This Presidential election, there have been many accusations leveled at Hillary Clinton by Donald Trump. However, one seems to have stuck the most: how she handled her emails while serving as Secretary of State.
So when people bring this up, what are they actually talking about?
In 2009, Clinton was appointed Secretary of State by President Barack Obama. According to the New York Times, State Department protocols at the time stated that “normal day-to-day operations” should take place on a government email server. However, that same year, Clinton first began using firstname.lastname@example.org, a private account, to conduct government business.
Why is this considered a big deal?
The government views its servers as being more secure than private ones; Clinton’s use of her own domain was viewed as a security risk, according to the Washington Post. (The publication also pointed out that the government doesn’t have access to privately-stored emails.) In 2013, shortly after Clinton left office, State Department officials discovered her use of the server, and in 2014, negotiations began for those emails to be turned over.
Since then, two questions have dominated the conversation over Clinton’s emails: How many were classified (i.e, posed a security risk) when she sent them? and What’s in the unreleased ones? According to the New York Times, 30,000 have been released. Of these, eight chains included “top secret” information and 36 were merely “secret”.
Those numbers sent might seem small. But, according to the New Yorker, at the time she said that none of the emails were classified whatsoever.
“More often than not I see reporters either treat the story like it’s no big deal, or like what she did was the highest act of treason,” said senior Mitchell Morgan.
Indeed, with the election approaching, there were concerns that an indictment stemming from the server might take Clinton out of the race. Fortunately for her, following a year-long investigation in which no evidence of the server’s being hacked was uncovered, FBI Director James Comey called her behavior “extremely careless”, but nevertheless recommended against criminal charges. He later added that “at the end of the day, the case itself was really not a cliff-hanger”, according to CNN.
That’s not to say that Republicans have let go of the story. Donald Trump continues to refer to Clinton as a criminal, and at his rallies, “Hillary for Prison” t-shirt vendors abound.
“[The email story] just fits the narrative Republicans have been pushing (about Clinton’s being untrustworthy) so well,” said AP US Government teacher John Carmichael. “It’s very much political theater.”
However, Clinton may not be out of the woods yet. 14,900 unreleased emails were recently unearthed and are set to be published later this year; at least some of them are likely to come out before election day, throwing an element of uncertainty, grounded or not, into her prospects.
“I’m not sure I can see this ever really going away,” said Carmichael. “This going to be with her for as long as she’s in office.”