Can anyone here play this game: When she was secretary of state, was Hillary Clinton "extremely careless" with her email pactices?
James B. Comey—"Comey the God—first made that claim on July 5, in a dramatic and irregular public statement. As we noted yesterday, Comey's claim involves 110 emails which he described this way:
COMEY (7/5/16): From the group of 30,000 e-mails returned to the State Department in 2014, 110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received. Eight of those chains contained information that was top secret at the time they were sent; 36 of those chains contained secret information at the time; and eight contained confidential information at the time. That's the lowest level of classification.According to Comey the God, Clinton should have known that the material in these emails was classified by its very nature. According to Comey, though these emails weren't formally marked classified, competent people should have known that they were classified by their very nature—"born classified."
Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of the classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.
For example, seven e-mail chains concerned matters that were classified at the top secret special access program at the time they were sent and received. Those chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending e-mails about those matters and receiving e-mails about those same matters.
There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton's position or in the position of those with whom she was corresponding about the matters should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation.
Two Sundays ago, Clinton spoke with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. Some of her comments about what Comey said seemed to be inaccurate. But at several points, she seemed to dispute what Comey had said about The Should Have Known 110:
CLINTON (7/31/16): I was communicating with over 300 people in my e-mailing. They certainly did not believe, and had no reason to believe, that what they were sending was classified.In those passages, Clinton seemed to dispute the claim that the material in those emails was "born classified"—that professionals should have known that the material, by its very nature, should only have been discussed in the way it was.
I take classification seriously. I relied on, and had every reason to rely on, the judgments of the professionals with whom I worked. And so, in retrospect, maybe some people are saying, "Well, among those 300 people, they made the wrong call."
At the time, there was no reason in my view to doubt the professionalism and the determination by the people who work every single day on behalf of our country.
Does Clinton dispute Comey's assessment of the 110 emails? In this piece for Slate, Fred Kaplan provided the rationale for such a disagreement. But as is the norm in our "national discourse," Kaplan's piece came and went without generating any further discussion. As we've often noted, discussion has basically ceased to exist within our "national discourse."
Does Clinton dispute Comey's assessment of the 110 emails? That seems to be the question which emerged from her somewhat jumbled discussion with Wallace.
How lucky! Five days later, NBC's Kristen Welker got the chance to pose two questions to Clinton about this very matter. That said, can anyone here play this game?
Below, you see the text of Welker's two questions for Clinton. The exchange begins at 23:30 on this videotape:
WELKER (8/5/16): Madame Secretary, your poll numbers went way up this week, and yet the email controvery was still in the headlines. So I want to give you the opportunity to respond.Can anyone here play this game?
This week, you told two separate news organizations that FBI Director James Comey said, quote, My answers were truthful, and that what I said was consistent with what I have told the American people.
That assertion, as you know, has been debunked by multiple news organizations which point out that Director Comey did say there's no indication that you lied to the FBI, but he didn't weigh in on whether or not you were truthful to the American people.
So my question for you is, are you mischaracterizing Director Comey's testimony? And is this not undercutting your efforts to rebuild trust with the American people?
WELKER: Is the one inconsistency, though, that you said you never sent or received classified material, and he did say there were thre emails that were marked classified. Is that an inconsistency?
For the record, Welker's first question made perfect sense. When she spoke with Wallace, Clinton did mischaracterize part of what Comey had said. Welker's initial question addressed this obvious point.
But good God, that second question! Rather than discuss the 110 emails, Welker asked about the three emails which, according to Comey, were actually "marked" as classified. Since Comey acknowledged under questioning that those emails had been marked incorrectly, this has basically ceased to be a serious point of dispute.
In response to that second question, Clinton simply explained, all over again, that the three "marked" emails hadn't been marked correctly. This left the outstanding point of dispute completely unaddressed.
Does Clinton dispute Comey's assessment of the 110 "born classified" emails? Does she dispute his claim that it was "extremely careless" to handle such material in the way she and her associates did?
Kaplan did dispute Comey's assessment in his piece for Slate. But his piece was never mentioned again, and Welker seemed to have no idea where the real dispute lies.
As a result of Welker's question, the remaining apparent point of dispute remained unaddressed.
Doggone it! Subsequent discussion of this exchange didn't turn on Clinton's reaction to the key question which went unasked. Instead, in a typical manifestation, it turned on Clinton's use of the term "short-circuited" at one point in this exchange.
Welker prepped at Germantown Friends. She graduated from Harvard in the class of 98. She's a big major journalist TV star. She left the key question unasked.
Can anyone here play this game? Frequently, we swivel toward our young analysts and we thoughtfully ask.