The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank wrote about Hillary’s critics today, and joined me this afternoon to discuss Hillary and her critics:
HH: I begin this hour, though, with Dana Milbank, columnist for the Washington Post. You can follow Dana online at Twitter, of course, @DanaMilbank and at WashingtonPost.com. and I’m celebrating. It’s a rare moment of agreement between Dana Milbank and I. I, too, was underwhelmed by James O’Keefe’s latest expose of Hillary. Dana, welcome, good to talk to you.
DM: A pleasure to talk with you, Hugh.
HH: So I saw the column today, and I thought okay, let’s break this down into two parts. The James O’Keefe part, and why don’t you describe what James O’Keefe, known for Project Veritas, tried to interest the D.C. press corps in this week and failed to do so.
DM: Well look, I mean, O’Keefe has a pretty successful record if you look at what he did with ACORN, and what he did with NPR. So he got, I think, 50 of us reporters and a dozen TV cameras in there for what he said was going to be evidence of illegal activity by the Clinton campaign. So we thought he had the goods. But then it was basically this transaction for $75 dollars for this Canadian woman who wanted to buy a T-shirt and some pins, and O’Keefe’s videographer, because she evidently couldn’t do this, because that would be considered a foreign contribution, his videographer, an American, facilitated this. And he said well, that was a conduit transaction, and that was illegal, and Hillary is taking foreign contributions. Now I think foreign contributions to, say, the Clinton Foundation in the tens of millions of dollars are a very important and huge issue, but I think this $75 dollar acquisition of a T-shirt and some pins at a Hillary rally are falling a little bit short of scandal.
HH: It was very much so a deflation of expectation. However, then, in the middle of your column, you write, “As with much of the product generated by the anti-Clinton scandal mill, the merit of the allegations doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that the constant stream of accusations further the notion that Clinton is corrupt.” And you went on to list a lot of those. Now this is where I, as is typical, disagree with you. The Post today has a story that’s astonishing to me on her emails, six of which were apparently she wrote about classified materials and distributed over a non-secure network. Now Dana Milbank, do you agree that that’s a story?
DM: Oh, absolutely. And in fact, I said in the next sentence there that you know, I think some of these are kind of silly, and I said some of these are legitimate, including what I called her boneheaded use of a private email server as Secretary of State. I don’t, you know, I’m not going to go so far as to say you know, this is evidence of serious illegality by Secretary Clinton. It’s surely evidence of a serious lack of judgment by Hillary Clinton. And I think it shows a pretty serious failure to handle the whole thing properly by not getting out in front of it, not getting everything out there. Now, she’s in many ways, getting what she deserves, because on the 31st of every month or something like that, there’s going to be this, another batch of these emails coming out, and I think that’s going to go well into next year. So no, I mean, I’m certainly not dismissing the notion that there’s no taint of scandal around Hillary Clinton. In fact, that’s why, you know, in this Quinnipiac Poll you see the first three words associated with her were liar, dishonest and untrustworthy. I think because Americans already have that kind of impression of her, that’s why I was saying in a sense, it doesn’t matter what the accusations are, because people are just going to say uh-huh, it’s more of the same, she’s corrupt, and this fits what we knew about her already.
HH: Her numbers today in the latest poll, 47% favorable, 53% unfavorable. That’s the first time she’s been upside down and underwater. But I want to focus in on your use of the term boneheaded, because here’s my objection, Dana. I was for five years read into sensitive, compartmented information in the Reagan years. Every intelligence professional I know, every single one of them, tells me she broke the law, and that if I had done what she did, and if they had done what she did, they would have been indicted by now, that this is very different from anything, not the Rose Law Firm, it’s not Whitewater.
HH: This is the knowing compromise of the national security not with the intention of assisting our enemies. I’m not saying that. I’m just saying it was with reckless disregard to the national security.
HH: And that’s not boneheaded. That’s criminal.
