Hillary Clinton

Clinton Email Defender Does Not Understand How Email Works


Hillary Clinton / Twitter

It's been a week since news that Hillary Clinton exclusively used a privately run email system during her time as Secretary of State, in violation of clear organizational policies.

Despite intense media interest and public concern, however, she has yet to say anything on the matter aside from a single Tweet issued late Thursday night, although she is expected to hold a press conference on the matter sometime this week.

In the meantime, though, a handful of Clinton surrogates have been tasked with defending her. This has been somewhat awkward, since Clinton seems to have provided little warning to her allies about the scandal, despite knowing for months that the issue was brewing.

Nevertheless, Clinton's allies have tried valiantly, though not particularly successfully, to fend off critics and explain away the likely Democratic candidate's dubious behavior.

For example, Lanny Davis, a crisis communications guru long favored by dictators and Democrats, including and especially the Clintons, rose to her defense over the weekend on Fox News Sunday opposite host Chris Wallace. In the process, Davis managed to demonstrate that he is willing to exaggerate on Clinton's behalf, and also that he does not understand how email works.

For one thing, Davis rejected the idea that the emails could have been deleted. "Last time I looked you cannot delete on a hard drive," he told Fox News host Chris Wallace while suggesting that a "neutral" review of her emails might be acceptable, according to RealClearPolitics.

Perhaps he should look again before he next appears on national television to discuss the matter because that's, well, not true. Yes, permanently deleting data from a hard drive—including email—is usually harder than just pressing the delete button once, but it can definitely be done on most any system. Indeed, even if a hard drive were somehow set to prohibit deletion, hard drives can crash or disappear. Backups can fail to backup. There is no natural law that requires the permanent conservation of email.

Davis also insisted that Clinton had already disclosed all of her emails. "She's turned over all of her emails, the first secretary of state to ever do that," he said.

Unless the last week's worth of reports are wrong, this is also not true. Clinton turned over 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department which had already been combed through by her aides. She has not turned over "all of her emails"—just a selection picked by people whose job is to protect her.

Finally, as The Weekly Standard's Ethan Epstein notes, Davis bizarrely defended Clinton's decision to rely exclusively on a private email system as some sort of travel necessity, saying that "a secretary of state traveling to 111 countries might be needing to have one email system versus people in the department who should use the official system," and he followed up by saying that "as secretary of state she might feel the need, traveling all over, with a hand-held device…"

This is so incoherent that I'm not even sure it counts as an argument.

Perhaps it's worth reviewing some of the basics. One of the most useful things about email is that it can travel great distances over wires and through the air, even to handheld devices—and even, yes, to handheld devices that have been taken to other countries. (Sometimes additional charges apply.) This is not only one of the most useful features of email, it is also one of the most widely known.

And before you ask, no, this is not an effect that is limited to privately managed, "homebrew" email systems like the one Clinton relied on. Indeed, other staffers at the State Department manage to travel to other parts the world and still maintain access to their government email accounts. Some of them, in fact, are expected to, and then punished when they don't. 

Maybe Davis knows all this; maybe he doesn't. Either way it's telling that the best defense this longtime Clinton defender and professional crisis communicator can come up with requires one to either not know how email works or pretend not to. 

NEXT: Matt Welch: It's Stupid Season. Have You Been Vaccinated?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Clinton turned over 55,000 pages of emails

    You forgot the “On paper” part designed to impede searching. Her office literally gave the State Department 55-110 reams of printed sheets (depending on how many double-sided printouts there were)

    1. Lanny Davis told me you can’t make electronic copies of emails

    2. You forgot the “On paper” part designed to impede searching.

      Many agencies require you to print out emails as they are federal records. They are slowly going away from the requirement, but it is there.

      1. But they also did not send any electronic copies along. At best it’s a case of “Malicious compliance”, but given the huge gaps in the records, and the lack of an emectronic copy sent to the people who should have had them all along, it’s more of Hillary being an entitled ass.

        1. it’s more of Hillary being an entitled ass.

