Hillary and Benghazi

The Benghazi probe has now been going on for a longer time than Watergate. That seems kind of ridiculous. The Republicans have sunk their teeth into this like a pit bull and won’t let go. They felt they could ride it all the way to the White House.

Kevin McCarthy Helps the Democrats

Many people feel that McCarthy, who was number 2 in the House at the time, implied that the Benghazi committee was a witch hunt to bring Hillary down. On reading what he said, it is not clear that is what he meant, but the damage was done. Now the Republicans are more on the defensive and seem to be a bit more careful.

Mills’ Testimony Released

Cheryl Mills was Clinton’s chief of staff at the State Department. She was questioned by the committee in a closed door session.  Since then, there have been leaks of what she said, normally carefully selected and many say taken out of context to make Hillary Clinton look bad. So the Democrats released the 307 page transcript of her testimony.

A number of Republicans who are not on the committee have been claiming that Clinton told the military to stand down during the attacks on the consulate. There is nothing in the testimony of Mills that supports this. There is also nothing that indicates that Clinton ever denied requests for additional security.

Instead, it shows that Clinton was heavily involved during and after the attacks trying to ensure the safety of all personnel involved in any way.

Political Football

Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the committee basically said it is a $4.5 million witch hunt on the part of the Republicans. Trey Gowdy, the Republican leading the committee says they only want to provide an accurate account of the Benghazi attacks. He also felt that the release of the transcript showed that all the Democrats cared about was protecting Hillary Clinton. We doubt either side is likely to agree or back down. Unfortunate.

Mills denied there was any order to stand down, that Clinton denied requests for extra security, that Clinton ordered Ambassador Stevens to go to Benghazi, or that there was a gun-running scheme. We doubt her claims will satisfy the Republicans. Mills also said that Clinton was very involved that night and very concerned about everyone. She took the unusual step of attending a staff level meeting because of her concern. She had the highest regard for Stevens and was very upset about everything that was going on.

O’Malley “Steals” Furniture

Martin O’Malley couldn’t let Hillary Clinton have all the controversy spotlight. Because O’Malley took most of the Governor’s Mansion furniture with him, new governor Hogan had to move his 20 year old furniture into the mansion. Perhaps he should call Annapolis Clean Carpet for an upholstery cleaning so the furniture will look like new.

O’Malley and his wife were moving out of the mansion and into a 4 bedroom home in Baltimore. They needed to furnish it and decided they liked the furnishings of the Governor’s mansion.

They decided to see if they could buy it. It went through a process and was declared junk and was sold to them for pennies on the dollar. To be more precise, what originally cost Maryland taxpayers $62,000 to buy was sold for $9,678. These 54 pieces were all purchased in the last 10 years.

It is quite likely that the furnishings were in very good shape. Unlike some tenants in inner city Baltimore who can put 10 years of wear on furniture and buildings in six months, we doubt that the furniture was abused by the tenants of the Governor’s mansion.

Governor Hogan said that he was excited to move into the Governor’s mansion after taking a tour of it after his election. Imagine his surprise when they went to move in and found it stripped bare or at least considerably more bare than when they last saw it. So he had to get his old furniture moved in from his house.

O’Malley says that he went through all the proper channels. But who was going to say no to the governor. He needed at least one person around him who wasn’t a Yes man who could have told him is was a bad idea and would look awful. Especially considering that he is running for President. He comes off as tone deaf to how things will be perceived much as Hillary has done several times over the last couple of years.

Former governor Marvin Mandel did something similar when he left office. He took almost all the furniture, all the liquor, and other supplies with him when he left the mansion. A lawsuit was required to get the items back and some were never recovered. It was filed by Attorney General Steven Sachs and took years in court.

In an ironic twist, this past January before he left the mansion, O’Malley wrote Mandel and asked for some items back that he has supposedly taken from the mansion. In his letter to Mandel, O’Malley say how he and his wife have appreciate the mansion and the contributions of past governors to the ambience of the house. Then he requests the missing items from Mandel’s time.

When Sachs was read this he cracked up laughing. Then Sachs commented that the O’Malley’s liked the mansion so much that they took a lot of things with them, including things that didn’t belong to them.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out and what effect it will have on O’Malley’s  presidential campaign.

