During today’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing examining FOIA compliance at the State Department, Congressman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) strayed from his prepared remarks to address Democrat ranking member Elijah Cummings’ opening statement, which Gowdy said he found “instructive if not predictable.”
Cummings yesterday released an email exchange in which former secretary of state Colin Powell advised Hillary Clinton on the use of personal email and devices shortly after she was sworn in as secretary of state.
“I hope to catch up soon [with] you, but I have one pressing question which only you can answer! What were the restrictions on your use of your blackberry?” Clinton asked Powell, who served as secretary of state under President George W. Bush.
Clinton wanted to continue using her Blackberry in her new position and Powell responded saying he didn’t have one and developed another system instead that allowed him to communicate with people without it going through servers at the State Department.
“What I did do was have a personal computer that was hooked up to a private phone line (sounds ancient.) So I could communicate with a wide range of friends directly without it going through the State Department servers,” Powell wrote. “I even used it to do business with some foreign leaders and some of the senior folks in the Department on their personal email accounts. I did the same thing on the road in hotels.”
Democrats are citing this email exchange to argue that Powell had influenced Clinton’s decision to circumvent the rules.
Gowdy was having none of it.
“Secretary Clinton said that she followed all State Department rules and regulations, but the truth is, she did not,” the fiery former prosecutor began. “Secretary Clinton said her unique email arrangement was approved by the State Department but it was not. Secretary Clinton said she used one device for convenience but she did not. Secretary Clinton said she did not send or receive classified material. But she did. She said that she turned over all of her work-related emails. But she did not. She said her attorneys personally reviewed each email. But they did not. So when faced with a series of demonstrably false statements, utterly impeached by both fact and logic, the ranking member did what lots of criminal defense attorneys do — which is blame the investigator. And when that didn’t work, they throw the Hail-Mary pass of all criminal defense attorneys: ‘Other people did it too!’ Which brings me to General Colin Powell, one of the most respected people in our country’s history.”
He continued, “Hillary Clinton said to the FBI — and I’ll concede that she says different things to the public than she says to the FBI, but she told the FBI that Colin Powell’s advice had nothing to do with her decision to set up her unique email arrangement with herself.”
Gowdy repeated himself to drive the point home: “Secretary Clinton told the FBI — under penalty of not telling the truth! — that Colin Powell’s advice had nothing to do with her decision to set up that unique email arrangement with herself!”
He added snarkily, “Now I will say this in defense of Mr. Cummings — I understand why he might not believe her. I understand why he may have credibility issues with anything that the secretary said. I get that! But I think it would have been fair when you are using your opening to criticize Colin Powell to at least point out that the person you’re trying to defend doesn’t even say that Colin Powell was the impetus for her decision to have that unique email arrangement with herself!”
Gowdy then exposed another massive Clinton prevarication while questioning Clarence N. Finney, the deputy director for correspondence, records, and staffing division at the State Department.
“Secretary Clinton …frequently says that 90 to 95 percent of her emails were in the State Department system. Have you heard her say that?”
“Sir, I can’t recall,” Finney replied.
“Well, it won’t take you long to find it, “Gowdy drawled. “She said it a lot. And then she was asked, ‘who told you that? Who told you that 90 to 95 percent of your emails were in the State Department system?’ You may find her answer interesting: ‘We learned that from the State Department!'”
Gowdy noted Clinton had also said that her team was “trying to help [State] close some gaps.”
“I like the word ‘gaps,'” he deadpanned with a wry smile. “I guess if you consider the Grand Canyon to be a gap, then yeah — there were some gaps in her email.”
He asked Finney, “Did you have 90 to 95 percent of her emails on your system?”
Finney answered that the only emails State had were the 55,000 emails that had been provided recently.
“No, I’m going back before that, Mr. Finney,” Gowdy exclaimed. “She said you already had them before she gave them to you! You already had 90 to 95 percent! Was that true?”
Finney replied that because Clinton did not have a state.gov account, the only emails the State Dept. had that were hers were the ones that were turned over recently.
“But she made this contention before she ever returned them! She said you already had 90 to 95 percent! She was just helping you fill in some gaps!”
“Again, sir, what I have in our system is what was received by a bureau,” Finney replied.
“Well, let me see if I can put that in South Carolina terms that I can understand,” Gowdy said. “If she said that you already had 90 to 95 percent of her emails before she ever returned them, that ain’t true!
Finney answered, “Unless she was referring to the files that were sent to other individuals within the State Department to their state.gov account.”
“Well, how does that capture personal to personal emails? And how about the 14,000 that she didn’t turn over? Did you have those?” Gowdy pressed. “How are you supposed to have Sidney Blumenthal’s emails if it’s private account to private account?”
Finney cited the new Federal Records Act of 2014, which was amended to require “that if an employee uses their gmail account or private account, they’re required by law to send that email to their state.gov account.”
“Sounds like it was a couple of years to late,” Gowdy sighed.