          Absolutely agree. I would love to see her charged. Anyone in the Federal government knows emails are federal records. What she did was illegal and I am not trying to defend her actions, as they are undefendable (?). I am simply saying the paper copies are not uncommon.

        2. I wonder what font they were printed in?

          Would be interesting to see if they tried to select one which would interfere with OCR scanning?

          If not then it is a rather trivial matter to convert those pages back to a searchable electronic format.

          1. Time-intensive.

            Also, assuming DoS has a decent OCR-capable scanner might be a bit of a stretch.

            1. Not really all that time intensive.

              There are automatic OCR systems that can scan those documents in about 2 days.

              My wife works in the Digital Imaging department of a library services company (they archive electronic data for researchers) and every day they scan several hundred books, magazines, and other assorted publications totaling somewhere around 20,000 pages a day.

              Since every one of them is on a different paper stock with different page margins and different fonts, some with images included and most are bound meaning they have to cut the binding off before they can scan the pages it is quite a bit of effort. Since we’re talking about computer printouts here we are presumably talking about standard 8.5×11 pages with standard 1 inch margins and a nice black ink.

              There would presumably be little to no preparation to the pages needed to be done before feeding them through the scanner and so getting 50 – 60,000 pages through the system in a day wouldn’t be all that much of a problem

              1. Good to know. My experience comes from the wonderful world of defense contracting office areas, so…yeah.

              2. If they really knew what they were doing, they would have sent it over on the old 15 inch wide green and white striped paper with the holes on the sides…unseparated.

              3. We are talking about the affirmative actions that lost 2 years of emails for the top 8 IRS workers.

        3. It’s like paying off your property taxes in pennies.

        4. They should be able to scan those in and OCR them, ie turn them back into searchable electronic documents.

          1. Why would they do this?

            They can claim ignorance.

            State is full of loyal people who want positions under Hillary.

    3. Seems legit. Why would you hit “forward” when printing ream after ream of paper is so much easier. Move it along plebe.

      1. Then IP comes along to make me look like a fool.

        1. No reason to feel the fool FM as many people think it is foolish to print something that is in electronic format. But the requirement is in the regulations of many agencies. Strange but true.

          1. Clinton is paying attention to regulations now?

            1. Isn’t it telling that when someone of Hillary’s or Lois Lerner’s stature on the right team crosses the line its a policy or a regulation.

              If one of the slugs in the state dept. did the same it would be refered to as a LAW. If hi/her history included donations to a Rep. politician it would be called a Federal Law by most media.

    4. 55,000 pages? When did she have time to get anything done?

      Oh wait. She didn’t get anything done except hustle foreign donations for the Clinton Foundation.

      Not to worry, Chelsea said it was OK. http://www.breitbart.com/big-governme…..08/chelsea

  2. Lanny Davis is one of the hacks of all hacks.

    I also like the arguments in my local paper, which I made the mistake of reading online the other day. Literal defense of Clinton:

    “I’m sure lots of other politicians have personal emails! What’s the issue??”

    With depth of understanding and challenge to authority like that, this is what makes me so confident of the country’s future.


    1. It’s ok. When the revolution comes those people will be easy pickings, they won’t have guns.

      1. Or food.
        Or water.
        Or medical supplies.

  3. Of course Lanny Davis knows how emails works – he’s counting on the rubes to not know, which is why he would say something that ignorant.

    And of course emails can be permanently deleted. In my past working on government contracts we would occasionally have someone email a classified document on an unclassified system. IT would go into the system and eliminate the specific message using a program like BCWipe which is approved by the DOD for just such purposes…for pete’s sake they have written standards for just such a practice (U.S. DoD 5220.22-M(ECE) and U.S. DoD 5220.22-M(E))

    So in all of his years as a defense attorney, Davis knows full well that it can be done but as is so often the case, he and the Clintons are banking on the ignorance of the audience to save the day…

    1. What we used to call DoD-delete. . . overwrite the file with zeroes – 256 times – just to make sure. . .

      Don’t know if that’s ever been the way the DoD does things. . . but it worked for us when we were young.

  4. James Carville came out of the woodwork to defend Hillary too – by yelling and ignoring questions of course. They really do have a cult following of toady hacks. I wonder if Sandy Berger is available?


