Hillary’s “classified” excuse doesn’t wash

Scott has called today’s McClatchy story about Hillary Clinton’s emails “must read.” I agree.

McClatchy reports that the classified emails known to have been stored on the former Secretary of State’s private server contained information from five intelligence agencies, and included material related to the fatal 2012 Benghazi attacks. And this, if I understand correctly, is just from a sample of 40 emails.

Clinton’s defense continues to be that she “did not send nor received anything that was classified at the time.” (emphasis added) But even if this turns out to be true, it is not a satisfactory response for several reasons.

First, Clinton knew or should have known that some of the material she sent and/or received might well eventually be deemed classified. That’s the nature of the beast. It’s also one of the reasons why officials like Clinton are not supposed to use private email servers. As Bradley Moss, an attorney who specializes in national security matters, told McClatchy:

[T]he fact that classified information was identified within the emails is exactly why use of private emails . . . is not supposed to be allowed. Both she and her team made a serious management mistake that no one should ever repeat.

A mistake from the perspective of national security? Yes. A mistake from the perspective of protecting and advancing Hillary Clinton’s personal interests? We’ll see.

The second problem with Clinton’s defense is that, as a friend points out, even if the material in question was not classified when initially sent or received, it very likely was classified by the time she turned it over to her attorney David Kendall for review. And keep in mind that Clinton had an alternative to giving the material to Kendall. She could have given it to the State Department for review. In fact, she was obligated to do so.

Third, Clinton’s “defense” doesn’t explain why she falsely represented that she had turned over all of her business related emails. It already seems clear that she didn’t turn over certain Sidney Blumenthal emails that are business related. I’d be surprised if there aren’t other such emails she didn’t produce.

A final thought about Clinton’s disclosure of classified documents to her private lawyer. As my friend, a former big firm lawyer notes, when documents are turned over to a law firm, copies typically get made — often paper copies. And the firm keeps copies not just of what it produces on behalf of its client, but also of what it declined to produce.

It may be that (and it would be interesting to know whether) Clinton’s legal team tried to destroy these materials at some point. If so, there’s still a good chance that some documents are sitting in this or that attorney’s individual files. And even if the documents were deleted from the law firm server, the server (and individual attorney computers) may not have been wiped completely clean.

So Clinton’s best efforts notwithstanding, many (maybe even most) of the emails she purged may be recoverable.