Republican elected officials on Capitol Hill probing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of private emails, including freshman Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), are getting that sinking feeling that Hillary’s email controversy won’t be enough to derail her Democratic bid for president. Forming the Select Committee on Benghazi May 8, 2014, the Republican National Committee hoped that it would provide death to Hillary by a thousand cuts in the run-up to the 2016 election. While secretary of state from Jan. 21, 2009 to Feb. 1, 2013, Hillary used her husband’s, former President Bill Clinton’s, Chappaqua, N.Y.-based private email account, compromising rules adopted Oct. 2, 2009 by the U.S. Code, modifying the 1950 Federal Records Act, requiring electronic records preserved on government email accounts.
While changes to the U.S. Code occurred after Clinton took office Jan. 1, 2009, the spirit of the law required her compliance for official government business as secretary of state. When the New York Times reported July 23 that two inspectors general asked the Justice Department to open a criminal probe into Hillary’s email practices, the report was quickly dispelled. Justice Depart officials, headed by Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch, now indicate that the probe in not criminal but only checking whether classified information was transmitted via Hilary’s private email account. Cotton and Gowdy were ecstatic over the early New York Times’ report, suggesting Hillary was named in a criminal probe. While denying that any private emails transmitted as secretary of state were classified, an independent Inspector Generals’ report told Gowdy’s committee that at least four emails contained classified material.
Capitol Hill conservatives hoped to use Hillary’s email practices to prove she lacks the credibility to be president. Confirming that targeting Hillary’s emails have paid off, a July 14 Quinnipiac University poll, headed by Peter Brown, showed that voters in swing state find her less trustworthy. Whether that translates into anything significant some 15 months from the election is anyone’s guess. Most national polls show Hillary easily beating hypothetical GOP candidates in a national election. While the GOP plans to keep Hillary’s email issues in the public eye between now and the election, the fact that Lynch controls the Justice Department doesn’t bode well for Capitol Hill conservatives gunning for Hillary. When news of Hillary’s email issue broke March 11, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell [Jan. 20, 2001 to Jan. 26, 2005] admitted using a private email account at the State Department too.
Capitol Hill Republicans hoped they could find a smoking gun when it came to Hillary’s culpability in the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi, Libya attack on the U.S. mission, killing Amb. Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Saturation right wing news coverage attempted to show that Hillary was negligent ordering more security for the remote diplomatic outpost in war-torn Libya. “Like Secretaries of State before her, she used her own email account when engaging with any Department officials,” said Hillary campaign spokesman Nick Merrill. Clarifying that any Justice Department probe of Hillary’s emails at the State Department was not criminal unofficially limits the political fallout. While conservative media outlets won’t let go of Hillary’s email controversy anytime soon, the public shows signs of growing tired of what’s become egregious election year politics.
Releasing 55,000 work-related private emails March 10, Hillary hoped that would be the end of what’s become a political headache. Admitting now that she should have used her state department email, Hillary insisted March 11 she did it out of expediency because she wanted to use one cell phone. Whether or not that’s plausible is anyone’s guess. Whatever gaps exist in Hillary’s emails, she’s prepared to live with the consequences, knowing in a long presidential campaign voters have more pressing concerns than speculating about missing emails. Hillary claim that whatever’s missing, their personal emails related to her mother’s funeral or daughter’s wedding to Wall Street investment banker Marc Mezvinsky. When the Justice Department clarified that it was not a criminal probe, Hillary’s detractors groaned, hoping that they could still do damage to her 2016 campaign.
Deciding to not pursue a criminal probe into Hillary’s email, the Justice Department threw Capitol Hill Republicans for a loop. While the email issues impact Hillary’s credibility today, it’s bound to fade over time when voters consider real differences between Democrats and Republicans. Whether or not former Secretaries of State Colin L. Power or Condoleezza Rice [Jan. 26, 2005 to Jan. 20, 2009] used private or government emails, Hillary’s actions stand on their own, showing, if nothing else, she did it her way while at the State Department. No doubt Secretary of State John Kerry uses his government email, with or without the hubbub over his controversial nuke deal with Iran. No longer concerned about a criminal probe, Hillary can exhale heading into the 2016, knowing whatever her positions on key issues will either make or break her White House dreams.