The emergence of nearly 15,000 more deleted emails and evidence of shady dealings by her family’s foundation have put Hillary Clinton back on the defensive. That’s a bad place to be as the presidential campaign kicks into high gear on Labor Day.
Team Clinton is offering excuses and misdirection, hoping the press tires of the controversies and that Donald Trump creates more of his own. But the unconvincing explanations being offered create more problems than they solve, raise more questions than they answer, and bring Mrs. Clinton’s credibility to a nearly total collapse.
First are the denials that anything is amiss. On Aug. 21, CNN’s Dana Bash asked Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, if giving special treatment to Clinton Foundation donors was “the kind of back-scratching that has Americans just turned off.” Mr. Mook demurred: “There was no quid pro quo or anything like that.” But there was.
Questioned the same day by CBS’s John Dickerson about the private email account, Mr. Mook claimed that “Secretary Clinton wasn’t the first person to do this.” But she was. No other secretary of state had a private server, refused to use the department’s secure system, and then destroyed thousands of emails.
Mr. Mook also suggested on CBS that the rules governing such things were “very murky.” But they weren’t. The rules were clear: No State Department official should use personal email for official business, let alone set up a private server.
Mr. Mook’s comment goes to Mrs. Clinton’s intent. If she had felt that the rules were murky, she should have asked the State Department’s Office of the Legal Adviser to clarify, but apparently she didn’t. However, if her goal was to avoid disclosing her emails, then the last people she would have asked to weigh in would be the department’s impartial lawyers.
This is important now that the FBI plans to release the summary of its interrogation of Mrs. Clinton. Americans may soon find out whether she sought legal advice—and from whom—before carrying out her email scheme.
On CNN, Mr. Mook dismissed the continuing controversy as “another example of a right-wing group just trying to keep this, the questions coming and keep this issue alive.” But distinctly not-conservative outlets in the mainstream press have provided extensive coverage.
For instance, the AP reported last week that of the 154 nongovernmental persons who had meetings or phone calls scheduled with Secretary Clinton in the first half of her tenure, at least 85 were Clinton Foundation donors. Clintonistas complained that the AP’s report ignored her meetings with government officials. But that she met with plenty of diplomats and bureaucrats is irrelevant; that most of her meetings with people outside of government involved donors to her family foundation is prima facie evidence of special treatment.
Team Clinton also suggested that the ends justify the means. Mr. Mook told CBS that “the Clinton Foundation does incredible charitable work.” Longtime Clinton factotum James Carville argued on MSNBC that the foundation saves lives, denouncing attacks on it in religious terms: “Somebody is going to hell over this.”
It is a desperate argument to keep a slush fund running. Other charities—say, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—could easily assume the Clinton Foundation’s humanitarian activities and do them better, without the stench of corruption.
Mr. Mook made his most ludicrous claim by telling CBS that on ethics rules Mrs. Clinton and the foundation “have actually gone above and beyond.” But they haven’t.
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