization pushing the myth of manmade global warming. The administration also “uses industry lobbyists as ‘cut-outs’ (go-betweens) to avoid direct written contact with groups, certain to be subject to” the Freedom of Information Act. Obama appointees have used “handles,” or code names, when discussing prominent  or controversial appointees who may become the subject of information requests, according to Horner.

If Hillary Clinton succeeds Obama as president, expect four to eight more years of nonstop lying and deceit. Hillary, like Obama, is constitutionally incapable of telling the truth.