Hillary Clinton has painted herself into a corner: The former secretary of state – who was trained to identify sensitive intelligence – now claims classified emails she composed and sent over her “home brew” server were not in violation of federal law.
Clinton told Fox News’ Brett Baier during Monday’s town hall debate from Detroit, Michigan, that she did not violate a subsection of the Espionage Act related to “gross negligence” in handling government documents as secretary of state. Her reasoning: Emails were not explicitly identified as secret, top secret, or otherwise.
The Sensitive Compartmented Information Nondisclosure Agreement she signed after becoming President Obama’s top diplomat, however, placed the onus on her to recognize sensitive intelligence.
“I understand that it is my responsibility to consult with appropriate management authorities in the Department … in order to ensure that I know whether information or material within my knowledge or control that I have reason to believe might be SCI,” the agreement said, the Washington Free Beacon reported Nov. 6, 2015.
A key exchange between Baier and Clinton went as follows:
Baier: “Let me just clarify, the State Department has redacted and declared 2,101 of your work emails classified, at least at the confidential level, 44 classified as secret, 22 classified as top secret. So you said at a March press conference in 2015, quote: ‘I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material.’ So can we say definitively that that statement is not accurate?”
Clinton: “No, you can’t. Here’s what happened, the State Department has a process for determining what is or isn’t classified. If they determine it is, they mark it as classified.”
Baier: “Well, who decides –”
Clinton: “The State Department decides.”
Baier: “But what about you when you’re typing an email?”
Clinton: “No, the State Department decides what is – and let me go a step further here, I will reiterate, because it’s a fact, nothing I sent or received was marked classified. Now, what happens when you ask or when you are asked to make information public is that it’s reviewed and different agencies come in with their opinions. As you know, just recently, Colin Powell’s emails were retroactively classified from more than 10 years ago. As he said, that was an absurdity. I could not agree more.”
Baier: “So your contention now is the 2,101 emails contained information that shouldn’t be classified at any time, they should be – now or then, you’re just saying it shouldn’t have been classified?”
Clinton: “Well, what I’m saying is, it wasn’t at the time.”
Judge Andrew Napolitano appeared on “Fox and Friends” Tuesday morning and said Clinton’s “word game” was finally exposed by Baier’s questioning.
“For her to say, ‘I neither sent nor received anything classified’ is a word game because nothing is marked classified. It is marked confidential, secret or top secret,” said Napolitano, the Daily Caller reported. “[She] signed an oath her first day in office. In which she said, I understand my legal obligation is to know what is secret, whether it is marked secret or not. I also understand that the failure to recognize that could be criminal in nature. So what makes something confidential, secret or top secret is not a stamp marked on it, it’s the essence of the e-mail. […] She had a legal obligation to know that that would affect national security.”
The Washington Post reported March 5 that Clinton wrote 104 emails that she sent using her private server while secretary of state.
“In roughly three-quarters of those cases, officials have determined that material Clinton herself wrote in the body of email messages is classified,” the newspaper reported. “Clinton sometimes initiated the conversations but more often replied to aides or other officials with brief reactions to ongoing discussions.”
The FBI investigation into the former secretary of state’s handling of government documents entered a new phase last week when it was revealed the U.S. Justice Department gave immunity from prosecution to Bryan Pagliano, a State Department employee who helped set up and manage Clinton’s server.
Pagliano worked on Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and then joined the State Department in 2009 to set up the private server inside her New York home.
FBI agents assigned to the investigation are also trying to determine whether co-mingling of the Clinton Foundation and State Department business violated public corruption laws.
Clinton currently holds 1,130 delegates of the 2,383 needed to become the Democratic Party’s 2016 presidential nominee. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has won 499 delegates.