Hillary’s Email Defense Is Laughable – Dan Metcalfe – POLITICO Magazine

The Hildabeast

The Hildabeast

I thought when I retired from the Justice Department in 2007, I was done with records-related scandals. By that point, I had spent more than a quarter-century as founding director of the Justice Department’s Office of Information and Privacy, effectively serving as the federal government’s chief information-disclosure “guru.” In that position, I had weathered many a Clinton records scandal during the 1990s—about two dozen, all told, including two that amazingly have still never become public—and I thought I had seen the last of them. At the very least, I thought I had become immune to being shocked by anything in that vein.

It turns out I was wrong on both counts.

We now have former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton being revealed as someone who took the unprecedented step of arranging to use her personal email account for all of her official email communications. What’s more, she decided to use her own email server equipment, rather than a commercial Internet service provider, so that the records of her email account would reside solely within her personal control at home. And if that were not enough, she then proceeded blithely—though not uncharacteristically—to present herself to the public, at a press conference held on March 10, as if there were really nothing “wrong” about any of this at all.

Well, as the saying goes, “reality is not her friend.”

For anyone considering this sad tale carefully—including the media, members of Congress and the public at large, whether from “inside the Beltway” or not—some basic points of both law and reality should be borne in mind.

First, while it is accurate for Secretary Clinton to say that when she was in office there was not a flat, categorical prohibition on federal government officials ever using their personal email accounts for the conduct of official business, that’s a far different thing from saying (as she apparently would like to) that a government official could use his or her personal email account exclusively, for all official email communications, as she actually did. In fact, the Federal Records Act dictates otherwise.

That law, which applies to all federal agency employees who are not within the White House itself, requires the comprehensive documentation of the conduct of official business, and it has long done so by regulating the creation, maintenance, preservation and, ultimately, the disposition of agency records. When it comes to “modern-day” email communications, as compared to the paper memoranda of not so long ago, these communications now are themselves the very means of conducting official business, by definition.

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