Will the People Believe Hillary?

(Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
(Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

In her first public comments on a controversy involving her emails, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton answered questions from the press for 20 minutes, but her response amounted to this: You’ve just got to trust me.

Clinton revealed that she had sent and received more than 62,320 emails from her private account. Of those, 30,490 she deemed work-related and turned over to the State Department. The other 31,830 she apparently deleted. The central question of the jousting match between Clinton and reporters was how she distinguished the personal emails from those relating to her official duties. Her explanation was simple: She decided.

As Clinton pointed out, that may follow the letter of federal rules. Government employees are allowed to use their personal email, and they’re expected to choose which are professional and have to be turned over for public records, and which are personal. She said that even if she had used two devices or only a state.gov email address, she would still have made that decision. But that legalistic defense doesn’t necessarily do much to quash her political problem. The question at the heart of the scandal is what might have been hiding in the emails that were not put in the public record—dealings with corporations, with aides, and with foreign heads of state, for example—that may be relevant to her duties as secretary or her presumed presidential bid.

“I have no doubt that we’ve done exactly what we should have done,” Clinton said. “I feel that I’ve taken unprecedented steps to provide these work-related emails,” she added. “I have absolute confidence that anything that could be in any way connected to work is now in the possession of the State Department,” she reiterated. “We trust and count on the judgment of thousands, maybe millions of people, to make that decision, and I feel that I did and even more,” she said—but of course, she must have known she’d be held to a different standard than those legions of low-level bureaucrats.

Clinton parried questions about a presidential campaign, dodging inquiries about whether and how the scandal might affect her decision on whether to run and the timing of an announcement. But she did say this: “With respect to any sort of future issues, I trust the American people to make their decision about political and public matters.” The question now is whether the American people will trust her decisions.

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The Atlantic

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