    1. I’m waiting to hear Sandy Berger’s been caught smuggling the server backup tapes out of the Chappaqua house in his pants.

  5. So, what’s the explanation from the ‘liberal MSM is in the tank for Hillary and the Dems’ crowd for the heavy coverage of this in the ‘MSM’ ?

    1. Personally I think that the MSM has lost their taste for Hillary and this issue is being covered heavily to get her to reconsider running. The MSM wants Warren to run and if Hillary decides not to run then it is likely that Warren will enter the race.

      Remember that SNL piece spoofing the treatment of Hillary vs. Obama during debates in 2008? This is very similar I think.

      Ultimately I think that a lot of media like the idea of Hillary but have just had it with her and Bill and they know that if she were to win they would be in for 4-8 years of the same nonsense.

      So they arent in the tank for Hillary but they are in the tank for the dems…

    2. The more I pay attention the less I understand what the MSM will cover. Michael Brown yes, Tamir Rice not so much.

    3. It’s difficult to ignore, fairly clear-cut, somewhat novel, technologically easy to grok, a subject familiar to anyone who has worked in an office, and Hillary is the Democratic front-runner if you’re already paying attention but not if you’re the average ambivalent American. The MSM isn’t carrying her water just yet.

    4. Just as a point of clarification, is your point that the media is not overwhelmingly liberal with a bias towards the Democrats?

      Or that Republican and conservative politicians protest about this bias a bit too much?

      Do not even libertarians complain about the “pro-state | anti-classical liberal” bias of both Democratic and Republican leaning media outlets?

    5. Hillary is not yet the nominee and therefore she is safe to attack.

      Once the nominee is chosen they will be treated with kid gloves.

      Also, this is way too big of a story for them to bury. Had this been some random GS15 undersecretary not named Clinton doing this they would already be facing criminal charges and a very long vacation in Kansas. The only reason Clinton isn’t is because of who she is and because a Democrat is sitting in the Oval office.

      If this were coming out about say Condaleeza Rice the media would be calling for criminal charges

    6. The explanation is the MSM is hoping to out all of her worst scandals now, so she has time to spin – and the electorate has time to forget – before the primaries start. So that if anyone brings it up in the primaries or general election she can go all “That was SO two years ago.”

      1. What difference, at this point, does it make?

  6. “Davis also insisted that Clinton had already disclosed all of her emails. “She’s turned over all of her emails, the first secretary of state to ever do that,” he said.”

    The first one ever. Now THERE’S an accomplishment!

    Kind of a dubious milestone if you ask me.

    1. You know who else had a career that was filled with dubious milestones…

      1. Charlie Sheen?

      2. Randy Quaid?

  7. I thought, upon seeing the post title, that we would finally see Shriek on TV!

  8. I still can’t believe no one is running with the “likely disclosed classified info (and thus contaminated several unclassified networks for an indeterminate time), probably violated ITAR, and almost surely committed export violations” angle.

    And because there’s no way to be sure because the information system was not controlled, in the eyes of the government agencies in charge of these sorts of things, she’s guilty by attempted evasion/obfuscation alone – or rather, any of us would be.

    1. I think they are not running with it because her defenders don’t want to mention it and her detractors don’t want to overplay their hands. Making that accusation would just shift the goalposts allowing her to pretend this isn’t a big deal if they can’t prove she leaked classified information.

      I think you are right that she probably violated the federal statutes you mention and a few others. The problem is that her lawyers have likely scrubbed the emails of any offending items and we likely will never prove it.

      1. John, my point is (having experience with these agencies) that the agencies (and statutes) involved essentially treat continual obfuscation/evasion as de facto guilt. There obviously is no way to prove that no exports/classified disclosure/ITAR violations occurred, and that is exactly the problem. DoS/DoD/Commerce looks very, very, very unkindly upon such cases among standard proles.

        1. Of course they do. But the rules don’t apply to people like Hillary.

          1. Unfortunately, you are correct. Were she a peon, she’d probably be in Leavenworth. Then again, were she a peon, the DoS IT department would have actually had an effect on her when they discovered the issue and raised their concerns, so maybe it never would have reached that point.

