Hillary Clinton offered a blizzard of explanations at the Thursday-night MSNBC debate to downplay Democrats’ worries about her apparently illegal multiyear use of an unshielded, homebuilt, personal email system to receive and transmit secret government information.
Her defense culminated in a blanket-denial of wrongdoing. “I never sent or received any classified material,” she told an MSNBC host, despite the growing evidence that she flouted security laws during her four years on the job.
She took her stand when she was questioned about the scandal during an MSNBC debate Feb. 4. “Can you reassure these Democrats that somehow the email issue isn’t going to blow up your candidacy if you’re the nominee?” questioner Chuck Todd asked Clinton.
It is all partisan politics aimed at wrecking her presidential run, Clinton first argued. “Before it was emails, it was Benghazi, and the Republicans were stirring up so much controversy… that was all a political ploy,” she said.
Next, she claimed Republican officials did what she did. “We had a development in the email matter today when it came out that Secretary [of State Colin] Powell and close aides to Former Secretary [of State Condoleezza] Rice used private e-mail accounts,” she said, without mentioning that those email accounts were on government system, and so very different from her non-government, home-built and unprotected private network.
Powell and aides to Rice received a total of 12 questionable emails during their combined eight years in the job, according to an official report leaked to the New York Times. In contrast, Hillary’s private network contained at least 30,000 government emails, hundreds of which contain information from documents classified as secret or top secret.
Next, Clinton hid a quote behind former Powell, an Obama supporter, who ridiculed a recent decision to classify two unclassified messages he received from top diplomatic officials during his four years in office. Officials in Obama’s administration, she said, “are retroactively classifying” the supposedly unclassified information in her network and in Powell’s government network, she claimed.
“I agree completely with Secretary Powell, who said today this is an absurdity. And so I think the American people will know it’s an absurdity. I have absolutely no concerns about it whatsoever,” she insisted.
Clinton declared flatly that “I never sent or received any classified material.”
She made that statement despite numerous leaked reports about the existence of classified information on her network, which is still being investigated by FBI officials.
Then Todd and Clinton both doubled-down, according to the MSNBC transcript.
TODD: All right, Madam Secretary, there is an open — there is an open FBI investigation into this matter about how you may have handled classified material. Are you 100 percent confident that nothing is going to come of this FBI investigation?
CLINTON: I am 100 percent confident. This is a security review that was requested. It is being carried out. It will be resolved. But I have to add if there’s going to be a security review about me, there’s going to have to be security reviews about a lot of other people, including Republican office holders, because we’ve got this absurd situation of retroactive classifications.
Honest to goodness, this is — this just beggars the imagination. So I have absolutely no concerns about it, but we’ve got to get to the bottom of what’s really going on here, and I hope that will happen.
Her rival, Bernie Sanders, professed himself unconcerned with the scandal.
“There’s a process under way. I will not politicize it… and by the way, if I may, the secretary probably doesn’t know that there’s not a day that goes by when I am not asked to attack her on that issue, and I have refrained from doing that and I will continue to refrain from doing that,” he said.