What Does the Inspector General's Report on Hillary Clinton's Emails Really Mean?

"It's the same story" and it's still "not an issue," Hillary Clinton says of the report

Photo: Darren McCollester/Getty

A State Department report criticizing Hillary Clinton‘s use of a private email sever during her time as secretary of state is breathing new life into the scandal that has plagued her for over a year.

The report released on Wednesday by the State Department’s Office of Inspector General concluded that Clinton’s use of private email to conduct public business was “not an appropriate method” of preserving documents and that it violated the government’s policies on email use and records retention.

The Washington Post editorial board, in Thursday editions, said the report’s findings demonstrate “Clinton’s inexcusable, willful disregard for the rules.”

The paper’s editorial board continued: “Ms. Clinton had plenty of warnings to use official government communications methods, so as to make sure that her records were properly preserved and to minimize cybersecurity risks. She ignored them But there is no excuse for the way Ms. Clinton breezed through all the warnings and notifications. While not illegal behavior, it was disturbingly unmindful of the rules.”

Clinton responded to the report in an interview with Univision’s Maria Elena Salinas in California, saying, “It’s the same story” and it’s still “not an issue.” “Just like previous secretaries of state I used a personal email, many people did,” she said, according to CNN. “It was not at all unprecedented.”

So is Clinton right in saying that essentially “nothing has changed” with the release of the new report? Let’s start with her defense.

The New York Times writes that although the report does show that “other senior officials had used personal email accounts for official business, including Colin Powell when he was secretary, the rules made clear by the time [Clinton] became the nation’s top diplomat that using a private server for official business was neither allowed nor encouraged because of ‘significant security risks.’ ”

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The State’s inspector general, Steve Linick, said as much in his report, concluding that Clinton’s use of a personal email for government business did in fact present a security risk. The report also said that Clinton “failed to seek legal approval for her use of a private email server” and that she would not have been permitted to do so had she asked the Department.

CNN argues that the report’s inclusion of allegations against Powell supports the perception that the inspector general’s review was not biased or politically motivated, as Clinton has suggested of other past criticisms of her email practices. Furthermore, the outlet argues, Clinton’s response “highlights how her defense – which began with confident assertions that she followed all the rules and broke no laws – has now been reduced to the argument that ‘others did it too’ or that the rules she violated were not significant.”

The report also stated that Clinton should have handed over records of her emails to the government at the time that she was working for the Department, or at the very least before she left her position as secretary of state.

“Because she did not do so,” the report continued, “she did not comply with the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act.”

Nathan Sales, a Syracuse law professor and a former lawyer for the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, told CBS the report is “not good news for the Clinton camp.”

And political scientist Christopher Malone said the report and ongoing email controversy reinforce the notion that the Clintons play by their own set of rules.

“It does look like she’s playing with two different standards, one for herself and the Clintons and one for everyone else and this is a real perception problem that she has,” Malone said.

An FBI investigation into Clinton’s private email server is ongoing and FBI Director James Comey said there’s no deadline for completing it, according to CBS.

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