DM: Well look, I mean, you know, it’s a question of is it stupid or is it malicious, I think. And you know, look, there are opinions all over, a lot. You know, I think there’s no less an authority than Bill O’Reilly as saying he doesn’t see a whole lot of there, there, so I mean, I don’t want to get into a position of defending her in any way on this email thing. I think it’s been a disaster. I may not go as far as you do in terms of what we’ve seen so far, you know, saying yeah, that means they should be locking her up. So yeah, I mean, if maybe you think I should go further than boneheaded. But I’m still in the category that it’s stupid rather than nefarious.
HH: Well, with all due respect to Bill O’Reilly, I don’t think he’s ever had a full field background investigation or read into code word SCI.
HH: But here’s my example.
DM: He’s good, though.
HH: I’ve got Mike Pompeo coming up at the bottom of the hour. He’s on the House Intelligence Committee. He has to go over to a SCIF, to a sensitive, compartmented information facility to read classified information. If he leaves that SCIF and he sends an email to Dana Milbank and Hugh Hewitt and says you won’t believe what I just read, you know, Joe Bag O’Donuts of Slobovia is doing a deal with Putin, we’re in big trouble, he would be violating the law, right?
DM: Uh-huh. From what I understand, yes.
HH: So that’s what she did. That’s why I’m wondering what is it about Hillary that makes the obviously criminal impossible to articulate for a lot of people in Washington, D.C.? It’s obviously criminal.
DM: Well, look, as I said before, I think there’s a difference between doing things carelessly and stupidly and doing things with some mal-intent. And you know, I’m not looking at this from the point of view of a prosecutor. You know, I’m looking at this from the point of view of, you know, what makes sense politically, and what’s going on here. So again, I’m not at all interested in defending the behavior, but the other thing you have to think about is these things are going to continue to come out each month. And so the story’s not over. And what is it, October 22nd or something like that? She’s going to be appearing before Trey Gowdy’s committee, and they’ll get a lot of chance to ask her about this then.
HH: You know, the statute I’m referring to is 18 USC 1924, and it doesn’t really go to whether or not she was malicious. I’m not even attributing it malicious, just the knowing dissemination of classified information is a crime. And that, it seems to me that for whatever reason, the tribe in D.C. doesn’t want to focus on this, and I think that reason is she’s one of yours. She belongs, she’s part of the town, and you guys don’t want her thrown to the wolves the way Petraeus got thrown to the wolves. Did anyone cry any crocodile…
DM: I don’t feel that way, because I just think, I mean, if you’re talking about the press corps in particular, there’s just a hatred for Hillary Clinton, and I think an animus towards her that transcends ideology. And I mean, think about how hostile the press corps has been in driving this story. And so I don’t think it’s that sort of factor. It’s been, you know, the press corps has been the one beating the drum not just for Bernie Sanders, but for Joe Biden and others to get into the race. So I don’t think there’s any particular interest in protecting Hillary Clinton. And indeed, I think there’s a lot of interest in knocking her down, just as there was in 2008. I think that still exists now. So I think you know, an argument about whether she should be prosecuted for something criminal or just ridiculed for doing something stupid, well, you know, I think you’re looking at this from a legal point of view, and I’m looking at it from a political point of view.
HH: And a journalist, here’s my last question, Dana. If Dick Cheney had done this, built a secret server up at the Naval Observatory and hidden all of his emails and disseminated classified information to a private network, including Scooter Libby, for example, after. Use Scooter Libby as Sidney Blumenthal, even though that’s not fair to Scooter, after he had been removed. What would the reaction be in the Washington Post to Dick Cheney’s secret emails? Wouldn’t they be crying for his indictment and for his dismissal from office?
DM: Hard to say, Hugh. I mean, you know, as you were pointing out earlier in a Washington Post article, we’ve not exactly been ignoring this, the Hillary scandal. So you know, let’s wait and see what develops here. I don’t, I just don’t think there’s any particular effort here to protect her. In fact, everybody’s, you know, jumping onto these emails as we get them.
HH: Boneheaded is my Exhibit One, but we’ll see what Dana Milbank writes next week. Dana, thanks for joining me, always a pleasure from the Washington Post. Follow him over, @DanaMilbank, on Twitter.
End of interview.