ICYWW, this is how the White House explained the email rules and procedures today:
Press Sec Josh Earnest: What we have said about senior officials or even officials at a lower level who use their personal email to conduct their personal business, is that it's important to insure that when official business is conducted on personal email that those records are properly maintained and preserved. The easiest way to do that is to simply take your personal email and forward it to your government email where it can be archived with your other official correspondence.
Who do you think decides which personal emails will be forwarded under the rules set forth by the administration and law the president signed? No, there are no professional government archivists who come along and inspect personal emails to determine which ones to send. It seems that the person who sent the email is the one who determines which ones are archived and which ones aren't.
But there are also procedures that have been set up by some agencies, including the department of state, where individuals can essentially print out personal emails that relate to the conduct of official government business and ensure they are properly maintained and preserved in that way. And again it's important that these emails are properly maintained and preserved so they can be used to respond to legitimate inquiries from the public, legitimate inquiries from the congress or even legitimate inquiries from historians down the line.
Now I understand that hundreds of these documents have been produced to congress in conjunction with a legitimate congressional inquiry and that is again the way this process is supposed to work.
Reporter: Can you understand the concern that if a cabinet level official is not only using a private email and their own server that there really is no independent way to verify that they have turned over all the emails that involve official business?
Ernest: All I can say is that the guidelines that we have laid out are consistent with the law the president signed into law at the end of last year, which is to establish clear guidelines for how we can insure that work that's done on a personal email account is properly maintained. This is also why the guidance that we have given to administration staffers is that they should save themselves this additional step and do their official government business on their official government email. That is the path that the vast majority of administration staffers use. I put myself in that category.
If there are occasions in which there happen to be an email exchange on ones personal email account that is relevant to their official responsibilities it's important for them to remember to forward their email to their official government account so it can be properly preserved.
The Bush administration official just deleted all theirs which undoubtedly solved a lot of problems. Perhaps Clinton should have followed in their footsteps.
Now maybe there should be a rule that nobody can ever use their private email for any official business ever. But it would appear by all accounts that the rules allow people to use their private emails for official business and only stipulate that they forward these emails to the government archive either by ccing their government email account or printing out hard copies. And there is no provision for anyone to "check" and make sure they have done it. (But then they can always check with the NSA's dragnet files, amirite?)
From the sound of the media today, the idea congealing is that the congress and presumably others shoud have the right to go through all emails, personal and private, of anyone subject to an investigation to determine whether or not they are lying about what is relevant to official business. This would be a big break from what we normally call the subpoena process which requires that someone turn over all documents pertaining to a particular matter. They don't employ a group of government officials or private detectives to go on a fishing expedition and comb through all the documents the person has to determine if they've complied with the request either. They require the person themselves to determine what is pertinent to the request and produce them.
This is what happened with the Benghazi request that was the basis of the leak to the NY Times. But as with all these feeding frenzies, the media doesn't know what it's talking about. I just watched Thomas Roberts on MSNBC going on and on about transparency and how this sort of document production for a congressional request was tainted by the fact that the person who was required to produce the documents produced them and so we can't know if they are lying. Transparency, openness etc, with the implication that somehow this is a big break with normal procedures. Oy, it gives you a headache.
This report from Medium.com raises some issues not raised in any other reporting as far as I can tell, pointing out that the government email system has been repeatedly hacked and highly confidential State Department communications were also famously leaked by Wikileaks, so keeping the emails on a secure private server may have made more sense from a security standpoint. Maybe that's not the case.
Alex Seitz-Wald of MSNBC did inform us that this is a Big Problem for Clinton even though there's nothing illegal because ....
It speaks to a larger narrative going all the way back to Whitewater and the first Clinton White House when Hillary Clinton resisted providing documents, it fits into this idea that she's "calculating" and "Machiavellian". You can be sure that Republicans are going to keep advancing that narrative.
And the press will lead the parade for them like a bunch of tumbling, cheerleaders:
One of the best practitioners of the political dark arts used to refer to the kind of story that appeared yesterday about Hillary Clinton using a personal e-mail account instead of an official one while at the State Department as a “Picasso.” By that, he meant a masterpiece of his craft: placing, without fingerprints, negative stories that wind up on the front pages of a major newspaper and command the political news cycle for a few days. These stories are often months in the making and, at best, reinforce or create a new negative narrative about the target. So it is with this latest story on Clinton and e-mails. For Clinton-haters and skeptics, it underscores a pattern of deception and rule-breaking and threatens to become a chronic annoyance for her eventual candidacy. What e-mails are missing? What’s in them? A congressional investigation, anyone?
There’s another interesting wrinkle to this story for those who follow the game within the game of political campaigns. Who might have been the source of the story? Which master of the craft of opposition research? Well, I don’t know, but you don’t have to be an expert in forensics to suspect the campaign of Jeb Bush. Bush, after all, released all of his e-mails from his years as governor of Florida, which seems less curious now. And his campaign communications director, Tim Miller, perhaps the best in the Republican Party, is the former head of the factory of Clinton opposition research, America Rising. If that’s the case, the story could be a signal that Bush’s campaign knows how to throw a fastball up and in.
By the way, the reference to Whitewater by Seitz-Walz offered up as a matter of historical fact forgot to include the important detail that Whitewater was a fraud perpetrated by the right wing and gleefully flogged by an eager press corps. But whatever ... "it's out there."
*I am going to issue the standard disclaimer that if Clinton did something real bring it on. But this is a patented pseudo-scandal planted by the Benghazi bullshit squad and I'm not jumping on the bandwagon.
If somebody wants to do an expose of Clinton's cozy relationship with Wall Street, her hawkish foreign policy or her penchant for nonsensical bipartisan cant, that's perfectly fair. In fact, it's necessary. I think a hardcore investigation into the Clinton Foundation and all its opaque financial dealings is absolutely in bounds. But when they start recycling rightwing Benghazi crapola, referencing Whitewater,talking about her "calculating Machiavellian character" and don't even have a clue about what it is she's supposed to have done wrong, just that it doesn't "pass the smell test", I'm going to be ornery. This is the Village in all its glory and I'm sad to say that a new generation of Villagers is just as willing to chase the shiny object for the Dark Ops wingnuts as their forebears.