What did Hillary Clinton do wrong?


“At the end of the day, I am sorry that this has been confusing to people.”

That’s how Hillary Clinton summed up her email controversy in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on September 4.

Indeed, those who haven’t closely followed developments may be confused as to what, exactly, Clinton did—and what, if anything, she allegedly did wrong. Here’s an attempt to sort it out in simple terms.

Clinton may have done nothing of significance wrong. She has not been charged with any violations of ethics, regulations or laws and it’s possible she may never be.

Read Clinton’s email explanations

Issues under public discussion include: possible violations of Freedom of Information Act law, federal records rules and laws, and handling of classified material.

“Mistake in judgment.”

Clinton has acknowledged she made a mistake in judgment. She describes her error as using one electronic device for both work and personal email, as secretary of state, out of convenience.

But the controversy isn’t about mixing work and private email. It’s over the fact that Clinton circumvented the government email system altogether and conducted government business on a personal email system that she established and controlled.

This meant Clinton’s work-related emails, which are owned by the public, were not directly searchable or accessible in response to subpoenas from court cases and Congress, or in response to Freedom of Information Act requests from the public and press. Think of it as an email system that was “off the grid.” Critics say it also meant that Clinton exposed sensitive government business, some of it classified, to unnecessary security risks.

Changing stories.

Clinton’s initial explanation for using a private server and email was that it was for “convenience.” On March 10, she told reporters she found it “easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails.” However, it was soon revealed that she did use multiple devices, an iPad and a blackberry, so that explanation didn’t make sense.

Since then, Clinton has redefined how she defines the controversy saying: “I should have used two email addresses” rather than devices.

However, mixing work and personal on a single device or email isn’t the crux of the controversy at all. In fact, if Clinton had used her government—rather than personal—device or email system for both work and personal emails, as former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood did, there would likely be no great fuss today.

Other story shifting.

As Clinton’s statements have repeatedly allegedly proven untrue, she has modified her story.

On March 10, Clinton claimed unequivocally that there was no classified material on her system. “I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material. I’m certainly well-aware of the classification requirements and did not send classified material.”

Soon, federal investigators indicated that Clinton’s statement was incorrect: they said there was classified material among the emails. Clinton then changed her story.

On July 28, Clinton modified her claim to say that the information in question was not classified at the time. “I am confident that I never sent nor received any information that was classified at the time it was sent and received [emphasis added].”

But then, the inspector general of the Intelligence Community indicated even Clinton’s modified statement was incorrect: her emails did contain information that was classified at the time. Clinton then revised her story again.

On August 18, Clinton modified her claim to say that the classified material wasn’t marked classified. “I did not send classified material, and I did not receive any material that was marked or designated classified [emphasis added].”

The implication is that Clinton couldn’t have known the material was classified because it wasn’t marked. However, officials with government security clearances are well-briefed on the fact that material doesn’t have to be “marked” to be classified, and they are trained on how to recognize and protect sensitive material.

Timing of turning over email.

Clinton left office February 1, 2013. But she didn’t give the State Department her work-related emails until December of 2014, nearly two years later; and did so only after the House Benghazi Committee formed and the State Department wrote Clinton asking for the emails.

Timing of deleting personal email.

Clinton unilaterally deleted tens of thousands of emails that she said were personal in nature. She has not answered exactly when the deletions took place but has narrowed the timeframe to sometime in fall of 2014, after the State Department asked for her copies of her work email and after the House Benghazi Committee formed. To critics, the sudden decision to delete huge blocks of email after approximately two years suggests something other than a coincidental, routine or casual action.

Timing of deleting work email.

Clinton unilaterally deleted record of tens of thousands of work emails after providing 55,000 pages of hard copies to the State Department on Dec. 5, 2014. Though Clinton won’t say exactly when the deletions took place, she has narrowed the timeframe to sometime between Dec. of 2014, after the House Benghazi Committee formed; and March of 2015, shortly before she announced her candidacy for president. She has not answered whether, in addition to deleting the emails, she also “wiped” the server clean to prevent easy retrieval of the records. To critics, the sudden decision to delete all of her work email after approximately two years, in the midst of the House Benghazi committee investigation, suggests something other than a coincidental, routine or casual action.


So far, the public, Congress and State Department have had to rely on Clinton’s word that she turned over all of her work-related emails. However, critics suggest she did not tell the truth because work emails that she allegedly did not turn over have surfaced through at least one of her associates and email correspondents: Sidney Blumenthal.

“It was allowed.”

Clinton argues use of a private email system was permitted as long as the email records were somehow preserved by somebody at the State Department. She claims that the records were properly preserved because she sent all work related emails to colleagues on their government accounts and so they would be captured on the State Department’s system on the receiving end.

However, this explanation has three primary flaws.

First, it relies on a sort of honor system; there’s no independent way to confirm that Clinton sent all work emails to government employees on their government accounts. Hypothetically, an official trying to hide wrongdoing might not be telling the truth.

