This week, I’ve received a stream of angry emails, condemning me as an utter hypocrite for failing to write about the New York Times report that found at least six officials, including Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, have used personal accounts to engage in official government business—just like Hillary.
One of the problems with compulsory, 24/7 Donald Trump loathing is that it demands that a person get worked up over abuses both real and imagined. There are plenty of the former, but this happens to be very much the latter. Despite this, there are now an amazing number of stories written by establishment media framing the Trump administration’s email use as proof of massive hypocrisy. It’s also a very popular take on Twitter.
In the most obvious terms, the biggest difference between the two cases is that everything Hillary Clinton did was illegal and nothing, as far as we know, that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump did was against the law. More specifically: neither Kushner nor Ivanka Trump are cabinet appointees. Neither of them emailed classified documents (certainly not eight “top secret” documents) on an unsecured secret server. Neither of them deleted tens of thousands of government documents after they were subpoenaed “in such a way as to preclude complete forensic recovery.” Neither of them lied to the American people about having sent them.
Now, if you really want to make it illegal for government officials to have any private email accounts, please call your local representative and ask them to sponsor a bill to make that happen. It is not illegal as long as relevant documents are preserved for history, which seems to be the case here. Even Barack Obama communicated with private email accounts using a pseudonym.
A1 versus A18 and this was well before the FBI or Congressional Republicans got involved. pic.twitter.com/EQ8kpvYHun
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) September 27, 2017
We already know that many liberals and journalism professors believe that the media exists to assist Democrats in their campaigns, but folks who peddle the sort of thing you see in the tweet above probably don’t really understand what Hillary Clinton did wrong. (Though there is, of course, the tiny chance that they’re being dishonest.) So the only conclusion we can reach is that there wasn’t nearly enough coverage by the New York Times about Hillary’s activities.
Yes, it is true that Americans only later found out about Clinton favor trading. But even before the FBI and Republicans investigated her shifting story about the 9/11 Benghazi attack, Clinton was a cabinet level member who had exclusively used a personal email account to conduct government business. This alone was unprecedented.
“It is very difficult to conceive of a scenario—short of nuclear winter—where an agency would be justified in allowing its cabinet-level head officer to solely use a private email communications channel for the conduct of government business,” a former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration explained at the time. Before any investigation was launched by the FBI or Congress, the State Department had already informed Clinton that she was breaking federal record-keeping regulations and asked her to hand over all her emails.
Then Hillary lied about having sent classified emails on television—many times.
Then she tried to illegally destroy documents that should have been preserved under federal law.
Then the FBI explained in great detail how lucky she was not to be indicted.
And only then did Democrats nominate her.
Many of the same people who believe Clinton didn’t deserve scrutiny for her actions now want to investigate Kushner. Okay. Anyone who attempts to circumvent transparency should be accountable for their actions. As many experts (buried deep in these stories, far removed from the dramatic headlines) have explained, incidental use of private email happens. The problem of illegality occurs when a person sets up separate infrastructures for correspondence that are outside of government control and transparency. Not only has his lawyer forwarded the private emails to be archived (which seem to include around 100), nothing in them comes close to the scope of Hillary’s work.
These dozens of emails typically discussed media stories about the Trump White House, planning for coming events, and some reactions and logistics. A person who has reviewed the emails said several contained nothing more than links to news stories.
“We’re finding with the latest revelations—they didn’t mean any of it. It’s just the height of hypocrisy,” Clinton told a radio show this week. Hillary’s lack of remorse over her reckless and illegal behavior is unsurprising. Her fans continuously excuse her shameless abuse of power and privilege, why wouldn’t she? So it’s important to push back against those who try and revise history to delegitimize the election by making these kinds of ludicrous comparisons.