Hillary Clinton made a decision when she became Secretary of State to base her emails not in the State Department’s server in Washington, but in a private server in her home in New York. That sounds remarkable, and indeed it is. It has proved a massive Achilles heel for her campaign.
She has put forward a series of justifications for this, most of which have been spurious – that she only wanted to carry one mobile device, that she was told by Colin Powell that it would be alright, that other people have done it. This all feeds into a whole series of questions about Hillary Clinton’s honesty, but it also reveals a singular truism that the Clintons cling to, which is this: it’s better to get caught than ask permission.
The reasoning is, you might get away with it. And if you do get caught, you apologise and move on. That has been an operating principle both Bill and Hillary Clinton have adhered to throughout their political careers going right back to Arkansas.
They have always been at the forefront of their generation, and have always pushed at the maxims and rules that the generation before them lived by. I don’t think for a second that she made this decision on her own – and the emails that have come out have revealed as being about as tech savvy as most 68 or 69-year-olds are likely to be. She calls on her aides constantly to remind her how to use various bits of technology, so I don’t think she plotted to do this to hide all her emails.
The problem is that by deleting the emails on that server, it raises the question of whether anything was deleted that shouldn’t have been. As soon as you enter government service, your emails come under the Federal Records Act, and they have to be retained.
She has been interviewed by the FBI, as have her aides, which put the FBI in a difficult position. If they had come down on her harshly, they would have been accused of exerting undue influence on a presidential election. If they went too light, they’d have been accused of favouritism.
I don’t know if we will ever truly know if laws were broken, and if so by whom. How do you prove who deleted 30,000 emails? I’m surprised, I have to say, that nobody has been scapegoated – which speaks to her loyalty to her staff, and a belief among the Clinton team that they did nothing wrong.