Last night, Hillary Clinton tweeted that she wants the public to see the emails she used a secret account (the word “personal” in this context is a bit inapt) to send while she served as secretary of state, and suggested that the State Department is to blame for preventing disclosure. Let us take the all-but-announced presidential candidate at her word that there is little she can to do to expedite the release of the emails in the State Department’s possession—there is still a great number of questions she can answer now as a show of good faith.
For example, she could release details of the process she used to turn over some of the emails from her secret account to the government. Michael Schmidt of The New York Times reported last Monday that “…Mrs. Clinton’s advisers reviewed tens of thousands of pages of her personal emails and decided which ones to turn over to the State Department. All told, 55,000 pages of emails were given to the department.”
This does not sound like a casual undertaking, but rather, something that would require a great deal of planning, effort and oversight. While Clinton cannot release the emails she sent to State, and presumably has no intention of releasing those that will remain on her—until Monday—secret email server, it is entirely within her power to immediately provide the public and the press the answers to the following questions.
How many advisers worked on this project? What are the names of these advisers? Who chose them? What are their backgrounds? What qualifications do they possess that made them suited to this task? Are they familiar with the provisions of the Federal Records Act, and the responsibilities of officials covered under the act?
What criteria were they given for determining whether an email should remain secret or be turned over to the State Department? Were these written criteria, and if so, will they be made public?
Were some in positions of authority to review the work of others? Did each adviser have authority to determine which emails should remain secret, and which should be turned over the State Department? If there was a process to review the work of advisers, what was it? If a particular email caused a dispute among advisers as to whether it should be turned over the State Department or kept secret, who would resolve it?
Were the advisers paid for their work? How much were they paid, and how many hours did the review take? Who paid them? Did they work for the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation or the Clinton Family Foundation? If so, would such an undertaking meet the purpose for which charitable organizations are granted tax exemption? If some other entity paid for their services, please disclose its name. If you paid them personally, please disclose records documenting the payments.
Did the advisers volunteer their time? If so, please provide a good faith estimate as to how much their time would be worth. If the advisers volunteered their time, were they also earning income for other employers? Could you provide us with the name or names of the employers for each volunteer? Did they have to take leaves of absence from their employers to work on this task?
Finally, the New York Times reported that 55,000 pages of emails were sent to the government. How many pages of emails are being kept secret? Will these emails be subjected to a future review for possible release, or do you consider the first review to be sufficient?
Presumably, Hillary Clinton can answer all of these questions, or get answers to them from whoever her advisers are. There is no reason the public should have to wait for answers. If Clinton would really like to let the public know more about her emails, she can start by providing more information about the process she used for finally returning them to the government.