Hillary Clintonsat on the wall,
Hillary Clintonhad a great fall.
All the king's horses
And all the king's men
Couldn't put Hillary Clinton
In a memo to top supporters, Hillary Clinton’s top official sought to clarify the campaign’s response to a new report from the State Department inspector general and move past a controversy that has dogged the candidate now for 15 months.
The 600-word letter from John Podesta, Clinton’s chairman and longtime adviser, addresses the IG report’s various findings, but comes back to a single point again and again: that Clinton knows the use of a personal email server was a “mistake.”
“And she has taken responsibility for that mistake,” Podesta wrote to several hundred of the campaign’s most active supporters and financial backers.
The memo, obtained by BuzzFeed News, went out by email over Memorial Day weekend, five days after the release of the highly critical IG report. The investigation, separate from an ongoing FBI inquiry, concluded that Clinton failed during her tenure as secretary of state to comply with record-keeping policies.
In the days after the IG’s findings became public, Clinton made appearances on four television networks to push back on the report as nothing new. “There may be reports that come out, but nothing has changed,” she said. “It’s the same story.”
(The IG report included some new details of how Clinton’s email arrangement was set up, including correspondence from within the State Department.)
The Podesta memo takes a more contrite posture, reminding backers three separate times that Clinton has called the email setup a mistake and continues to do so in the wake of the IG report. “The secretary has once again acknowledged this was a mistake,” Podesta writes. “If she could go back, she’d do it differently.”
Podesta also takes up one of the report’s key findings: that Clinton’s email practices did differ significantly from past secretaries of state, contrary to the candidate’s frequent argument that, broadly, her email use was not “unprecedented.”
Clinton used a non-government account to conduct State Department business, as did former secretary of state Colin Powell. But no other former secretary of state has maintained government correspondence on a private home-based server.
Although Clinton argued again in a Univision interview on Wednesday that her use of a personal account was “not at all unprecedented,” the memo from Podesta alludes to the distinct aspects of her arrangement. At the time, he writes, “she believed she was following the practices of other secretaries and senior officials.”
The IG report concluded that Clinton had an “obligation” to discuss such an arrangement with State Department officials, including for security reasons, but found “no evidence” that she “requested or obtained guidance or approval to conduct official business via a personal email account on her private server.”
The report came as an unwelcome development for Clinton’s campaign, just days before officials expect to clinch the Democratic nomination when polls close on June 7. The email scandal, dragging into its second year, has not helped Clinton fight the perception that she is untrustworthy or too often mired in controversy.
“We understand the questions about Secretary Clinton’s email practices,” Podesta writes in his memo. But, he adds, “voters will look at the full picture of everything she has done throughout her career. We have faith in the American people.”