(Michael Reynolds/European Pressphoto Agency)
By Michelle Ye Hee Lee
July 8, 2016 at 3:00 AM
“I’ve seen the authorities in my career in the House and Senate, I’ve seen federal authorities do their jobs regardless of political machinations and political pressure sometimes. I fully expect them to. And I think there won’t be an indictment. And I think that means she did what many secretaries of state have done in the past. She released more emails and more pages of emails and more records than any of her predecessors of secretary of state, even before she was actually running for president.”
— Sen. Sherrod Brown, (D-Ohio), interview on ABC’s “This Week,” July 3, 2016
In a recent interview, Brown used a common claim by supporters of Hillary Clinton about the email records she produced in comparison with her predecessors. Brown’s answer was in response to ABC’s Martha Raddatz’s question about the 30-minute meeting between Attorney General Loretta Lynch and President Bill Clinton on an airport ramp in Phoenix, while an FBI investigation into Clinton’s private email use was underway.
While the quote above is by Brown, the comparison of Clinton to her predecessors is widely used by her supporters and allies and by Clinton herself. It is something many readers have asked about this week in light of the FBI’s decision not to recommend criminal charges against Clinton. So we are highlighting Brown’s comment as an example.
Last year, when the Clinton email controversy erupted, we looked into this talking point and awarded Three Pinocchios with the information we had available at the time. The State Department Office of Inspector General released a report in May 2016 that described in greater detail how secretaries of state since Madeleine Albright used email communications, and whether they retained records. So we took a renewed look.
From the beginning of the email controversy, many Democratic lawmakers have defended Clinton by saying she turned over more records than any other prior secretary of state. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who defended her using this talking point then, continues to compare Clinton and Colin Powell. FactCheck.org found Schiff twisted the facts in his most recent iteration of the talking point.
The inspector general found that the requirement to manage and preserve emails has been consistent since at least 1995, but specific policies relating to record retention methods have evolved over time. Brown’s staff pointed out that the inspector general concluded “Longstanding, systemic weaknesses related to electronic records and communications have existed within the Office of the Secretary that go well beyond the tenure of any one Secretary of State.”
The report explores in detail the practices of Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Powell and Albright, as well as the current secretary of state, John F. Kerry, and the regulations under each.
To read expanded article, click here.