Second, by Clinton’s own admission, the State Department may have been deprived of up to 10% of her work emails. Clinton stated, “more than 90%” of her emails “should have already been captured in the State Department’s email system.” But 100% of the emails are owned by the public and should have been on record.

Third, even if 100% of Clinton’s work emails were received by government officials, they were not necessarily properly subject to Freedom of Information requests, subpoenas and court requests. That’s because those seeking the material would have asked for a search of State Department records–not knowing that Clinton wasn’t using that email system. If Clinton emailed somebody at the White House, for example, from her private server, a search of State Department email would not have produced that public record.

Full Measure begins Oct. 4. Watch it on a Sinclair station or livestream at 9:30a Eastern at FullMeasure.news

Full Measure begins Oct. 4. Watch it on a Sinclair station or livestream at 9:30a Eastern at FullMeasure.news


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13 Responses to “What did Hillary Clinton do wrong?”

  1. Nun
    September 23, 2015 at 11:57 pm #

    I’m stunned that this article considers this kind of mishandling of classified material “nothing of significance.” We already know for certain that Blumenthal’s email was hacked, and we know that she was the originator of email containing classified material. This includes at least 2 email marked TS/SI. SCI intelligence is usually kept on paper only and in read rooms. Clinton aides allegedly put this into electronic form. That is not only significant but outrageous.

    • Danny P. Radcliff
      September 25, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

      TS/SCI information does occur in electronic form on closed networks such as JWICS (Reading rooms are not used much anymore, except for Special Access Program information. But, you are absolutely correct–the only way that type of information could end up on her server was for someone to retype it and remove the markings in the process. That is against the law and someone needs to answer for it.

      Any investigation that truly wanted to get to the bottom of this would be reading people their rights, putting people on polygraph machines, and aggressively going after the source, but clearly this “investigation” is all for show.

  2. Jerry Harrar
    September 24, 2015 at 8:23 am #

    Same old-same old……”the dog ate my homework” And she just keeps getting away with it! No accountability. Jerry H.

  3. Danny P. Radcliff
    September 24, 2015 at 9:13 am #

    This, once again, misses a very important point. The point being, if classified material (marked or unmarked) was on her server–how did it get there?

    In order for the classified information to be on a server that is connected to the internet, or the government version of the internet called NIPRNET a crime had to be committed. You can’t accidentally send classified emails from a classified network such as SIPRNET to NIPRNET or the internet–they are not connected–just so that sort of thing can’t happen.

    There are only two ways classified information could have gotten onto Clinton’s server. 1. Classified data was downloaded onto some media (thumb drive, CD, etc) from the classified network then deliberately uploaded onto the unsecure, unclassified server. 2. Classified information was typed into the system (i.e. read a classified document and retype portions onto the unsecure, unclassified server.

    That’s it. And guess what? Both are clear violations of the law and someone ought to be going to jail.

    When information is marked classified, only the originator of the data can declassify it. That is why all classified information is marked with “Classified By” and the author or source of the information is listed. So you can’t just decide to take out a word or paraphrase the information and take the markings off. ONLY designated senior officials are allowed to do that. They refer to a Classification Guide which describes what is classified about a particular subject and what is not. It’s a painstaking process, but a REQUIRED process.

    As stated in the article, everyone who has a security clearance is required by law to be well versed in the rules of engagement, and know what constitutes classified and what does not. Just because something is not marked does not mean it is no longer protected. If I read a newspaper and information in that paper is actually leaked classified information, I have to treat it as if it were marked.

    Clinton keeps claiming she had permission from the State Department to conduct all her email business on her own unclassified, unsecure system–does that make any sense at all to anyone? Who in there right mind would put their reputation and/or career on the line and actually, official authorize that? NO ONE WOULD. So why isn’t anyone asking Clinton to point out the organization, the office, the high-ranking official that gave her permission. WHY?

    Let’s face it. This administration isn’t interested in getting to the bottom of this. Obama only wants to hurt Clinton enough to ensure she won’t get elected. He is just as happy about the fact that most, if not all the emails from that time frame are lost for ever as Clinton is. That is why it has taken literally years for the FBI to get involved. He, however, is not going to allow the FBI or anyone else to bring those emails into the light. He just doesn’t want Clinton to replace him in the Oval Office. Neither do I, but for entirely different reasons.

    All those emails are out there somewhere. Those emails are on other people’s servers and computers. If this had been handled properly, all her devices would have been confiscated, including the original server just as soon as it became clear she was conducting official business on an non-government machine. Then every email would be traced to the recipient and that machine would be examined, and if the email was forwarded, those recipients machines would be examined, and so on and so on. That is how it should have been done. The fact that it wasn’t handled that way is telling.

  4. Stan Welli
    September 24, 2015 at 12:53 pm #

    The most serious issue is the deaths of four American men at Benghazi. The false claim that the massacre occurred because of “that awful video” was consistently repeated by Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and President Obama. The missing e-mails will most likely show that Clinton and Obama created this fable in order to cover up their negligence in not providing adequate security for the Benghazi outpost. At a minimum, the messages will likely show that they were aware of other information clearly showing that this was a planned terrorist attack as opposed to an ad hoc reaction to an obscure video.

