Hillary Clinton’s decision to house her official emails on a private server was a transparent attempt to avoid transparency. Her explanations notwithstanding, substantive questions remain. But instead of trusting the investigation to a partisan Congress, why not require a full examination by the independent Inspector General of the State Department?
It does not suffice for the former secretary of state to simply assert that classified material was not compromised through this unprecedented arrangement. Classified material refers to communications that have been reviewed by appropriate experts and categorized according to who may have access to it. There are two real questions: did the emails include classified content; and did Hillary Clinton use her office improperly?
The emails she provided, the bulk of which are said to concern exchanges with State subordinates, are of limited interest. The more serious question concerns the security of government secrets. This can only be addressed through access to the Chappaqua server itself. Then the question of whether Clinton inadvertently, negligently or intentionally disclosed sensitive or classified content to third parties can be answered. So can the far more serious issue: whether her dealings with longtime or potential political contributors on the one hand, or large donors to the Clinton Foundation on the other, influenced Clinton’s judgment about policy.
Clinton has been out raising vast sums of money from Wall Street and corporate chieftains. Unless the State Inspector General steps in, the public will not know whether this money is for favors yet to come or from services already rendered. We may never know the answer to questions such as:
- Did the big banks encourage the failed "reset" with Russia in hopes of better business opportunities with Vladimir Putin?
- Did big oil companies influence the administration’s Iran policy or its "lead from behind" strategy with the goal of restoring their long lost commercial positions in the Mideast?
- Did large donors to the Clinton Foundation (like Frank Giustra who gave over $31 million to the foundation shortly after securing uranium mining rights in Kazakhstan during a visit to the country with former President Bill Clinton) leverage their ties with the Clintons and secure the help of the United States government in business dealings across the globe?
Can the State Department IG retrieve the missing emails? This brings me to my old agency, the Internal Revenue Service. Even though it was clear from May 2013 that every email sent by Lois Lerner since she was a girl scout would be sought by Congress, it wasn’t until early the next year that the agency realized many were missing. The IRS then said they were lost forever. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration stepped in and somehow found some 30,000 missing emails, oddly enough about the same number Clinton said she deleted!
The Inspector General Act grants broad authorities to inspectors general, including the right "to make such investigations and reports relating to the programs and operations of the applicable establishment as are, in the judgment of the Inspector General, necessary or desirable." Because Clinton chose to house government records on her private server, it is not a stretch at all for the IG to insist on reviewing the server and if necessary exercise statutorily provided subpoena powers to learn with certainty what is going on here.
The prestige America enjoyed in the post-war world eroded during Vietnam and hit a low point in April 1980 with the disastrous hostage rescue attempt. Reagan began its restoration, and our respect has largely been maintained since he left office, at least until recently. The hopes of the Nobel committee in awarding its peace prize to President Barack Obama have not been realized. The control of government communications from her home, to use Clinton’s own words, was certainly "convenient" if her real objective was erasing her role in the construction of a failed foreign policy before launching a campaign for the presidency. The only way we will know for sure is if we send in the IG.
Mark W. Everson served as Deputy Director for Management at OMB during the administration of President George W. Bush and chaired the government-wide council of inspectors general. He was the IRS Commissioner from 2003 through 2007. Everson is a Republican candidate for President of the United States.
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