People’s Feedback on Hillary

Recently we did an informal survey by driving around with clients of Annapolis Limo Service and their partner taxi service, we asked them what they thought of Hillary Clinton. Not a scientific poll, but it was interesting.

People felt that she had more experience and more pertinent experience than probably anyone else running for President. We did this in Annapolis, MD which is pretty blue, although we did run across some Republicans who couldn’t stand her no matter what her experience is.

She has been a Senator, giving her insight into the Legislative Branch and she has been Secretary of State giving her experience with the Executive Branch. Plus she is a lawyer so she is familiar with the Legislative Branch. The knock on may Senators running for President is that they have never run an organization, but the stint as Secretary of State covers that base. Plus, she has the unusual perspective of seeing a presidency from the inside by being married to the President.

Despite this, people felt that she had a nasty habit of shooting herself in the foot. Of course, the Republicans are frequently looking to help pull the trigger. First, using a private server for her emails. Yes, it was legal at the time, but many people commented that it just didn’t look good. They didn’t feel like it passed the smell test. There may have been a good reason, but so far it hasn’t been disclosed. Probably because the reason is that the Clinton’s seem to have a real desire for secrecy.

People were of the opinion that while the Clinton’s might have a good pulse on public opinion, they were quite blind to how the public would react to some of their personal actions.

There was also Benghazi. However, people weren’t sure how to feel about that one. The Republicans were all for cover up and foul play. Democrats and Independents were mixed and felt they didn’t have enough information about what really went on.

Another example people mentioned of not having antennae up and understanding how something would look was getting a $600 haircut. People were amazed that a section of Bergdorf Goodman in New York was closed off so she could get her hair styled in private without people knowing. But word got out anyway. She is trying to portray herself as fighting for the middle and lower classes but everyone agreed they couldn’t relate to $600 haircuts. They couldn’t relate to it and they felt the average American couldn’t relate to it either.

Clinton’s Emails

As many people know, Hillary Clinton, in addition to people complaining about her role in not getting aid in time to our compound in Benghazi in Libya are also concerned about her emails.

Everyone agrees that regarding the emails, she did nothing illegal. It is a matter of the perception of what she did. It would be illegal now because the law has changed.

Private Server

Clinton used the federal encrypted email system for emails that needed to be secure. But she had her own email system that she used. It was run from a server in her home. It was a private account used exclusively for official business. It did give her more control than normal over access to the emails.

It is not clear why Hillary Clinton chose to set up her own server. It probably gives her more protection from subpoenas but less protection from hackers and viruses than in a data center. The server itself was probably safe because her home is guarded by the Secret Service. Although, it would have been susceptible to fire or flood.

The Scientific American has a nice article on why it isn’t that odd for Hillary Clinton to have her own server. It almost made us want to go out and get our own.

Federal Records Act and Freedom of Information Act

According to the New York Times she used a private email account for official business. This could be a potential problem because the Federal Records Act requires all employees to save emails and other correspondence. So the question they asked was whether this private email account saved all of her work related emails.

The AP has requested the government under the Freedom of Information Act to see the emails but has been waiting a year. The private account first came to public attention because of emails of Sidney Blumenthal’s that were released by a convicted Romanian hacker. Then Trey Gowdy, the Republican leading the investigation into Benghazi became aware of the separate email accounts.

Clinton Calls for Release

Clinton now wants the State Department make available 55,000 pages of emails from the time she was at the Department. She made the statement at a campaign stop in Iowa. Her reason was probably because a judge overruled the State Department. They were going to release them all at one time by January (which seems like a long way away). But the judge says they need to be release as they become available. So there will be constant small releases. This is probably not to Hillary’s liking since it won’t hit the news and then die, but keep the information constantly coming up in the news. But, as she pointed out, it is up to the State Department, Clinton no longer has control over the emails, they are government property.

In some ways, she has made the situation worse. Her statement Tuesday that she wanted the emails release was the first time she had taken questions from reporters in a month. This has given Republicans ammunition, saying that she has something to hide.

She also answered some questions about the $25 million she and Bill Clinton have made from speeches since January of 2014, along with even more money contributed to their charitable foundation. She also said she now felt voting for the Iraq War was a mistake.