There's no way White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett leaked "details" of Hillary Clinton's personal email account, as was reported by the credibility-challenged New York Post. How do we know this for sure? As I discussed with John Fugelsang and Frank Conniff Monday afternoon on SiriusXM Insight 121, why the hell would an Obama administration official leak something like this and risk damaging the candidate that would ostensibly preserve Obama's legacy? It makes zero political sense.
Conversely, here's a leak story that makes sense in nearly every way. And it's considerably more believable.
Back on February 20, The New York Timesreported that Hillary Clinton was in the process of doing what's known as opposition research -- on herself. In other words, Clinton's advisers hired a team to begin the process of vetting the soon-to-be presidential candidate. This is an absolutely critical matter, one of custom and sensible diligence to determine what, if anything, the press, the Republicans or even a Democratic challenger might dig up and exploit.
Clinton apparently hired an outfit called New Partners, a firm that specializes in digging up dirt, and of course the New Partners tip came from an anonymous source close to the campaign. In other words, someone leaked the story to The Times and, I suspect, intentionally so in order to reassure concerned Democratic Party apparatchiks that Clinton wasn't going to be caught with her pantsuit down by another opposition attack, not unlike when the conservative rag The Washington Free Beacon published a story recently about Clinton serving as the defense attorney in a rape case back in the 1980s.
The self-oppo process is likely focused on Clinton's charitable giving, investments and professional life since 2008, on top of another look into her pre-White House years. So, it'd stand to reason that especially after Benghazi and the Lois Lerner email flap in the middle of the IRS scandal, followed by the Federal Records Act update late last year, one of the potential red flags in the vetting process may have included Clinton's so-called "homebrew" email server and her usage of it during her term as Secretary of State.
Again, the self-oppo story ran on February 20. The email story broke in The New York Timeson March 2, just 10 days later. Furthermore, it was partly based on information that was already out there -- specifically the private email address, which was disclosed in March, 2013 by the hacker Guccifer.
So, then, what if someone from the Clinton camp leaked the email item, soon after someone leaked the self-oppo New Partners story? Again, this is pure speculation, but it's not unprecedented in politics to leak a potentially damaging story as a means of getting in front of it, to control the timing and the response, rather than being cold-cocked at absolutely the wrong time. The leak may have been strategic or maybe not.
But let's speculate on the strategic side.
Let's say you're Hillary Clinton who's had the living hell kicked out of her since 1992, mostly by Maureen Dowd. You're about to walk into the propeller blades of both the GOP and the political press -- each equally desperate to tag you with the next big Whitewater scandal. Your self-oppo turns up the existence of an email server and the fact that you deleted 30,000 personal emails. Even though it was perfectly legal and in accordance with both federal law and the Foreign Affairs Manual (see footnote below) at the time, and even though the email address was already published two years ago, it will probably be spun as a major scandal by the Republicans who will use it as a magic bullet in their conspiracy theory about a cover-up of the 2012 Benghazi attack.
You're Mrs. Clinton. Do you want this to come out on your own terms well before the campaign is announced? Or do you want this to drop the day before the New Hampshire primary, when the Clintons were repeatedly nailed in 1992 -- or worse, at the end of October, 2016? You'd have to be insane not to leak it now. The campaign hasn't started, no one's really talking about the next election outside of you, me and the rest of the political bubble. It's really the ideal time for all of this to happen.
Now, I hasten to qualify all of this by invoking Occam's Razor. The simplest explanation is that someone at The Times finally got around to running a trace on the clintonemail.com domain published two years ago. They noticed the static IP addresses and the Chappaqua location and hastily tossed it all together. Why it didn't happen two years ago after the Guccifer hack is another question.
I'm also well aware that speculating about an intentional leak of the email item contributes to the stereotype of Clinton as a Machiavellian triangulator. Realistically, however, it's not out of the question for this sort of thing to occur, so it's not really specific to a mustache-twirling, Mr. Bigglesworth-stroking Clinton caricature, but rather it's totally commonplace in politics, especially at Clinton's level.
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And now for that footnote. I couldn't help but notice a quote from Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who's heading up the investigation into Clinton's email server.
“But who gets to decide what’s personal and what’s public?”
Who get's to decide? The Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), section 443.5, clearly suggests that it's Clinton herself. The FAM:
"Messages that are not records may be deleted when no longer needed."
It's up to personal discretion. But it's politically advantageous for Gowdy to ignore this particular regulation on his way to painting Clinton as a criminal when no laws or regulations were violated. All that matter is the perception of wrongdoing and grandstanding as the Wyatt Earp of the scandal.