The “prebranding” of Hillary Clinton

The New York Times reports that Hillary Clinton used a personal email account — and only a personal email account — to send emails in connection with government business while she was Secretary of State. According to the Times:

Mrs. Clinton did not have a government email address during her four-year tenure at the State Department. Her aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved on department servers at the time, as required by the Federal Records Act.

Clinton therefore appears to have violated federal regulations. Says the Times:

Regulations from the National Archives and Records Administration at the time required that any emails sent or received from personal accounts be preserved as part of the agency’s records. But Mrs. Clinton and her aides failed to do so.

It was not until two months ago, nearly two years after Clinton had resigned from the State Department, that her aides, in response to a new State Department effort to comply with federal record-keeping practices, reviewed tens of thousands of pages of her personal emails and decided which ones to turn over to the State Department. They eventually turned over 55,000 pages of emails.

Only the Clinton aides know how many emails involving official business they did not turn over. And even these aides probably don’t know whether or to what extent Clinton’s emails previously were purged.

There are good reasons why, except in special circumstances, the Secretary of State shouldn’t conduct public business on a private email account. One reason is to ensure the preservation of records.

Such records are of general historical interest. In addition, they may be of interest in connection with specific investigations such as, say, the Benghazi investigation. In fact, the existence of Clinton’s personal email account was discovered by the House committee that, under the leadership of Trey Gowdy, is investigating this matter.

State Department business shouldn’t be conducted by personal email for the additional reason that personal emails are not secure. But Hillary Clinton, who always saw her job at State as a stepping stone to the White House, placed her political ambition above considerations of national security.

Will this story hurt Clinton? Michael Schmidt, who broke it for The Times, seems to think so:

The revelation about the private email account echoes longstanding criticisms directed at both the former secretary and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, for a lack of transparency and inclination toward secrecy.

Schmidt contrasts Clinton’s secrecy to the transparency of one of her rivals for the presidency:

Others who, like Mrs. Clinton, are eyeing a candidacy for the White House are stressing a very different approach. Jeb Bush, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, released a trove of emails in December from his eight years as governor of Florida.

These aren’t wonderful times for Hillary Clinton, what with Schmidt’s private email account story and revelations about about the dealings of the Clinton Foundation. While Hillary Clinton’s marketers strain to “rebrand” her, reality seems intent on “prebranding” her.

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