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Why We Care about Clinton’s Emails

For those of you that tuned in to last Monday’s debate, and even some of you that haven’t, you’ve probably heard at least a little about one of the main political “scandals” that has been following presidential candidate Hillary Clinton around: the mysterious contents of deleted emails from Clinton’s private server while she served as Secretary of State.

At first, Clinton shrugged off the issue, angering voters. Then, she tried to make excuses or avoid the question. Finally, after the FBI conducted an investigation and concluded that she was guiltless, Clinton has apologized.

So, what’s the deal with the emails?

Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State of the U.S. under President Obama from 2009 to 2013. During this time, she used a system of private servers to communicate with other members of the state department and other key officials in the government and military, most famously a server from her office in New York. She also used the servers to send and receive messages that were non-work related and private. Upon leaving the State Department, Clinton was required to release to the Department all email communication that was relevant to her work.

In compliance with this request, Clinton instructed her staff to filter through all her email communication and compile all the emails that were “work-related” so they could be delivered to the state department.  These totaled around 30,000. She instructed all remaining personal emails to be destroyed. However, the company that was responsible for deleting the personal emails neglected to remove them all, and speculation about the existence of emails with information about Clinton’s actions as Secretary that she was supposedly trying to hide by deleting them were tossed around the media for several months.

Accusations became so heated that the FBI conducted a formal investigation into the matter. Of particular interest was the finding of “30 Benghazi-related emails” among 15,000 emails that were not given over to the state department, but some of which contained classified or otherwise sensitive information pertaining to the State Department.

However, in statements given since by FBI representatives beginning in July of 2016, a “large portion” if not a majority of the emails were duplicates of emails that had already been turned over to the State Department. Even the ‘“30 Benghazi emails” had nothing significant in them. Only one, in fact, was previously undisclosed, and it contained nothing but a compliment from a diplomat.’

The FBI’s Director James B. Comey has, since July, recommended that no criminal charges be placed against Clinton or her staff members and has explained that people who still believe Clinton should be in jail accuse the FBI of corruption or at the very least horrible incompetence.

Criminal charges aside, it is likely that most of the damage to Clinton’s image from the investigation has already been done. Mr. Comey further indicated in the statement that it was careless of the former Secretary to have conducted government information through a series of private servers, not only because it made it extremely difficult for the FBI to sort through “millions of email fragments” but because the servers’ lack of security, especially when accessed by Clinton on a mobile phone while abroad, made the information vulnerable to talented hackers.

The State Department has planned to release of hundreds more pages of work-related emails in the next few weeks before the election and afterwards. The content of these emails, (or how news sources/journalists choose to explain the content to voters) could significantly impact Clinton during this crucial time in the race and beyond. She will continue to be subject to scrutiny over the emails as more and more are released, and the discovery of any evidence of negligence will be incredibly damaging to her career going forward, in or outside the oval office.  


Gabrielle Grifno is a JHU Biomedical Engineering major of the Class of 2020. Interests include: U.S. foreign and domestic policy, the 2016 Presidential Election, global economics, and feminism on college campuses and around the world. Loves comfy sweaters, hot chocolate and lively debate.
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