On Hillary Clinton's Email Compliance

So, there was a big story in the New York Times yesterday reporting how Hillary Clinton "exclusively used a personal email account to conduct government business as secretary of state, State Department officials said, and may have violated federal requirements that officials' correspondence be retained as part of the agency's record."
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.

It was only two months ago, in response to a new State Department effort to comply with federal record-keeping practices, that Mrs. Clinton's advisers reviewed tens of thousands of pages of her personal emails and decided which ones to turn over to the State Department. All told, 55,000 pages of emails were given to the department. Mrs. Clinton stepped down from the secretary's post in early 2013.

...A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, Nick Merrill, defended her use of the personal email account and said she has been complying with the "letter and spirit of the rules."

Under federal law, however, letters and emails written and received by federal officials, such as the secretary of state, are considered government records and are supposed to be retained so that congressional committees, historians and members of the news media can find them.
This is a very big deal. It is indeed a violation of the Federal Records Act, and there is simply no justification for such a violation.

In 2007, Joseph Hughes and I collaborated on a piece detailing a similar violation of the Federal Records Act by multiple members of the Bush administration. At the time, not only did very few people care about this violation, and precious few reporters covered it at all, but I found myself having to explain over and over why this was a violation that mattered; why we need to care that public officials use private email for official communications.

So it will certainly be interesting to watch how this story unfolds, in terms of the amount of coverage it gets and the level of criticism Clinton receives as a result, compared to the administration-wide practice by the Bush administration.

To be abundantly clear: I'm not arguing that Clinton should not face scrutiny as a result of this disclosure. To the contrary, I believe the Bush administration should have received a great deal more scrutiny than it did.

And because I so keenly remember the yawning indifference, of the media and of average USians, to the Bush administration email scandal, I will note that, if this turns into a massive story for Clinton, a potentially presidential-derailing story, it is not because people give a shit about compliance with the Federal Records Act, unless people have suddenly developed an inexplicable fondness for it in the intervening eight years.

What I know for sure is that conservatives will be all over this. And they will have a point. And I honestly cannot fathom why Hillary Clinton would have given them such a huge gift by failing to comply with federal law.

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