Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has been highly critical of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server and personal domain to conduct public business, calling it “baffling” that she didn’t seem to consider privacy concerns.
But he’s facing charges of hypocrisy from Democrats this week as his own use of a private server and personal domain to conduct public business comes under closer scrutiny.
So who’s in the right? Here’s a look at the facts.
What do the Clinton and Bush emails have in common?
Both Clinton and Bush used private servers and personal domains, and gave their closest staffers email addresses on their own domains. They both conducted private and public business with their personal emails — Clinton said she didn’t turn over her yoga schedules and event planning, and Bush kept emails relating to his political activity private.
Both, it turns out, handled national security issues with their private emails. We haven’t seen Clinton’s emails yet, but it’s safe to assume she addressed such issues and developments via email during her time at State. The Washington Post reported this week that Bush discussed troop deployments to the Middle East and the protection of nuclear plants.
Clinton’s and Bush’s servers appear to be housed on their own private property at this point. Bush first housed his at the governor’s office in Florida, but according to the Post, he “took it with him” when he stepped down. Clinton’s has always been housed at her home in Chappaqua, New York. The encryption practices used to secure both servers remain murky; aides for both candidates have said there were security measures in place, but they’ve declined to elaborate on details.
And the two each had full control over what emails they released to the public. A Bush aide said a number of his staffers and his general counsel’s office decided which emails to release; Clinton had a team of attorneys review her trove of emails for relevant correspondence to turn over to the State Department for approval.
Both turned over about the same portion, half, of the total number of emails sent through their private domains to be released to the public. Bush turned over about 280,000 emails to be made public, while Clinton delivered about 30,000.
And both took their time in doing it. A New York Times report out this weekend revealed that it took Bush seven years after leaving office to fully comply with Florida laws requiring he release his emails for public consumption. Clinton didn’t hand over any emails to the State Department until they asked for them, nearly two years after she stepped down.
What are the big differences?
Bush aides have argued that he’s been more transparent than Clinton, overall, because he published his emails on an easily accessible website without prompting (but only after releasing them to the Florida public, as required by the state’s transparency laws).
Clinton said she deleted all of her personal emails; it’s unclear whether Bush has held onto his.
The two were subject to different laws and regulations.
Florida’s sunshine law required Bush to release any emails concerning his official business upon leaving office.
The National Archives issued regulations in October of 2009 that required, when employees used personal emails for official business, they “must ensure that federal records sent or received on such systems are preserved in the appropriate agency record-keeping system.”
And the scope of business conducted by the two through their personal emails were vastly different. While Bush did use his to address a few national security issues during his tenure, Clinton likely handled much higher-level national security issues and developments, making her emails a much bigger target for hackers and other troublemakers looking to do the U.S. harm.
How have their campaigns responded to the criticism?
Clinton addressed a number of questions from the press surrounding her use of a personal server and domain last week, and her office released a nine-page memo attempting to answer more. Clinton said she used a private domain out of “convenience,” and has admitted that she may have done things differently if she had the chance.
Bush’s campaign has actually argued the negative press surrounding his emails underscores Clinton’s problem with transparency.
“This Democrat opposition research dump of a few innocuous emails that Gov. Bush voluntarily posted on a website only highlights how large the gap is between him and Clinton in the area of transparency,” Bush spokesman Tim Miller told the Post in a statement.
On Friday, Bush dismissed questions concerning his own email use as an attack from Clintonworld.
“I’m not surprised that the Clinton operatives would suggest this. It’s kind of standard operating procedure,” he said, adding that he’s been “totally transparent.”
“I have a Blackberry as part of my official portrait, for crying out loud. There was nothing to hide,” he said.
And Bush allies have argued that of the 2016 GOP field, the former governor has been the most transparent, noting that other potential contenders also used their private emails to conduct public business, and so far only Bush has released such a large trove of his own emails to the public.
Wait — the rest of the 2016 field has an email problem?
Right! This isn’t unique to Bush and Clinton. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie all used private emails themselves, or their staff used private emails, to conduct public business. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has said that he used his private Gmail account for official business as well.
At least one potential contender has skirted the controversy altogether by avoiding email. Sen. Lindsey Graham recently admitted that he has never used email.
So why does this matter?
Hillary Clinton is facing a possible subpoena for her server and House Republicans are expected to announce a new investigation into her emails this week. The fact that she’s had sole control over which emails she released, Republicans argue, raise questions about her transparency, and they say the fact that Clinton set up a private server begs the question: What did she have to hide?
But that’s a question, Democrats have replied, that many other potential Republican contenders — who also used personal emails for public business — need to answer as well.