Every time the State Department pulls out a new fistful of Hillary Clinton emails like Richard Dreyfuss yanking a license plate out of a shark’s belly in “Jaws,” someone declares that there’s “no smoking gun!”
I’ve written before about how shouting “there’s no smoking gun!” is a nondenial denial. Ask a cop. When a murder suspect immediately exclaims, “You have no indisputable evidence I murdered my boss!” instead of, “I didn’t do it!” it’s a good sign that the suspect thinks he covered his tracks, not that he’s innocent.
Fellas, if your wife asks if you’re having an affair, respond by saying, “You have no proof!” See if she takes that for a denial.
But here’s the thing. There is a smoking gun. In fact, there’s a whole smoking arsenal.
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The problem is that the standards for what counts as a smoking gun keep changing.
Nearly everything Clinton has said in her defense regarding her secret server has been a lie. Among the minor lies: her claim that she set up the server so she could use a single device. She had two. Her claim that the State Department was saving her emails to staff. It wasn’t until 2010. Her claim that she erased tens of thousands of emails because they included, among other things, her email correspondence with her husband. Bill Clinton doesn’t use email.
Hillary Clinton said she never solicited email from her lugubrious political hatchet man, Sidney Blumenthal. The latest emails show that she was in near-constant contact with him, encouraging him to keep his various reports coming. Blumenthal was barred from getting a job at the White House, so Clinton set him up at her charity-cum-super PAC, the Clinton Foundation.
The more important lie: She said she never received or sent classified information. “I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material.”
Note: This was not an off-the-cuff statement. She said this while reading from notes and after consulting with her campaign team and her lawyers in a ballyhooed press conference in March at the United Nations.
And it was a lie. When the inspectors general of the State Department and the Intelligence Community confirmed in July that she had sent classified material, Clinton “clarified” her carefully prepared lie by saying that what she meant was none of the emails she sent or received were marked classified at the time.
This left out the fact that the whole point of the secret server was that it was hidden from the officials whose job is to designate documents as classified (and to keep it all hidden from Freedom of Information Act requests and congressional oversight). It’s like setting up an illegal still and then claiming none of the moonshine you sold was marked “illegal.”
But the deceit goes deeper. Most people can be forgiven for not understanding the difference between classified documents and classified information. A classified document is marked “Top Secret” or some such. But people who work in government understand that lots of information is classified simply by virtue of the kind of information it is.
My National Review colleague Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, has been setting his head on fire trying to get the mainstream media to take note of this fact. He points out that according to an executive order issued by President Obama, all “foreign government information is presumed to cause damage to the national security” and is therefore presumed classified.
Clinton routinely ignored this rule. That’s not just my opinion. A study by Reuters found that “Clinton and her senior staff routinely” ignored these rules.
“Here’s my personal email,” Clinton told Middle East envoy George Mitchell, who then proceeded to convey numerous private conversations he had with foreign leaders.
The Washington Times reports that Clinton’s unsecured emails contained spy satellite information about North Korea’s movement of its nuclear assets. This sort of information is universally recognized as top secret and is normally subjected to draconian safeguards. There is no way Clinton didn’t know this.
All of these — and many other — facts would have counted as “smoking guns” if they were divulged immediately after Clinton’s U.N. press conference. But Clinton, with the help of her praetorian defenders in the media, keeps moving the goalposts.
Still, all of this ignores the biggest smoking gun of them all: her illicit server. It’s sitting in plain view, its smoke visible to anyone with eyes to see.
Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior editor of National Review. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.