Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton is thinking she is invincible after winning the first Democratic primary debate that she is laughing about her email scandal. Clinton sat down for A 20-minute interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Friday, Oct. 16, 2015, where a significant portion of the interview focused on her email scandal; the FBI investigation, and her upcoming testimony for the House Select Committee on Benghazi. Clinton seems to think it is all some joke she can dismiss because her campaign is rebounding. The former Secretary of State laughed about the FBI’s probe, and called the Benghazi committee full of “conspiracy theories.”
Clinton “previewed her testimony” to the Benghazi Committee in her CNN interview, which aired, live from Keene, New Hampshire. Since the Senate Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy linked the probe to Clinton’s falling poll numbers, she has been using the Republican leader’s words against them criticizing Republicans for politicizing their probe and using it to energize her flagging campaign. Clinton reiterated her views of the committee in the interview attacking and dismissing it. Clinton expressed, “I really don’t know what to expect. I think it’s pretty clear that whatever they might’ve thought they were doing, they ended up becoming a partisan arm of the Republican National Committee with an overwhelming focus on trying to — as they admitted — drive down my poll numbers.”
The former Secretary of State does not think her testimony about Benghazi, Libya terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2012, would be much different from her past testimony on the attack. Clinton said, “I’ve already testified about Benghazi. I testified to the best of my ability before the Senate and the House. I don’t know that I have very much to add.” Clinton is set to testify on Oct. 22, her close aide, and former deputy chief of staff at the State Department Huma Abedin testified for six hours for a “transcribed interview” behind closed doors on Friday, Oct. 16. Clinton however, will be testifying in a public hearing before the cameras and open House of Representatives.
Dismissing the House Benghazi committee, Clinton looked to delegitimize their investigation as “conspiracy theories” as opposed to past Congressional investigations on the attack. Clinton sarcastically remarked, “Other committees of the Congress, standing committees with other experienced members of staff have all looked into this and basically just rejected the conspiracy theories that are still floating out there in some circles.” Still, Clinton plans to respond to their questions, “So, I really don’t know. I will do my best to answer their questions. But I don’t really know what their objective is right now.”
When Tapper asked about the lack of “security requests” at Benghazi, Clinton used the opportunity to keep jabbing the House Committee, calling them “political” saying they “inject politics.” Clinton did so by praising past investigations into the attack. Clinton indicated, “And in the reports, the ones that have been done that were nonpolitical and independent in their efforts to try to sort this through, I think concluded that the security professionals in the State Department had to look worldwide and had to make some tough decisions. That’s why we don’t inject politics into it. That has to be what the professionals are deciding.”
Clinton not only dismisses the Benghazi committee’s investigation she also finds her email scandal and the FBI’s investigations into her usage of a private email server as Secretary of State a joke. Tapper commented, “Bernie Sanders said that ‘the American people are tired of hearing about your damn emails,’ but there are a lot of people who are not, including FBI officials looking into whether national security was compromised because of this server.” Somehow, Clinton started laughing hysterically, interrupting Tapper as he asked the question.
Tapper was referring to one of the lines of the night during the first Democratic primary debate, where Sanders also said “Enough of the e-mails. Let’s talk about the real issues facing America.” Sanders found Clinton pleased and enthusiastically agreed. Just as Clinton laughed in the debate to the line, she laughed again during the interview. Clinton however, “swatted away questions” about her email server, and insisted, “nothing — and I will underscore, nothing that I was sent or that I sent was marked classified.” Clinton has been making that denial since the start of the accusations when the press first reported about her private server.
Clinton tried to make excuses about the State Department in their review to release her emails have marked over 100 emails as classified information and at least two marked as top secret. Clinton kept arguing, “nothing was marked classified” in “real time.” Clinton insisted there were two systems at the State Department, “We had the unclassified system, so anybody on the unclassified system with the State Department would only be able to tell if something were classified if it were marked classified. We dealt with classified information on a totally different system. Nobody had access to that from an unclassified device.”
Clinton’s main excuse to deflect any impropriety as Secretary of State was to use the justification that because the emails are being made public are they retroactively being labeled classified. Clinton explained, “If something’s going to be made public that was not classified at the time, maybe something has happened years later that there’s a case and so now, it’s sensitive information.” The FBI’s inspector general, however, determined that Clinton did in fact sent classified information at the time. Clinton however, says that is “a very strong difference of opinion.”
Clinton was just as defensive when Tapper asked about the classified information that “former journalist, White House official and longtime confidant” Sidney Blumenthal sent to Clinton that she forwarded to her staff. New York Times reported about the emails that were included at the end of August State Department email release. The monthly release is part of the conservative group Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the State Department where there is a court order requiring the emails be released each month until January 2016.
As the New York Times reported, Blumenthal sent “news articles, inside information, political gossip, election polls, geopolitical advice and sheer speculation.” Blumenthal sent emails numbering in the hundreds that included “political intelligence” on domestic and foreign issues and freely insulted Republicans and even Democrats, even President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and administration officials. The State Department found additional emails from Clinton relating to Benghazi, including from Blumenthal, which they gave to the House Benghazi Committee. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-SC, the committee chairman promised to release them before Clinton testifies on Oct. 22.
Blumenthal worked at former President Bill Clinton’s Clinton Foundation. Therefore there was a possible conflict of interest. Clinton often took his advice and his contacts in her role as Secretary of State. The problem was Blumenthal also gave Clinton advice on Libya. Clinton too tried to down play the importance of his emails, “It was not in the category of anything that could be classified because it came from an outside nongovernment person passing on what somebody told somebody told him.”
Clinton tried to dismiss the seriousness of Blumenthal’s emails, saying, she thought, “the government needs to know this, and I thought, hey, that’s a good point I’ll send it on, and six years later they say, oh, my gosh, he was reporting sensitive information. Well, you didn’t know that. And I certainly didn’t know that.” Remaining on the defensive Clinton kept saying in different ways, “I dealt with classified information very carefully and seriously,” and “I’m very familiar with the importance of treating classified information as it should be with great care.”
Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Short issued a statement after Clinton’s interview highlighting all her admittance of wrongdoings. In the statement, Short wrote, “Hillary Clinton’s stunning admission that she unilaterally set up her secret email server that exposed Top Secret material shows she alone is responsible for putting national security at risk. While Hillary Clinton may think she can mislead and laugh off tough questions about her judgment, her growing email scandal personifies why an overwhelming majority of Americans don’t trust her.”