March 8th, 2015

CNN’s State of the Union: Congressmen from both sides of the aisle debate Clinton email scandal

Today on CNN’s State of the Union, host Michael Smerconish discussed the Hillary Clinton email scandal with Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), a member of the special House Committee on Benghazi, which has subpoenaed Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, and Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), past chair of the House Oversight Committee

Text highlights, video, and a transcript of the discussion are below


MANDATORY CREDIT: CNN’s “State of the Union”

Contact: KIMBERLY / /


How will Hillary emails impact Benghazi investigation



SMERCONISH: We invited the State Department to send a representative to this program. They declined. We also contacted Hillary Clinton for reaction to Ambassador Gration’s comments.

And a spokesman for her had this response: “All of the many reasons the department took the action it did are well-documented in the Department of State’s inspector general report.”

I want to turn now to Congressman Adam Schiff, a member of the special House Committee on Benghazi, which has subpoenaed Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, and Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, past chair of the House Oversight Committee.

Congressman Issa, react to what you have just heard.

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, I think that this double standard is worrisome.

But, more importantly, in his firing, when they talked about confidence, integrity, ambassadors are — records are seldom FOIAed. Seldom does the press and other groups under the Freedom of Information Act ask for specific information.

In this case, in addition to the Benghazi investigation, which clearly would have wanted some of these communications, countless Freedom of Information Act requests, including some that have now gone to the federal court, would have gotten those documents had they been in the public domain. And we may never get many of them because we don’t know what we don’t know when it’s on a server where a click of the button can delete records forever.

SMERCONISH: Ambassador Gration, Congressman Schiff, was clearly fired for many reasons, not just the e-mail issue.

But I found it striking that the language used to criticize him noted his lack of adherence to a policy of non-use of commercial e- mail for official government business. And so here’s an ambassador under the umbrella of the secretary herself. He gets canned for this.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, Mike, I want to be fair to the ambassador. And I haven’t read his personnel file.

But it’s clear, as you point out, from the inspector general report, he was urged to resign for a number of reasons, most significantly, his management style and the fact that the embassy staff lost confidence in him; it lacked cohesion. And I think that was really the gravamen of why he was let go.

But, look, if the Republican National Committee wants to make an issue of the consistency in which the administration applied their e- mail policy, they can do it. And the Democratic National Committee can make an issue out of Jeb Bush’s use of a personal server and whether it’s consistent for him to criticize Hillary Clinton over that.

But what’s not appropriate is for a taxpayer-funded investigative committee, which is what we are, to be using our power, our subpoena, our tax dollars to become an arm of the Republican National Committee. And that’s what happened this week. And that is deeply disturbing, because, Michael, we have the secretary’s e-mails. She provided 55,000 pages of them to the State Department. They provided the 900 pages relative to Benghazi to us.

We have looked at those. There is nothing at all corroborative of any of these conspiracy theories, any of the stand-down orders that Mr. Issa claims were issued. There’s no evidence of that. And that, I think, is what we don’t — we don’t want to lose sight of.

SMERCONISH: But, Congressman, isn’t this a problem of control? In other words, you have that which she gave you. So the decision has now been made further upstream in terms of what’s being released to your committee, as compared to a scenario where she would have maintained two accounts, two phones, one to plan Chelsea’s wedding and to set up dental visits and the other for all her official business.

And when you make a request, here you go. It simply gets handed over.

SCHIFF: Well, as a matter of law, we have moved as of last year to a requirement that official e-mails be used for official business.

But we have to evaluate and consider the secretary under the standard of, what was the law at the time? And the law at the time was, she could use her personal e-mail as long as she preserved it. And given the fact that she provided 55,000 pages, she clearly did preserve her e-mails.

In my view, this was not provided in response to a “New York Times” article or anything else. This was provided last year, when a request went out from the State Department to all former secretaries. And she has given more records than any other prior secretary of state. So she followed the law in place at the time. And that’s, I think, the relevant point.

SMERCONISH: Congressman Issa, doesn’t he have a point…

ISSA: Well…

SMERCONISH: … when he says Jeb Bush was so — also using an account like that?

ISSA: No. No.


SMERCONISH: Colin Powell was using an account like that.

And one other point, sir, if I might. Yesterday, I interviewed the former head of litigation for the National Archives, and he said to me, while he finds this extraordinary and highly unusual, there were no laws broken here that he can see.

ISSA: Well, the requirement to preserve is a requirement and an expectation to preserve in government hands, not in your own hands.

