03.08.15

Hillary Clinton Emails Test Budding Campaign’s Ties With White House

WASHINGTON—Hillary Clinton’s exclusive use of private email as secretary of state is testing relations between her emerging campaign and the Obama White House, and their responses could set the tone for how the two Democratic Party powerhouses interact during the next 20 months.

The contrasting reactions to the disclosure grew starker over the weekend when President Barack Obama answered questions on the matter, while Mrs. Clinton hasn’t.

Criticism of the former senator and first lady’s use of only a private email account, for which the State Department initially didn’t retain records, widened to include not only her opponents but also her allies.

 

“She needs to step up and come out and state exactly what the situation is,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) said Sunday on NBC. “From this point on, the silence is going to hurt her.”

 

Lanny Davis, a longtime Clinton ally and former special counsel to President Bill Clinton, on Sunday backed an independent review of Mrs. Clinton’s emails during her four years as secretary of state. “There can be a neutral party to review all these records,” Mr. Davis said on Fox.

 

Mrs. Clinton didn’t observe White House guidance that administration officials conduct business on government email, instead using only a personal email account, the State Department said last week. Critics have suggested that this had the effect of keeping her emails shielded from public-records requests filed by lawmakers and advocacy groups.

 

Mr. Obama’s aides privately express frustration that Mrs. Clinton’s silence on the issue has forced the White House to become her de facto defender. “The policy of my administration is to encourage transparency, which is why my emails—the BlackBerry I carry around—all those records are available and archived,” Mr. Obama said in a CBS interview Saturday from Selma, Ala.

 

Mr. Obama added that he is “glad” Mrs. Clinton has now instructed that her emails about government business need to be disclosed. “The fact that she’s going to be putting them forward will allow us to make sure that the people have the information they need,” he said.

 

Amid the controversy, Mrs. Clinton remains in a strong position to win her party’s presidential nomination, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found. Some 86% of Democratic primary voters in the survey said they could see themselves supporting her, with 13% saying they couldn’t. The survey was taken last Sunday through Thursday, as news of the email issue was breaking.

 

Mrs. Clinton’s aides have turned over emails from her personal account that they said related to her time as secretary of state. Congressional committees are planning investigations into the matter, and the State Department warned it could take months to fulfill Mrs. Clinton’s request last week that all of her emails be made public.

 

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R., S.C.), chairman of a House committee investigating the 2012 terror attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, said Sunday there are “gaps of months and months and months” in the private emails Mrs. Clinton provided to the committee.

 

Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), a member of the House’s Benghazi committee, said on CNN that Mrs. Clinton had provided all of the documents the committee requested and that “there’s nothing in them.”

 

Meanwhile, the White House has worked to distance itself from any fallout, administration officials noted.

 

“If they screwed up on the emails, if we find out they skipped over her emails…then that will be a problem for them, it’ll be a scandal. But it’s not one that we’ll own,” a senior administration official said.

 

The White House also has provided little clarity into whether any of Mr. Obama’s top aides were aware of Mrs. Clinton’s email arrangement.

 

A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, Nick Merrill, said in a statement: “We have always had an open line of communication with the White House, from our time at the State Department and beyond. That continues here, and we’re grateful for it.”

 

On Sunday, Scott Gration, a former U.S. ambassador to Kenya, said it was “unfair” that he was forced to resign after using a private email account for government business given Mrs. Clinton’s practices. An inspector general’s report had cited a range of lapses by Mr. Gration in addition to his Internet practices.

 

“It does appear like there was a different standard that was used in my case and that has been used in hers,” Mr. Gration said on CNN.

 

The Obama and Clinton camps are increasingly overlapping. Former top Obama aide John Podesta recently took on a senior role with the expected Clinton campaign. Mr. Obama’s communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, will next hold a similar senior role with the Clinton team.

 

Since last week, Ms. Palmieri has been the point-person between the two camps on the email issue.


Source: Wall Street Journal