          2. See john even you did it without realizing what you did.

            When Hillary or someone of her ilk does something like this it is “against policy” or rules or regulations.

            if someone from the wrong team did the same it suddenly is called Federal Law.

  9. Come on guys, stop being so sexist. I mean its not like the State Department is some world wide organization or something or has a presence in nearly every country in the world or anything. What was poor little Hillary to do?

    If this is the best they can do and more importantly they are desperate enough to even try saying something this self evidently idiotic, this issue is clearly a big deal and hurting Hillary.

  10. Oh, c’mon – almost no Secretary of State has ever used the official government e-mail system so why is Clinton getting slammed for this? Hell, even during the War of 1812, the Civil War, both WWI and WWII, the Korean and Vietnam wars, and even the Cold War when security was most crucial the Secretaries didn’t use .gov servers. If Thomas Jefferson himself never used the e-mail system, isn’t that good enough for Clinton?

    1. That is right. And we all know someone at her level is personally logging on and reading their emails every day. The government runs on such a short budget no way did she have people around her to take care of these things. Nope, poor little Hillary was doing it all alone. Hell, she was probably making coffee for the men up there too.

  11. Company A requires all company communications be conducted through company A’s secure email system. Company A gets business from clients that rely on privacy of their email and documents through company A’s secure email system.

    Employee of company A uses private e-mail which violates corporate policy.

    Employee fired, and sued for damages. Employees reputation is tarnished, and can not find job in their field. Whereas with a politician, their reputation could be tarnished, and gullible sheep elect them, as they impose their will and slavery upon individuals that wanted nothing to do do with that crooked person ever again.

  12. State employees and contractors have to take a cyber-security course every year and pass the usual bullshit test afterward. Failure to take the course and pass will have your network privledges shutoff.

    Can we see if former Secretary’s test scores? Maybe she couldn’t pass the test and had NO CHOICE but to set up a ‘homebrew’ network to do her vital job?

  13. Over/Under that Clinton Inc. will ride out this scandal by hunkering down and that it will off the radar by Summer?

    1. Why you think the NYTimes is breaking it now instead of sitting on it and seeing how long it took the government to come clean (because we know Hillary never would)? They want to give Hillary enough time to spin – and the electorate enough time to forget – before the primaries start next year.

  14. So in Hillary’s defense (not something I normally say), it is possible the State Department’s email system would not work on her mobile device. This could be because it is an outdated system that is not compatible with many mobile phones (I believe much of the government uses IBM’s horrendous Lotus Notes, which while it eventually did support mobile devices, I have firm memories of it having pretty crappy support back when I was at IBM). It could also be because of security policies that restrict where and on what devices you can access your email. If the latter were true it would certainly be hypocritical for the Secretary of State to be flaunting the State Department’s security policies, but the reason could easily be explained as a desire for convenience over a desire for security.

    1. The DoS system would work fine on a mobile device if there is a modicum of expertise in their IT department (which could be a stretch).

      Good is the approved application for secure e-mail on mobile, and it’s been around for quite a while.

    2. No. They give even low level government employees government issued mobile devices. That is no defense at all.

  15. And, of course, the NSA has every one of those emails, metadata and all.

    Congress should just order the NSA to produce every email from that domain.

  16. You can bet Lanny Davis knows exactly what’s going on. He and his staff have likely spent days figuring out what kind of nonsense they can say that will sufficiently confuse the “stupid American voter”.

  17. I agree with James Carville on one thing: every time a reporter brings up the “Clinton narrative,” it’s going beyond the confines of this news story. That narrative has indeed been largely shaped by hysterical rightwing conspiracy theories. Trying to conflate this with those is pretty feeble, however. If Clinton has an innocent explanation, not coming out with it immediately was bad politics, and assuming it would all go away if she stayed silent was naive.

