This is an “explainer” post for our loyal Contra Krugman fans. On Episode 40 (which we just recorded but it hasn’t been posted yet), I referred to this Krugman blog post. My point is that Krugman made it sound like he had independent evidence that the outrage over Hillary Clinton’s private email scandal was a faux Republican invention, when in fact (I claimed) the actual news story showed just the opposite.
So here is how Krugman handled it in his post:
The Clinton email “scandal” goes on — still no sign that she broke any rules, no sign that she sent or received anything labeled “classified”, but she may have received and even forwarded items that were later classified or “should” have been classified. By normal human standards this is a big nothing; but Clinton Rules apply, under which malign behavior is the default assumption and where there’s smoke there must be fire even if everyone knows that the usual suspects are operating big smoke machines.
OK, so clearly you get the impression that the “latest news” shows that we are still waiting for a single shred of evidence that Clinton did something wrong, right? Now if you follow the link on the phrase “goes on,” it takes you to this Talking Points Memo piece.
Now here’s where it gets interesting. Even if you just read the TPM piece, you already would see that Krugman is wrong. The TPM piece is saying that a Reuters analysis has found that even though Team Clinton is claiming she never sent anything that was marked classified, that at least some of the emails in question should have AUTOMATICALLY been classified because of their nature (and that this is a big deal–a breaking of the rules pertaining to someone in her position).
And if you’re really into being objective–so that you go and click the Reuters link, rather than trusting the summaries by TPM and Paul Krugman–you would see stuff like this:
In the small fraction of emails made public so far, Reuters has found at least 30 email threads from 2009, representing scores of individual emails, that include what the State Department’s own “Classified” stamps now identify as so-called ‘foreign government information.’ The U.S. government defines this as any information, written or spoken, provided in confidence to U.S. officials by their foreign counterparts.
This sort of information, which the department says Clinton both sent and received in her emails, is the only kind that must be “presumed” classified, in part to protect national security and the integrity of diplomatic interactions, according to U.S. regulations examined by Reuters.
“It’s born classified,” said J. William Leonard, a former director of the U.S. government’s Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO). Leonard was director of ISOO, part of the National Archives and Records Administration, from 2002 until 2008, and worked for both the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.
“If a foreign minister just told the secretary of state something in confidence, by U.S. rules that is classified at the moment it’s in U.S. channels and U.S. possession,” he said in a telephone interview, adding that for the State Department to say otherwise was “blowing smoke.”
So in Krugman’s world, a Reuters report quoting a former director of the government’s Information Security Oversight Office, who worked for the Bill Clinton administration, saying that the State Department is obfuscating and that Hillary Clinton clearly broke rules that were in force at that time…is to be summarized as: “still no sign that she broke any rules.”
By the same logic, there is “still no sign” that Donald Trump did anything wrong with respect to Trump U, because after all Donald Trump himself, and the people around him, keep insisting that they did nothing wrong.