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Posts published in “Day: July 6, 2016”

Email lessons


What Hillary Clinton should say, soon, about the e-mails. Should, probably won't.

First, I want to thank Director Comey and his staff at the FBI for their extraordinary efforts at investigating the circumstance surrounding my emails from the years when I was secretary of state. They had to have known that exceptional efforts needed to be taken, since whatever their report and recommendation would be, some people, maybe a lot of people, would criticize it. The best way to counter that is to do what they have done: Investigate with great thoroughness, and then analyze the results carefully in making recommendations. I believe they did just that.

You could say I'm happy to endorse the results because the director, and the agency, recommended no indictments in the case. But as we all also know, the director was also sharply critical of my handling of the emails, and the procedures used. And he was critical of what he described as a culture at the Department of State that was lax in handling classified material.

Let me be very clear here and reiterate as plainly as I can: I mishandled my emails during that period. I made a mistake - more than that, a running series of mistakes over a period of time. And I apologize to the American people for that, for putting classified material at risk. I will have a few more things to say here, but none of those changes any of that.

Today, however, the question should be: Can we make sure something like this doesn't happen again? It doesn't diminish my own culpability to recognize that many other people in sensitive positions have handled their email in similar ways, and many have, including some of my predecessors.

Our system of internal federal communications, especially in the area of classified information, is badly in need of an overhaul. One reason many people have resorted to informal communications methods, like private email servers, is that the official system for secure communications - which I also used over the years - is cumbersome and doesn't allow for the kind of efficient contacts and information sharing we need.

If I am elected president, I will first of all pledge to confine my communications to a better set of channels. But beyond that I will set about finding ways to improve our secure communications, making their efficient, speedy and effective as well as confidential.

There is a related subject we should address: The vast number of documents held by the federal government which are marked as confidential, whether "top secret" or otherwise. The numbers of such documents has exploded, and a large number of them are over-graded for security. I will seek a wide-ranging review of these records so we can make sure we focus our security efforts on those documents which really are sensitive, and allow the American people to inspect, as they should be able to, those which are not.

This has been a troubling case for many people, not least me. But lessons can be drawn from it, and we may be better off down the road from having had this discussion.

Wheels of justice grind


It was just about impossible to escape the news Monday that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will not be prosecuted for the e-mail scandal that has hung over her campaign for months.

Conservative activists took to social media platforms like Facebook in mass to express their dismay at the FBI’s announcement. Missing from my particular news feed was any sort of celebration from Hillary supporters. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening; it just isn’t in any of my social circles, apparently.

In the political world, people tend to release favorable information to the public on Monday mornings so it can dominate the news cycle all week long. That was the Clinton campaign’s strategy a few weeks back, when they decided that the contested Democratic primary race with Bernie Sanders was over and no longer worthy of any discussion. Perception is reality in politics, and they wanted to come out of an otherwise sleepy weekend with the public convinced that Clinton’s nomination was a done deal. Near as I can tell, that strategy succeeded. Whether Sanders and his supporters feel the same way, I’m not sure.

These latest developments came shortly after former President Bill Clinton surreptitiously ran into Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the airport in Phoenix, Arizona, presumably to talk about grandchildren. Never mind that Lynch was a Clinton appointee, as the former president elevated her to the position of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York in 1999. Or the fact that we, the people, weren’t supposed to know that such a meeting ever took place. I would chalk it up to coincidence, but I’ve long since learned that there is no such thing when it comes to politics, especially at the higher, winner-take-all level that the Clintons have successfully inhabited for decades.

July also appears to be going well for former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell, as the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision vacating his conviction on 11 counts of bribery-related charges. That conviction carried a two-year prison sentence. McDonnell may not be completely off the hook, though, as his case was returned to lower courts and he may still face a second trial.

The news of McDonnell’s courtroom triumph may have been unsettling to some of my fellow Oregonians, as his case was held up as the closest parallel we had to that of our former governor John Kitzhaber. It has long been speculated by Republican activists, operatives and even elected officials that the FBI’s nearly two-year-old investigation into Kitzhaber and his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, may not actually result in any criminal charges being filed. Once again, perception is reality, and seeing Clinton and McDonnell emerged unscathed from the same judicial gauntlet that has given the U.S. the world’s largest prison population is hardly encouraging for those of us who want to believe in the system.

Kitzhaber’s quest to create a perception of innocence has met with a couple of recent setbacks. It was revealed in late June that subpoenas have been issued to officials at the state Department of Energy regarding the controversial Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) debacle that was at the center of his administration’s scandals. Those officials will likely be called to testify around the middle of the month.

Also publicly disclosed around the same time was the tidbit that the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office has contracted with an outside firm to audit the BETC program, which should be concluding in the next few weeks. Documents from an internal review conducted by the Department of Administrative Services into the department’s tax credit programs have also been released, and helped form the line of questioning from lawmakers during the Department of Energy Oversight Committee’s last meeting. So far, that body has heard presentations about every one of the department’s various divisions and why we couldn’t possibly live without them.

All that aside, Kitzhaber is facing a completely different challenge, and it’s on a much deeper level. News reports Monday morning stated that his 18-year-old son, Logan, was involved in a car crash near Lincoln City on the Fourth of July. This was a matter of weeks after the young man graduated from high school. Initial press articles characterized his condition as “critical,” and stated that he was taken by air ambulance to OHSU Hospital, but has since been released to recover at home with his family.

Back when Kitzhaber’s e-mails were released last year, I was curious enough to look through them, seeking clues as to the downfall of the man who had served as governor for most of the 22 years I’ve lived in the state. Most of it was pretty mundane, and centered on his thoughts involving health care and education policy.

But there were some gems hidden among all the back-and-fourth between Kitzhaber and his top aides. Among them was that he is a loving father who cares deeply about his young son. Any time Logan was mentioned in that correspondence, Kitzhaber made clear that his son’s health and well-being was more important to him than any of the political power he had accumulated over the years. As a father, I could relate, and almost felt bad for Kitzhaber when looking at the purely human aspects of what he must have been going through at the time.

A well-established cliché states that the wheels of justice turn slowly. I’m sure it’s been agonizing for Hillary and former governors McDonnell and Kitzhaber to be in the public spotlight amid criminal investigations into alleged wrongdoing. Clinton and McDonnell can probably breathe a little easier than they could last month. Kitzhaber, however, still remains in limbo, near as I can tell. For the time being, he has much better things to worry about, and could probably use a similar bit of good news right about now to offset this more recent tragedy.