    1. An innocent explanation?! Are you crazy? She has a separate, maintained system for email at her house that she’s been using for official government business. That’s equivalent to making a copy of every official correspondence and keeping it in a file cabinet at one’s home. She did this purposely. She violated policy, law, and common sense. It’s all wrong, but that doesn’t stop Tony from partisan hackery.

      You are a very stupid, partisan puppy dog. You don’t even understand how silly you sound and look.

    2. You mean like the one about how lame stream media ignored the black moslem serial killer of gays in 3 states named Mohammad Ali Brown during the coverage of the Ferguson liquor store robber’s death?

    3. Just because there is a vast right wing conspiracy doesn’t mean that Hillary isn’t evil.

    4. Derpy derpy derpy.

  18. For one thing, Davis rejected the idea that the emails could have been deleted. “Last time I looked you cannot delete on a hard drive,” he told Fox News host Chris Wallace while suggesting that a “neutral” review of her emails might be acceptable, according to RealClearPolitics.

    We live in such ignorant times. More than ever, it seems, people are just savages dressed up in fancy costumes, playing with toys they don’t understand. Eloi.

    In the 21st century, people should have a basic understanding of how computers work. Davis’s statement is something like a 20th century person saying, “Last I looked, you can’t drain the gasoline out of a car.”

    When you’ve demonstrated that you don’t have a basic understanding of how the tools you use everyday work, you forfeit any expectation of ever being taken seriously about anything, ever again.

    1. Pro tip: That’s why he was picked to play defense.

      “Send the retard up, he’ll babble something, and the Democratic base will believe whatever he says”

  19. For one thing, Davis rejected the idea that the emails could have been deleted. “Last time I looked you cannot delete on a hard drive,”


    Davis also insisted that Clinton had already disclosed all of her emails. “She’s turned over all of her emails, the first secretary of state to ever do that,” he said.

    We know she disclosed all of her emails. A system administrator in Mumbai has been reading them for months.

  20. Holy shit, I can access my email, on my smartphone, anywhere in the world?!? This changes everything!

  21. That server is the key.

    With the server on her property, with only her people having access to it physically, all of this is just gonna blow away. Why do you think she had it on HER property? Puhleeeese!! She may be skanky but that don’t make her stupid.

    1. You don’t think she would treat a freedom of information request about her wrongdoing any differently than google would do you?

      1. Or a request from the NSA for her metadata?

  22. “This is so incoherent that I’m not even sure it counts as an argument.”

    which is the entire point of the ‘incoherence’ defense.

    It puts critics in the position of *endlessly trying to re-explain* basic facts to the point where people get bored with the repetition of technical details, and decide that the whole thing is probably “just a matter of confusion” on some people’s parts.

    IOW, it avoids any narrowing-down of the Q&A to the actual point of misconduct. e.g. ‘why did the SoS set up an outside system in her own home, in violation of ever communications protocol in the federal government, and even her own department”

    You can just make 3 or 4 statements that aren’t even internally consistent with one another, then sit back while the audience has to listen to the “critic” boringly try and deconstruct the language to the point where no one cares anymore. In the end, people go with what they think is the “intent” of the language = and they tend to side with the person who simply emotionally blathered instead of didactically deconstructed.

  23. The defenders of Hillary are using the same old tried and true tactics they did all during the 1990s – deny, distract and demonize. The law is clear, there must be a record of all government communications on a server controlled by National Archives. Yes previous Sec of State had used private email because the law did not exist. The most damaging fact to those defending Hillary is the memo she sent instructing State Dept employees to use government email ONLY for all government business. The fact she chose to do otherwise reinforces the public perception of the Clintons thinking they are above the law. The truly appalling part of the event is now in desperation, they have begun pulling out the infamous “vast right wing conspiracy” charge. However, it is hilarious to claim anyone working for the NY Times is right wing anything. I am surprised many of them are not Nascar drivers as well since left is the only direction they think exists..

  24. Here I was thinking that it was an abnormality that I get both g-mail and Yahoo mail on my cell phone. I guess Hillary isn’t the sharpest tack in the box after all.

  25. Come on people!
    If you think they are really that stupid, that uninformed, that ignorant about technology a 12-year-old understands, do you really want them running your country?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.