That claim is being made in some quarters today, based on the latest batch of Wikileaks emails from the account of John Podesta. The Hill, for example, headlines “Clinton camp appeared to have contacts with DOJ on email case.” Drudge headlines “CAMPAIGN DISCUSSIONS WITH DOJ!” The New York Post cites the Trump campaign’s characterization of the leaked emails: “Emails show Clinton ‘colluded’ with DOJ: Trump campaign.” NBC’s Tom Winter may have gotten the ball rolling by tweeting, “NEW: Hacked e-mails from Wikileaks appear to show Clinton campaign spokesman in touch with DOJ officials regarding e-mail litigation.” Trump himself called Winter’s tweet “unbelievable.”
The issue is raised by a series of emails in May 2015. Although I haven’t seen this noted in the press, the thread begins on the evening of May 18 (8:51 p.m.) with an email from an unidentified person at DOJ to Brian Fallon, formerly with Justice but now working for the Clinton campaign:
“This” was a filing by the government in the lawsuit in which plaintiff Vice News was trying to pry loose Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails, which are supposed to be available via a Freedom of Information Act request. Within minutes, Fallon forwarded the email to a number of the usual Hillary suspects–Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills et al.:
To her credit, Cheryl Mills apparently thought DOJ was taking a ridiculously optimistic approach: it was just May, and they didn’t want to produce any emails at all until January 2016.
Heh. Sometimes liberals even surprise themselves.
Next there is a series of emails, all on the evening of May 18, in which Ms. Abedin et al talk about scheduling a conference call for early the following morning. After that comes Brian Fallon’s email the next morning, which is one of the ones critics have seized upon:
A week later, Fallon added this reminder:
So, what does this mean? Is it evidence of illicit cooperation between the Hillary campaign and the Department of Justice?
No. These are extremely routine communications between friendly parties. (Remember that for present purposes, Hillary is not a potential felon under investigation by the FBI, she is a former Secretary of State whose documents are being produced.) The filing of briefs, scheduling of hearings and issuance of court orders are matters of public record. There is nothing wrong with a lawyer at DOJ telling someone–a former colleague, or anyone else–that Justice has filed a brief; that a hearing will take place; and so on. The Clintons have involved themselves in countless scandals over the years, but this isn’t one of them.
Still, it is interesting that DOJ kept in touch with the Clinton campaign on the general subject of the State Department’s production of Hillary’s emails. DOJ took an extreme position, as Cheryl Mills’s reaction reflected, that was rejected by the presiding court.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t scandals connected with Hillary’s reckless handling of classified information at the State Department. Of course there are. The Wikileaks dump includes this email, from March 5, 2015, a couple of months earlier than the thread reproduced above. Hillary’s aides have concocted a statement on the State Department emails that Hillary has now approved, so it will be released:
I want the public to see my email. I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible.
This is a bad joke. Hillary’s statement was issued the day after the House’s Benghazi committee subpoenaed the emails from her illegal off-the-books server. We now know that a few weeks later, acting belatedly on Cheryl Mills’s instructions, a Platte River employee deleted 33,000 Hillary emails from her illegal server, many of which related to State Department business and some of which were under subpoena. And, as the Fallon emails reflect, the State Department, represented by DOJ, tried to delay release of any of the emails until January 2016, a ridiculous position.
So, bottom line: Hillary’s off-the-books server arrangement was scandalous in several respects, and DOJ’s refusal to indict Mrs. Clinton was the worst aspect of the scandal. But the fact that a DOJ lawyer passed on publicly available information about filings and hearing dates does not add materially to what we already knew.