The Hillary Clinton Email Saga: Still No There There

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Is Hillary Clinton starting to get into serious trouble over the personal email account she maintained as Secretary of State? Hard to say. So far there’s no evidence that she did anything wrong, just a beef between State and CIA over whether some of the emails she sent and received were classified properly at the time. That may change, but for now that’s all we’ve got.

So why is this getting so much attention? As Steve Benen points out, Clinton isn’t the first Secretary of State to use a personal email account:

Politico published this report in March: “Like Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State Colin Powell also used a personal email account during his tenure at the State Department, an aide confirmed in a statement.”….MSNBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald added at the time: “….Powell, who served from 2001-2005, apparently did not keep a record of personal emails, unlike Clinton.”

As best as I can tell, no one ever cared about the Republican secretary of state using a personal email account. It was, to borrow a phrase, a non-story.

Jeb Bush also used a personal account when he was governor of Florida. And he held onto those emails for seven years before he finally made them public. What’s more, it’s clear that, like Clinton, he decided which emails to release and which to hold back. “Gov. Bush does not have a plan to release his personal e-mails not related to state business,” an aide said in March. That sounds awfully similar to what Clinton has said about her email archive.

I’m not trying to be faux naive here. Nobody cares about Powell because he’s not running for president. Nobody cares about Jeb Bush because….actually, I’m not sure why nobody cares about Bush. The governor of Florida doesn’t handle classified intel, but if that were the big difference then Powell would be under scrutiny too.

It may turn out at some point that Clinton did something wrong. So far, her only real sin is looking guilty—and I’ll confess I don’t understand why she’s acting that way. All it does is give Republicans ammunition and give the press corps an excuse to treat her the way they used to in the 90s. But as near as I can tell, there’s just nothing here, which is why I haven’t bothered writing about it. Aside from the obvious political motivations (for Republicans) and personal animus (among the press), is there any reason this is getting such big play? What am I missing?


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend