Asked Tuesday if she had wiped her server to delete the emails she had sent while serving as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton should have said “yes” or “no.” Instead Mrs. Clinton was evasive.
She first pleaded ignorance, stuttering “I have no idea.” Fox News’s Ed Henry pressed her, saying, “You were the official in charge of it. Did you wipe the server?” Mrs. Clinton then tried sarcasm: “Like with a cloth or something?”
Pushed a third time, Mrs. Clinton said, “In order to be as cooperative as possible, we have turned over the server.” The truth is that it wasn’t up to her whether to cooperate. She was compelled to do so by an FBI investigation.
Mrs. Clinton also said, “We turned over everything that was work related, every single thing.” Except that has been proven false. A former adviser, Sidney Blumenthal, turned over to the House Select Committee on Benghazi at least 15 emails he sent to Mrs. Clinton about Libya that were not among the messages she provided to the State Department.
Tuesday’s news conference in North Las Vegas provided the latest installments in a series of misleading statements Mrs. Clinton has made since aides announced that last December they had turned over to the State Department 31,000 work-related emails.
In early March, it was revealed that Mrs. Clinton had used only a personal email account to conduct official business as secretary of state—potentially a violation of federal regulations. The Associated Press then traced the account to a private server at her home in Chappaqua, N.Y.
On March 4, Mrs. Clinton first addressed the emerging scandal by tweeting: “I want the public to see my email. I asked State to release them.” Anyone paying attention can see that claim was false. She had used a private server precisely to keep her emails from being disclosed.
During a March 10 press conference, she admitted that she had deleted more than 30,000 “personal” emails and insisted, “I did not email any classified material to anyone.” The first statement was a surprise and the second untrue. By June 29 inspectors general for the State Department and intelligence agencies revealed that Mrs. Clinton’s private account contained “hundreds of potentially classified emails.” Some of them even included top secret information derived from satellites and signals intelligence.
On July 7, in her first televised interview on the subject, Mrs. Clinton told CNN’s Brianna Keilar, “I’ve never had a subpoena” and “everything I did was permitted by law and regulation.”
Both statements were untrue. The next day, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R., S.C.), chairman of the Benghazi committee, released the subpoena that it had issued March 4 for Mrs. Clinton’s emails. The former federal prosecutor explained it was not the committee’s practice to make subpoenas public but did so to correct the former first lady’s claim.
And if law and regulation had permitted her actions, Mrs. Clinton’s aides would have shoved those statutes and rules in reporters’ faces. She apparently never cleared using a private email server for official business with State Department lawyers.
After the evidence mounted that she had, in fact, received emails with classified information, Mrs. Clinton started getting even more slippery, saying July 25 that “I did not send nor receive anything that was classified at the time.” That, too, is apparently untrue. The day before, a spokeswoman for the State Department’s inspector general said at least four emails “were classified when they were sent.”
After this avalanche of false claims, Mrs. Clinton decided to try stand-up comedy, telling an audience Friday that she loved her Snapchat account because “those messages disappear all by themselves.” When that fell flat, she reached into the Clinton bag of tricks and claimed the email controversy was simply “the same old partisan games we’ve seen so many times before.”
Does Mrs. Clinton really believe that two inspectors general appointed by President Barack Obama, the notoriously independent FBI Director James Comey and his agency and Attorney General Loretta Lynch—whose Justice Department now possesses the server—are a pack of Republican attack dogs?
It’s obvious what happened. In a reckless and potentially illegal act of paranoia, Mrs. Clinton decided to keep her emails private—and that the rules didn’t apply to her. Since her scheme was discovered, she has wounded herself with misleading statements or flat-out lies, putting herself in legal jeopardy, diminishing her standing with voters, and damaging her reputation.
In a Fox News survey last week, 58% of voters said they thought Mrs. Clinton had “knowingly lied” about her emails; only 2% said they thought she had told the truth. For this, Mrs. Clinton has no one to blame but herself.
A version of this article appeared August 20, 2015, in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline Clinton's Self-Inflicted Wounds and online at WSJ.com.