    True, the complete file of e-mails may show other Clinton related corruption. But, considering the Clinton history, that’s to be expected.

    The title of this article asks, “What did Hillary Clinton do Wrong?” If the truth comes out it will be said that “Four men died and Hillary Clinton lied. Four men died and Susan Rice lied. Four men died and Barack Obama lied.”

    • B.J.Nash
      September 27, 2015 at 11:02 pm #


  5. George Politico
    October 1, 2015 at 12:27 am #

    Secrets do not become classified automatically by some natural process. Officials must decide whether or not to classify them, and the authority of some officials to do so is established mainly by a presidential directive. The President can override his subordinates and declassify information at his discretion.

    This discretion should extend automatically to the Secretary of State about matters within her purview. Otherwise, bizarre and counterproductive scenes would result. Suppose that the Secretary decided that it was advantageous to reveal classified information to a close ally, e.g., to allay that ally’s fear of the Iran agreement. We would not want the Secretary to have to contact some official four levels down and and get that official’s permission to change the classification status of documents. The official might not be available, might have left the position, might not be reasonable, and would probably be far less able to judge the merits of classifying the document than the Secretary would be. Indeed, the need to notify some low-level official in every similar case would open huge security holes, since some officials are willing to divulge information either to the press or even to hostile foreign powers. No one is better able to judge the proper classification status of documents within her purview than the Secretary of State herself is, and this is especially true in diplomatic matters, where the value of keeping information secret can change drastically in short time. The President’s authority to declassify diplomatic documents should extend to the Secretary of State, and any Secretary who does not enjoy the President’s confidence in this capacity should resign.

    The Secretary of State could also ask the President to declassify information for her, but if the President received many such requests, he would have to appoint a special official to handle them. However, if any official in the government knows better than the Secretary of State whether documents should be secret, that person should be the Secretary of State.

    Hillary may have displayed poor judgment in her handling of classified info, but basically, it was her call to make. I doubt that her critics have much of a case at least on the grounds of jeopardizing classified information.

    • Danny P. Radcliff
      October 5, 2015 at 10:29 am #

      I suggest you read Executive Order 13526- Classified National Security Information, signed by Obama, then come back and modify your completely false meme that would suggest the Secretary of State (an appointee) has the authority to declassify our nation’s secrets unilaterally based on political expediency. Even the President can’t make that call on his/her own.

      You are absolutely correct there are established processes and procedures for classifying and declassifying information, and I assure you it doesn’t include any Secretary of State making that call on their own.

      Please don’t come on here and tell bold-faced lies, as though you know what the heck you are talking about. Hillary did more than just show poor judgment–she broke the law, then true to form, lied about it. Of course, lying is something you seem to know considerable about.

      • LB
        February 18, 2016 at 6:09 pm #

        I suggest you read this order yourself. It states pretty clearly that department heads have the authority to classify information and that anyone with the authority to classify information has the authority to declassify that information. Maybe I’m missing something?

    • Danny P. Radcliff
      October 6, 2015 at 8:16 am #

      Aside from being totally wrong on your assertion that it was “her call to make”, I’d like to know on what grounds do you base your statement “I doubt that her critics have much of a case”?

      First, this isn’t a partisan issue. Not following the rules, breaking laws, and lying about it when caught should concern everyone–regardless of political slant. Republicans are quick to “eat their own” when one of them crosses the line–to a fault I’d say. Why do liberals like you lie and spin and obfuscate to cover for your liberal leaders? I don’t get it.

      As for “her critics” case–I’d say that is pretty much a slam dunk, except the liberal press will never push for anything to happen, and even the established Republicans in Washington will never try to bring criminal charges (they are all the flip side of the same coin), but I assure you–any other government employee would be facing jail time by now.

    • flyR
      October 16, 2015 at 11:30 am #

      Well, it is interesting to see the usual suspects defending Hillary across the internet.

      Classified 101 For Dummies

      The specific item does not need to be classified. Take the case (never prosecuted ) of the reporter during the first Iraq war who flashed a coded signal to his editors to let them know that the war was about to start.

      Hillary discusses Ambassador Stevens schedule and location in emails – probably classified

      With Hillary you have one constant – you know she lies it is in her dna from her days as staff investigating Pres Nixon to her claims that bill was no longer wandering , to her demanding the firing of the white house travel staff and charging the head with felonies, to file gate where the FBI ran full investigations on the Clinton enemies list and sent the full files to the white house, to the lies about Somalia and the lack of AC-130s and armored vehicles, to the lies about Monica and the Great Right Wing Conspiracy , to the participation in the extortion of silence from women who had consensual and non consensual sex with Bill, to the commodities deal, to Whitewater ……Her instinctive response to Benghazi (with Blumenthal’s encouragement) was to lie about the cause of the violence and have the filmmaker jailed. She’s lied about the server, lied about the accounts , lied about providing the emails , lied about the handling of classified material….


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