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Clinton emails: A political controversy with the lifetime of a Broadway hit

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J. Scott Applewhite/AP

(Read caption) FBI Director James Comey, shown here at the conclusion of his July 7, 2016, appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to explain his agency's decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton for her personal email setup, says he does not believe that the Clinton team intentionally deleted the 15,000 emails only now coming to the surface.

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Hillary Clinton’s emails have become the never-ending story, a political controversy destined to last as long as the Broadway run of “Cats.”

That’s clearer than ever now that the FBI has confirmed discovery of approximately 15,000 new emails as part of its investigation of Clinton’s electronic communications practices while secretary of State.

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Federal District Court Judge James E. Boasberg has ordered the State Department to scrub the emails of possible classified or personal material on an accelerated schedule, and then release them. That’s likely to occur around October, just prior to Election Day, State Department lawyers told Judge Boasberg in a Monday hearing.

Clinton set up her much-criticized private email server while secretary of State at least in part to control her communications and protect her privacy from critics as much as possible. This latest disclosure of more emails only emphasizes the degree to which that mission was not accomplished. At this point it seems obvious she would have been much better off, politically speaking, to rely on a government account.

“In part, that’s because it never seems to end. Each batch of emails released by the State Department has given journalists and conservative activists more to pore over,” notes Andrea Peterson of the Washington Post technology and policy blog The Switch.

The FBI turned up the latest tranche of emails by a forensic examination of Clinton’s personal server, and by combing through the email records of government officials Clinton may have communicated with while secretary of State. None were in the original batch of 55,000 emails turned over by Clinton to the State Department last year.

FBI Director James Comey has said he does not believe that the Clinton team intentionally deleted the newly discovered emails. Judge Boasberg is overseeing the process of making them public pursuant to a federal public-record lawsuit filed by the conservative legal advocacy group Judicial Watch.

It’s possible the Clinton team mistakenly threw out some of them while making their initial scrub of her private server. When the State Department requested copies of emails under Clinton’s control, she had a team of lawyers comb through her server to separate business messages from personal ones. Those judged personal were deleted. Work emails were turned over to the government.

But the lawyers did not actually read the full emails, relying on subject lines for their sorting purposes. They could have made errors in their sorting process.

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Conservative critics, of course, believe it is possible that Clinton is purposely trying to conceal some of her official State Department activities, perhaps related to Benghazi or favors for Clinton Foundation donors.

“Hillary Clinton seems incapable of telling the truth,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus in a statement on the latest email revelations. “Clinton’s pattern of serial dishonesty is completely unacceptable for a candidate seeking the nation’s highest office.”


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