Hillary Clinton’s statement that, you know, she met the requirement of preserving would be like somebody paying their income taxes five years late and say, but I kept the money on hand for that eventuality.

The fact is that the ordinary practice, a practice that goes back many, many years, is that, if you use a nongovernment e-mail, you forward it to your official account or you print it out, and that preserves them, and it’s left in government hands.

She left office with her documents. That’s not preserving for Freedom of Information discovery. The fact is, there were three subpoenas issued while I was chairman. Some of these documents clearly would be responsive to it. They were never produced.

Two-and-a-half years ago, four brave men died in Benghazi. And, in fact, Adam Schiff is talking about spending money. One of the reasons that there’s a select committee is that we got double-talk and false statements for years from this administration, and the existence of these e-mails was hidden throughout the rest of her tenure and beyond.

So did she comply with the public integrity requirement? No, she didn’t. Did she break a law for which there is a penalty? Not really. But there’s a big difference between being open, transparent, honest and having public integrity and only when you get caught do you turn in documents. And I think, Michael…


SCHIFF: Michael, let me address this, if I could.


SMERCONISH: Finish up.

ISSA: We only have the documents — we only have — we only have the documents she gave us. That’s not the basis.

Normally, an inspector general searches through all documents to find which ones are appropriate. You don’t necessarily ask the person to self-disclose.


SMERCONISH: Let me allow — let me allow Congressman Schiff to respond.


SMERCONISH: And, as part of your response, address this. Hasn’t this unforced error now allowed the — quote — “Benghazi issue” to be transformed from something that appeals only to partisans, that — something that will dog her all the way through the 2016 race? SCHIFF: First of all, to my colleague’s points, the fact is that all prior secretaries of state from Clinton going back have all maintained personal e-mail accounts.

She was the first, I think, to submit those personal e-mails to the State Department. So, let’s not hold this secretary to a different standard than the other secretaries. Colin Powell has already acknowledged that he used his personal e-mails.

Second, in terms of the Benghazi investigation, we knew, as of last summer, that the secretary used a private e-mail account. This is not something new. We knew also that she was cooperating. She was giving us everything she asked for.

Nothing changed, except that the pressure on the Republican members of the committee this week became too great for them to resist from the Stop Hillary PAC people and the RNC people. So, they issued a subpoena for records we already have.

Now, the secretary has called for those records to be made public. Why isn’t the chairman doing that? Why aren’t we doing that? The reason is, we have read them. There’s nothing in them. Now, my colleague says, well, how do we know we have them all?

And the reality is, if this secretary or anyone else e-mailed a stand-down order, as this mythical claim exists out there, there would be several…

ISSA: That is not what this discovery is about, Adam, and you know it.


SCHIFF: … discoveries, several people on the receiving end of that e-mail. There would be people at the Pentagon. There would be people in the field who would have to receive that order.


SCHIFF: None of that. There’s no evidence of that.

SMERCONISH: Congressman, it makes me wonder.

And, Congressman Issa, quickly, you can have the final word. But it makes me wonder, well, who then is doing the screening? If you have 50,000 pages, she’s not sitting there with the former president in the rec room going through everything. Who are these people? What kind of a clearance do they have? There are a whole host of questions that I think still need to get resolved. Take a quick final comment.

ISSA: Michael, Trey — Trey — Trey Gowdy, the chairman, and Adam Schiff have one thing in common. They both served in U.S. attorney’s office. And they both know that voluntary cooperation does not guarantee that it’s a crime not to deliver all.

A subpoena which Trey Gowdy issued is so that in fact it will be a crime if she knowingly withholds documents pursuant to subpoena. He needed to do that because she wasn’t forthcoming two-and-a-half years ago. She, in fact, hid the very existence of this until she was caught. And the fact that they knew in August..


SCHIFF: Michael…

SMERCONISH: Quick rebuttal.




SCHIFF: There was no need to issue a subpoena last year.

ISSA: There was every need for a subpoena.

SCHIFF: There was no need to issue a subpoena this year because she has provided the documents we asked for.

The only reason to give a subpoena for documents you already have, if you want to politically grandstand or make a presidential political issue. That’s the only reason to do that with a cooperating witness.


SMERCONISH: Gentlemen, thank you. Thank you both.

ISSA: Oh, Adam, I would love to see your history of that.

SMERCONISH: I wish we had more time.

Thank you, Congressman Adam Schiff.

Thank you, Congressman Darrell Issa.

ISSA: Thank you.