In full damage-control mode, a powerful ally of Democratic Party presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton is changing the narrative again, subtlety, when it comes to her exclusive use of a private, unsecure email server and her handling of classified material.
California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee and Clinton friend, has released a statement attempting to defend Clinton from critics. Feinstein added a new caveat to Clinton’s claim that she never had any classified material on her server: none written by Clinton, at least.
No longer denying the existence of classified material on Clinton’s private server, Feinstein said, “First, none of the emails alleged to contain classified information were written by Secretary Clinton.” (Emphasis added.)
That is different from Clinton’s first statement about whether or not she had any classified material on her server, which was fairly unequivocal. On March 10, Clinton held a press conference at the United Nations and said, “I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email; there is no classified material.”
In her statement Feinstein ceded at least the possibility that there were emails containing classified material on Clinton’s server, but declared Clinton herself did not write those emails. In regards to the law, that is a distinction with very little difference.
Feinstein repeated the claim, writing:
The questions are whether she received emails with classified information in them, and if so, whether information in those emails should have been classified in the first place. Those questions have yet to be answered. However, it is clear that Secretary Clinton did not write emails containing classified information. (Emphasis added.)
Feinstein appears to admit here that Clinton’s server did house classified material, but reiterated that Clinton did not write those emails.
Also, the State Department has gone through only a fraction of then-Secretary of State Clinton’s emails, so it is impossible to make such a declarative statement about whether or not she wrote any emails containing any level of information.
Clinton was less definitive on the question of whether she ever sent classified material via email when she made her first tweak to her statement on the subject. At a July 25 campaign event in Iowa, Clinton told reporters, “I am confident that I never sent nor received any information that was classified at the time it was sent and received.” (Emphasis added.)
Charles McCullough, III, Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (IG IC), found something different. In a letter to Congress this week, McCullough wrote, “IC classification officials reviewed two additional emails and judged that they contained classified State Department information when originated.” (Emphasis added.)
Those emails, according to the IG IC, did not contain information that was later classified, but was classified “when originated.”
This contradicts Clinton’s declaration on August 4, this time via campaign spokesman Nick Merrill. Merrill said Clinton “did not send nor receive any emails that were marked classified at the time.” (Emphasis added.)
Feinstein goes on to declare, “none of the emails alleged to contain classified information include any markings that indicate classified content.”
Since Hillary Clinton did not turn over electronic copies of her emails, opting instead to hand over 55,000 hardcopy printed pages, it will be near impossible to determine if those markings were absent from emails or were removed. An electronic copy could have left a digital trail of editing.
As for who, if anyone, removed any classified markings from the emails, those sending the information would have, presumably, sent them from their State Department email. Since those emails would be archived on government servers, discovering if they were properly marked when sent should be fairly easy to discern.
However, since the classified material in Clinton’s email was classified at ‘TOP SECRET’//SI//TK//NOFORN level, it contained satellite imagery, it is likely Clinton would have known it was classified, marked as such or not.
Unfortunately for Clinton, federal law governing the handling and dissemination of classified material does not make exceptions for intent or knowledge as to how it may have been mishandled when it comes to legal jeopardy.