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Clinton continues to campaign amid indictment talk

Amid a Presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton continues to face scrutiny as an investigation for after-labeled classified emails sent on a private server during her time as Secretary of State.

Photo by National Women’s Political Caucus.

Hillary Rodham Clinton. There is not a person in the United States who can turn on their television without hearing about Hillary Clinton.  She was the Former First lady, a United States Senator, Secretary of State, and now, a current Democratic Presidential Candidate.  Today, Clinton is everywhere on the news cycle.

Despite her popularity, Hillary Clinton also has a scandal looming over her Presidential campaign regarding her time as Secretary of State.  When Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State, she reportedly had classified government emails sent to a private email server, and then supposedly deleted all the emails when an investigation began.  The issue has been ongoing since a House Select Committee investigation began, and has dominated news headlines for over a year causing the Clinton Campaign to continue to face questions over this email debacle.

The House Committee was formed in May of 2014 to investigate the events surrounding the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.

The email scandal first came to public attention in March of 2015 when the New York Times published an article regarding Hillary’s personal cell phone, making it a national headline.  The State Department never addressed or noticed the issue with the emails being sent to a private server until two years after Clinton left the State Department.  The private email server issue first came to light during the House Select Committee Benghazi investigation.

The House Committee was formed in May of 2014 to investigate the events surrounding the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.  Part of their investigation involved former Secretary Clinton, and any actions she took around the time of the attacks.  In order to fully investigate, the committee needed to see emails sent to and from Clinton around time immediately before and after the attack occurred.  They made the initial request to the State Department for Hillary Clinton’s emails.

In searching for these emails, the State Department realized Hillary Clinton never used an official email address.  The issue then became, and currently is, whether there was a mishandling of classified information.  Clinton had classified emails and information on a private email server, and then allegedly deleted those emails.

[It] is a federal crime to mishandle classified information outside secure government channels “knowingly” or through “gross negligence.”

The Federal Records Act makes it a federal crime to mishandle classified information outside secure government channels “knowingly” or through “gross negligence.”  The United States Department of Justice and FBI have been investigating and have yet to make a decision on whether they will file criminal charges against Hillary Clinton.  The Justice Department has confirmed that Clinton used a private server, but not that she deleted emails.

Recently, the United States Justice Department has recently granted immunity to former State Department staffer, Bryan Pagliano.  Pagliano was the staffer who set up Clinton’s private server in her New York home.  Last fall, Pagliano invoked his Fifth Amendment rights, and refused to speak with investigators, but he has since decided to cooperate.  Some believe the offering of immunity shows that the investigation is serious, and could potentially lead to some criminal charges.  Others say it could look bad for Clinton.  However, Clinton’s spokesperson says they have encouraged all staffers to cooperate with the investigation and any previous refusal was the staffers’ individual choice.

[Clinton] continues to say that no classified information went through her personal device or server.

While Hillary Clinton was sending these emails regarding potentially sensitive information, the emails were not labeled classified at the time she was sending or receiving them.  Rather, these emails were retroactively labeled as classified.  The same thing happened to many of Secretary of State Colin Powell’s emails, sent from both personal and state department email accounts after they were sent.

According to Hillary Clinton’s campaign website, it is common practice for the State Department to switch the status to classified when preparing email correspondence for public release.  Clinton insists that while she was Secretary of State classified, she reviewed information in her office via hard copy, or on a secure network while she was traveling.  She continues to say that no classified information went through her personal device or server.

There have been other State Department officials who have used personal accounts, but none have faced an indictment.

There have been other State Department officials who have used personal accounts, but none have faced an indictment.  Former Secretaries of State, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, used non-state department emails.  Powell had both a personal and a State Department email, but mainly used the State Department email.  It should be noted that the regulations that govern secure phone use were enacted subsequent to Powell leaving the State Department in 2005.  While Rice rarely used email at all, when she did it was mostly through a State Department email account and some through a personal account, according to her aides.  Hillary Clinton only ever used her private email, and never activated an official State Department email account.  She has said in many interviews that it was for her convenience.

In addition to the Justice Department investigation under way at this time, the GOP has also filed multiple lawsuits against Clinton in Federal Court in the District of Columbia.  The Republican National Convention (RNC) is seeking the content of the emails that were sent to Clinton’s personal device while Secretary of State.  The RNC says that they submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for the emails in December, but that they never received a response, which is the basis for the lawsuit.  They hope that the lawsuits will help to expedite the release of the records they asked for.  This is not the first lawsuit the GOP filed regarding Clinton, with the last seeking emails and texts from several of Clinton’s aides.

The Clinton campaign has publicly stated that they believe the lawsuits are frivolous because Clinton has been fully cooperating with the Justice Department, and that the RNC is simply trying to further publicize the issue.  Clinton has also stated that she made a mistake by using a private device, but that she did not think that it was an unusual practice.

No decisions have been made about an indictment, and only time will tell if they will bring charges against current Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton.

Looking through the comments the public has made on the vast amount of articles, there are two main groups: those who are upset by Clinton’s actions and those who say Clinton acted appropriately.  Those who are upset seem to be most bothered by the fact that they feel personally threatened by the possibility that her private email server was not secure.  They feel it makes the United States less safe, and more open to hacking by foreign nations and potential terrorist attacks.

Many also take the opposite view, noting that other Secretaries of State have used personal email accounts for later classified information, and no one cares then.  They also note that no one brought the issue up during Clinton’s time with the State Department and suggest that this is an attempt to derail her presidential campaign.  Regardless of which side of the issue people are on, it is definitely a topic of conversation across the country.

Hillary Clinton has cooperated from the beginning of the inquiry into her email use, turning over 55,000 pages of emails and encouraging her staff to cooperate as well.  Sources say that the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation should conclude their investigation by the end of May.  No decisions have been made about an indictment, and only time will tell if they will bring charges against current Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton.  In the mean time, she awaits a decision while continuing to run her campaign, hoping to hold the title of President of the United States come this November.

Katelyn Heath, Ethics Editor Emeritus
About Katelyn Heath, Ethics Editor Emeritus (20 Articles)
Katelyn Heath is a 2017 graduate of Campbell Law School and served as the Ethics Editor for the Campbell Law Observer during the 2016-2017 academic year. She is from Salisbury, North Carolina and graduated from UNC-Charlotte with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Criminal Justice in 2014. Following her first year of law school she attended Baylor Law Schools Academy of the Advocate in Scotland. She is also currently working for Marshall and Taylor PLLC, a local family law firm.
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