Hillary Clinton’s closest confidantes mused about the risks of using private email accounts even as they were corresponding with their boss who used one exclusively, according to State Department emails released on Wednesday.
In one June 2011 email, recently departed Director of Policy Planning Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote that senior State Department officials “routinely end up using their home email accounts” due to the antiquated nature of the State Department’s technology, and that someone inside or outside the department should issue a statement or op-ed on the “woeful state” of affairs.
Clinton originally agrees with this suggestion, writing to her aides that it “makes sense” to do this, but her chief of staff quickly shoots the idea down.
Cheryl Mills, her top aide, indicates that someone had previously tried to hack her email—“as someone who attempted to be hacked [sic] (yes I was one),” she wrote—she didn’t want the public to know how common the practice of using a non-official email account was.
“I am not sure we want to telegraph how much folks do or don’t do off state mail b/c it may encourage others who are out there,” Mills wrote.
Clinton aide Jake Sullivan also expressed concerns, according to the email thread, leading Slaughter to back off from the idea. “Perhaps a better approach is to make the point more quietly to legislators through H[illary],” she concludes.
The State Department publicly released nearly 4,000 emails totaling 6,300 pages of communications on Wednesday, the fifth such batch of documents produced by the department. A handful of those emails have since been marked ‘secret.’ More than 37 percent of the Clinton’s email collection held by State has now been released. The State Department’s collection only represents the emails that Clinton classified as “work” emails; the others were reportedly deleted.
The idea that foreign governments would be interested in the communications of State Department officials was present in Clinton’s mind. On another email chain, in July 2011, Clinton joked about being hacked by the Chinese. After not being able to find the email of a State Department staffer, she wrote: “must be the Chinese!”
It was actually Russia-linked hackers who attempted at least five times to gain access to Hillary Clinton’s private email account, the Associated Press reported Wednesday. The hackers attempted to get into the account by sending emails disguised as speeding tickets from New York. If an attachment was opened, the AP noted, hackers would have been able to take control of Clinton’s computer.
In a rare open hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee last week, NSA Director Michael Rogers was asked by Sen. Tom Cotton about how he would respond if an agency official came to him with a tip that a senior foreign official was conducting government business on a private server.
“From a foreign intelligence perspective, that represents opportunity,” Rogers responded.
The scandal surrounding Hillary Clinton’s emails have dogged her presidential campaign for months and caused her poll numbers to drop, something even she acknowledges. “It is like a drip, drip, drip,” Clinton said Sunday on NBC.
And while she has taken responsibility for making the choice to use a private email address, she appears nonchalant about what happened to those emails, including some which appear missing.
“Whatever happened to them, happened to them,” she said about the work emails she apparently hadn’t turned over to the State Department, despite assurances that she had turned over all work emails.
Much of the attention on the Democratic presidential favorite’s personal email account has been drawn by the special committee expressly set up by House Republicans to investigate the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, which killed four Americans, including the U.S. Ambassador.
But Democrats pounced Wednesday when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy remarked that the committee had been set up to target Clinton.
“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee,” McCarthy said earlier this week on Fox. “What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known that any of that had happened had we not fought to make that happen.”
Democrats pointed out that the committee has spent $4.5 million and has been around longer than the committee set up to investigate Watergate.
“Taxpayer dollars should be spent to improve the quality of life for the American people, not to fuel a naked political attack,” said the top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Smith. “In the beginning, we were told that this committee was stood up to investigate the attacks in Benghazi… In the end, we all knew that the committee was established for political reasons, and it’s about time that Republicans finally acknowledged that fact.”
— additional reporting by Jackie Kucinich and Will Rahn