March 15th, 2015

Fmr. Pres. Clinton White House Counsel Jack Quinn on CNN’s State of the Union

Former White House Counsel to President Bill Clinton Jack Quinn (1996-1997) joined CNN’s Dana Bash on State of the Union today to weigh in on Hillary Clinton’s email controversy

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

Full Transcript of the interview is available after the jump.



BASH: Hillary Clinton stepped in front of reporters this week to answer questions about her private email use at the State Department. Republicans said they’re not buying a word of it.

Here now Jack Quinn who was in the trenches with the Clintons in the ’90s as White House counsel for Bill Clinton. Thank you very much for coming in, Jack.


BASH: Let’s start with what Hillary Clinton said about her deleting about 30,000 emails that she deemed private. Was that a mistake?

QUINN: No, it wasn’t a mistake.

Look, they went through — to hear what she said about the process they used, it certainly sounded very thorough. You know, this whole story involves two different kinds of double standards. On the one hand, one thing that I think has really been obscured is that every day every single federal employee is empowered to use his or her judgment to decide what emails and other records are personal and what are official records to be maintained. We trust them to do that.

Here we’re saying, well, can we trust Hillary Clinton to have done that? Why not? Why should she be subject to a different standard? Moreover, as this story goes on and on, we learn that not only did she use private email, but her predecessor Colin Powell did the same thing. Were his records preserved? Apparently not. Apparently not a single one of them is left so we’ll never recover those.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, maintained the records, preserved them, and turned them over after a determination as to which were official and which were personal.

BASH: Well, you say that it’s a double standard, and fair or not, you know, you lived through it, you helped repair the Clintons with — during the Ken Starr investigation, you worked with her even before she went before the grand jury. You know what it’s like to be in the Clinton trenches.

So given that, and maybe the knowledge that there is a perception, fair or not, that they think that they play by their own rules, should they have taken extra precautions especially since she knew that she was very likely going to run for president needed to answer these questions?

QUINN: You know — look, I’m not going to second guess. And she herself acknowledged she could have done this better.

You know, she was implicitly confessing error here. She wished she had apparently done it a different way. She didn’t, but that doesn’t mean that the way she did it was wrong let along worse than that.

You know, we can all get — look. With the Clintons, you hear these stories all the time. I picked up the “Washington Post” this morning and I started reading this story. You know, Hillary Clinton used her private email account as Florida governor to discuss security and military — woops, it doesn’t say Hillary Clinton, it says Jeb Bush.

You know? I mean — and here’s a guy who said he was baffled that she would have used private email to discuss matters of national security. What was he talking about? Troop deployments in the Middle East and the lack of protection he was providing to nuclear plants in Florida.

BASH: He argues that it’s a different standard, a different responsibility when you are — when you are governor and when you are in a federal role like the secretary of state. But let me ask you that (ph) —

QUINN: I’m sorry. Let me respond to that.

BASH: Yes. Please.

QUINN: It doesn’t matter that he was the governor of Florida. He was talking about the protection of nuclear facilities in the state of Florida and his determination not to provide additional protection in the face of threats from al Qaeda. That’s pretty remarkable.

BASH: Do you think though given what you said but just knowing the political reality right now that just to try to put answers — questions to rest here there should be an independent review, an independent counsel for lack of a better way to say it?

QUINN: Well, again, you know, we apparently trusted Governor Bush. We trust federal employees every day of the year to make these determinations. Why would we think it’s important to bring in a third party to make a determination when she has outlined — I didn’t go through these records. I haven’t discussed this with anyone there, but they outlined with great clarity the methods by which they sorted these emails (INAUDIBLE) personal on the one hand then (ph) official on the other. On the surface it appears to be thorough.

And let me say this, Dana, you know what emails are. They go to other people. Once they leave your device we don’t know where else they go. People forward them. People preserve them. If there was any kind of systematic wrongdoing in the sorting of these things into personal and official, it will come out. So I very, very seriously doubt any of the lawyers involved in this could have screwed around with that determination.

BASH: One last quick question. Take me inside the Clinton camp right now. You know what it’s like to be in the bunker.

QUINN: But I’m not there.

BASH: You’re not there. You’re not there but just sort of culturally. Culturally.

I mean, is it let’s just get this all out there or let’s just wait, you know, and finish it now? Or let’s wait and see how this goes?

QUINN: Well again, I honestly don’t know what it’s like today.

I do know having gone through the things you alluded to in the ’90s with them, you know, the incredibly disproportionate reaction of Republican congressional leadership to things like this. We had investigation after investigation, untold millions, hundreds of millions of dollars in all of those investigations. Was anybody ever determined to have engaged in wrongdoing let alone criminality? No. Was it all political theater? I think so.

And you know, apropos of this whole discussion about whether things are personal or official, I remember having to go up to the hill and telling one of these Republican congressional committees, no, your request for the guest list at Chelsea Clinton’s sweet 16 party, we’re not responding to that. I mean, it got that silly.

And, you know, I’m not saying this will get silly, but I will tell you this, the election of a president in 2016 will not turn on this issue. I believe that with all my heart.

BASH: Thank you, Jack Quinn. Appreciate your time and your insight.

QUINN: Any time. Thank you.

BASH: Thank you so much.