At least a half-dozen top Trump administration officials used private email accounts to communicate about White House business, according to the New York Times. That group includes family members / senior advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner as well as departed top aides including Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon.
Now, try to remember all the way back to, well, last year when then candidate Trump framed his entire campaign around the idea that Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email and private server as secretary of state amounted to criminal conduct.
“She would be under protracted criminal investigation and probably a criminal trial, I would say,” Trump told a Michigan audience just more than a week before the 2016 election. “So we’d have a criminal trial of a sitting president.”
The “Lock Her Up” chant – which an audience in Alabama chanted on Friday night, more than 300 days after the 2016 election – became the defining rallying cry for Trump voters. Trump might be uncouth. He might be make offensive comments about women. But, Clinton was a criminal, Trump supporters claimed! (Neither Clinton nor anyone on her staff were ever charged with a crime.)
Before we go any further, it’s important to note that what Clinton did is not the exact same thing that Jared, Ivanka and others are reportedly doing. Clinton exclusively used her private email address for government business. She had a private email server at her home in Chappaqua, New York. She shared classified materials via that email address although, she has long contended, the materials were not classified at the time.
According to the Times, all of the Trump administration officials used their private addresses only occasionally and all had official accounts set up and operating.
Still. Think of it this way: You are running a race against someone else through the woods. That person falls in a hole. You win. The next time you run through those same woods, you would think you would make sure to be on the lookout for the hole, right? Like, you would be HYPER sensitive to that pitfall – and any other ones like it, right? (Yes, I watched the second “Hunger Games” movie last night.)
What these Trump officials have done is sprint into the same damn hole that swallowed Clinton’s campaign whole. And, in so doing, they’ve raised all of the same questions that Clinton’s email use did. Do they think the rules don’t apply to them? Do they think they can just do whatever they want because of their position and power? What are they trying to hide in these private accounts?
And, it also raises a question that Clinton never had to contend with: Did the Trump campaign actually believe all that stuff they said about the dangers posed by Clinton’s email conduct? If so, why did they go anywhere near doing the same thing?
The official White House line was surprisingly scoldy about the new email revelations. “All White House personnel have been instructed to use official email to conduct all government related work,” said White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. “They are further instructed that if they receive work-related communication on personal accounts, they should be forwarded to official email accounts.”
This story won’t be going away any time soon. Not only does it look like rank hypocrisy, it also potentially ties into special counsel Bob Mueller’s investigation into Russia influence in the 2016 election. What do these emails on private accounts say? Will they be released publicly? If not, why not?
“The new e-mail release is a disaster for Hillary Clinton,” Trump proclaimed in January 2016. “At a minimum, how can someone with such bad judgment be our next president?”
Don’t be surprised if this latest story prompts some of those same questions to be asked of the men and women in Trump’s inner circle.