Hillary Clinton apologized last week for using a private email address and server during her time as secretary of state. In an interview with David Muir of ABC News, Clinton stated, “That was a mistake. I’m sorry about that. I take responsibility.” Clinton’s apology came after months of denying any wrongdoing.

As a brief refresher: Reports of Clinton’s private email and server use gained widespread attention in March. These reports revealed that Clinton used a personal email account to “conduct government business as secretary of state…” Although Clinton did provide 30, 490 work-related emails to the State Department, she also deleted tens of thousands of personal emails. Clinton herself determined which emails would be released to the State Department, ultimately deciding to withhold half of her emails from her tenure as secretary of state.

In addition to congressional inquiries, the FBI is conducting an investigation into Clinton’s email system. However, the FBI is not investigating Clinton herself. The Justice Department has also received a referral regarding the potential compromise of classified information, although the DOJ insists it is not a criminal referral. Last week, Justice Department lawyers argued that Clinton had the authority to erase emails she deemed to be personal.

Reactions to Clinton’s use of the private email and server have varied tremendously. While some Republicans have argued that Clinton’s activities merit criminal sanctions, Democrats have defended her actions.

With the level of controversy and politicization surrounding the issue, many are struggling to understand the legal implications of Clinton’s decisions. In short, voters are left asking: did she break the law?

Investigations have focused on a variety of aspects of Clinton’s activities, including the legality of the server system and the potential unauthorized storage of classified information. Several laws may be implicated by Clinton’s activities, including the Federal Records Act, the Freedom of Information Act, the National Archives and Record Administration’s regulations, Section 1924 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code, and Section 793 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code. Federal law makes it a crime to “knowingly” store classified information at an “unauthorized location.” In addition to these potential violations, some individuals have suggested that Clinton’s destruction of emails amounts to obstruction of justice.

Given the number of entities and laws implicated, the legality of Clinton’s actions remains ambiguous. While some have insisted that Clinton clearly broke the law, others argue that her conduct, while regrettable, was not criminal.

For Clinton, many of these allegations may sound eerily familiar, having served on the House Impeachment Committee during the Watergate fallout in the early years of her legal career.

Politics aside, Clinton’s recent scandal provides a fascinating look into the intersection of technology and high political drama.

Thomas Hydrick

 

 

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