There has been a lot of controversy and speculation about Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails since the 2015 investigation. Donald Trump has used them again and again in his campaign and has demanded Clinton to release them. 

How did the Clinton email scandal begin?

In 2 March 2015, the New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt published an article entitled “Hillary Clinton Used Personal Email Account at State Dept., Possibly Breaking Rules.” This article turned Clinton’s personal emails into a massive story, claiming that her “expansive use of the private account was alarming to current and former National Archives and Records Administration officials and government watchdogs, who called it a serious breach.”

But, it’s only fair to say that many other politicians had done exactly what Clinton did, without being scrutinised to such an extent. Colin Powell, who was Secretary of State under George W. Bush, used a personal email account to correspond with foreign officials. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who was a 2016 candidate for the US presidency also used a private email address. Many other high-level federal workers admitted in a survey that they also used their personal email accounts sometimes.

This has become a big deal because it has fractured her reliability and trustworthiness. Additionally, the possibility of hackers or foreign intelligence services stumbling upon high classified information is a concern for many on the left and right.

Clinton’s personal email account:

When Clinton was Secretary of State (2009-2013) under President Barack Obama, she used a personal email account for her own convenience since she traveled a lot. This was legally allowed at the time. 

2013 

It was in 2013, that the existence of her private server was first discovered. The clintonemail.com address was found when the Romanian hacker called “Guccifer” (Marcel-Lehel Lazar) distributed emails sent to Clinton from Sidney Blumenthal after hacking his email account. The emails related to Libya and the 2012 Benghazi attack.

2014

After she left the State Department, the National Archives recommended that government employees shouldn’t use personal emails for business, unless in the rare occasion of an emergency. In 2014, President Obama signed changes to the Federal Records Act that referred to federal officials’ use of personal emails on the condition that these were also copied or sent to their official account too.

Also at the time she sent these emails, none of them were considered classified information. However, the State Department requested the help of the four previous Secretaries of State to provide emails after it recognised gaps in its record keeping system. The State Department wanted to ensure that it met its obligations under the Federal Records Act and that it had complete records. This was important, especially, after the new guidelines by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) which referred to the use of personal email accounts for government business. 

Clinton then provided her emails to the State Department. These were 55,000 pages of printed emails. Clinton’s email account contained 62,320 sent and received emails from March 2009 to February 2013. 30,490 of them were given to the State Department, while the 31,830 were personal, non-work related emails which she deleted. From emails about her daughter’s wedding, to offers from retailers and spam, Clinton considered these private and so decided to delete them.

The State Department and Inspector General report published in May 2016, found that Clinton violated government policy but this wasn’t a criminal behaviour. Subsequently, she was criticised for being careless and sending “classified” emails through a private server that could have been hacked, putting national security at risk. For this reason, her critics, including Trump, believe that she can’t be trusted with classified materials. 

What is happening now?

Now, Clinton is finding herself again under scrutiny, and only one week before the elections. This time, it’s about 650,000 messages found on former congressman Anthony Weiner’s laptop.  The emails were found during an investigation into Weiner’s exchanges of sexually explicit messages to a 15-year-old girl. Weiner’s estranged wife is Clinton’s top aide, Huma Abedin, and it was her emails that they found on his laptop. 

It isn’t clear whether the emails have anything to do with Clinton, whether they are duplicates of the ones already reviewed, or whether they enclose important information.

The emails’ existence was made public last Friday by FBI director James Comey who alerted members of Congress, saying that the new emails might be relevant to the investigation of Clinton’s emails. The Department of Justice’s senior officials didn’t agree with Comey’s release of emails because it was an action interfering in the presidential election.

Comey’s double standards, however, are clear. The FBI director, who is also a Republican, withheld information that proves Russia’s support for Donald Trump, avoiding to release them in case it influenced the election.

Hatch Act (1939)

Comey’s announcement has been criticised by both Republicans and Democrats. Because of the Hatch Act, which deters any executive branch, apart from the president or vice-president, from using their authority to influence or engage in political actions, Comey has possibly violated the law.

Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta said: “By providing selective information, he’s allowed partisans to distort and exaggerate in order to inflict maximum political damage and no one can separate what is true from what is not because Comey has not been forthcoming with the facts.”

WikiLeaks: The release of emails from Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta

The hacked emails from John Podesta’s personal account released by WikiLeaks in batches this October 2016, were part of a series of computer hacks orchestrated by Russia with the purpose to influence the 8 November election. 

A spokesman for Clinton’s campaign, Brian Fallon, accused Julian Assange for working with the Russian government. He tweeted at WikiLeaks: “You are no media organization. You are a propaganda arm of the Russian government, running interference for their pet candidate, Trump.”

He added: “How about probing possibility of Trump associates directly coordinating with Russia and WikiLeaks? That is the thing that should cause chills.”

As he also acknowledges, “Wouldn’t it be good reading to see internal discussions [about] Trump’s taxes? Yes but WikiLeaks isn’t targeting Trump. That tells you something.”

The US government has accused Russia for interfering with the 2016 presidential election by referring to the 19,000 hacked emails from Democratic party officials and July’s Democratic National Committee’s hacked emails.

While the Russian President Vladimir Putin claims that Russia doesn’t get involved in other countries’ business, a Russian hack fits the pattern of attempts on government servers. 

As the election is nearing, I’m sure this won’t be the last attempt by Republicans to dig up and throw as much dirt as possible to see what sticks.