Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Emails Add to Hillary Clinton’s Central Problem: Voters Just Don’t Trust Her
MAY 25, 2016
New York Times

For more than a year, Hillary Clinton has traveled the country talking to voters about her policy plans. She vowed to improve infrastructure in her first 100 days in office, promised to increase funding for Alzheimer’s research and proposed a $10 billion plan to combat drug and alcohol addiction.

But as the Democratic primary contest comes to a close, any hopes Mrs. Clinton had of running a high-minded, policy-focused campaign have collided with a more visceral problem.

Voters just don’t trust her.

The Clinton campaign had hoped to use the coming weeks to do everything they could to shed that image and convince voters that Mrs. Clinton can be trusted. Instead, they must contend with a damaging new report by the State Department’s inspector general that Mrs. Clinton had not sought or received approval to use a private email server while she was secretary of state.

It is not just that the inspector general found fault with her email practices. The report speaks directly to a wounding perception that Mrs. Clinton is not forthright or transparent.

After months of saying she used a private email for convenience, and that she was willing to cooperate fully with investigations into her handling of official business at the State Department, the report, delivered to Congress on Wednesday, undermined both claims.

Mrs. Clinton, through her lawyers, declined to be interviewed by the inspector general as part of the review. And when staff members raised concerns about the wisdom of her using a non-government email address, they were hushed by State Department officials, who instructed them “never to speak of the secretary’s personal email system again.”

In November 2010, when a State Department aide requested she release her personal email address or start using an official address, Mrs. Clinton said she was open to using a second device or email address but added,“I don’t want any risk of the personal being accessible.”

Mrs. Clinton’s allies on Wednesday jumped on the fact that the report also revealed that Colin Powell, the secretary of state under President George W. Bush, and other State Department officials had also exclusively used personal email accounts. “The inspector general documents just how consistent her email practices were with those of other secretaries and senior officials at the State Department,” said Brian Fallon, a Clinton spokesman.

But Mr. Powell is not running for president against a likely opponent, Donald J. Trump, who has now adopted the drumbeat of “Crooked Hillary.”

“Crooked Hillary, crooked Hillary, she’s as crooked as they come,’’ Mr. Trump said at a rally in Anaheim, Calif.

His attacks came as Mrs. Clinton tried to break through with her own criticism that Mr. Trump had profited from the 2008 housing crisis.

But the Clinton campaign’s new effort to define Mr. Trump as a con man who rips off the little guy for his own gain will be met with the trickle of new developments related to Mrs. Clinton’s private email. The F.B.I. is separately investigating whether Mrs. Clinton and her aides exposed sensitive national security information in their email correspondence. She has already turned over 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department.


Hillary Clinton should have asked for approval to use a private email address and server for official business. Had she done so, the State Department would have said no.

She should have surrendered all of her emails before leaving the administration. Not doing so violated department policies that comply with the Federal Records Act.

When her deputy suggested putting her on a State Department account, she expressed concern about her personal emails being exposed.

In January 2011, the Clintons' IT consultant temporarily shut down its private server because, he wrote, he believed "someone was trying to hack us."

The State Department began disciplinary proceedings against Scott Gration, then the American ambassador to Kenya, for refusing to stop using his personal email for official business.

And Mrs. Clinton’s campaign has struggled to put the issue behind her. Mrs. Clinton spent much of last summer insisting she did not need to apologize for keeping a private server in her home in Chappaqua, N.Y. because the practice was “allowed.” Then, in September, she offered a tortured apology, acknowledging in an interview with ABC News that using a private email server had been a “mistake.” She added, “I’m sorry about that.”

Mrs. Clinton has long contended that voters care more about issues — like equal pay for women, widely available child care, and making college more affordable — than how she handled her emails as secretary of state. Even her Democratic primary opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, tried to squelch the storm over the private server during the first Democratic debate last fall.

But something has seeped into the electorate. A presidential campaign always contends with incoming fire, but it is also designed to serve as an infomercial to present a candidate’s best attributes. Instead, Mrs. Clinton has gone from a 69 percent approval rating and one of the most popular public figures in the country when she left the State Department in 2013 to having one of the highest disapproval ratings of any likely presidential nominee of a major party.

Roughly 53 percent of voters said they had an unfavorable opinion of Mrs. Clinton in a new ABC-News Washington Post poll. Some 60 percent of voters said they had an unfavorable opinion of Mr. Trump.

When asked if Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump are “honest and trustworthy,” 64 percent of registered voters replied “no,” according to a recent New York Times-CBS News poll. Ask voters why they don’t trust Mrs. Clinton, and again and again they will answer with a single word: Emails.

“I don’t believe a word when she says she didn’t know what she was doing with those emails,” said Debbie Figel, 57. She plans to vote for Mr. Trump.

“This email business really concerns me,” said John Dunn, 58 of Oneida, N.Y.

Alan Rappeport, Ashley Parker and Thomas Kaplan contributed reporting.

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