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      •  Saturday Q&A

Saturday Q&A

Today's Q&A focuses as much on the malfeasance of the Clintons as it does on Donald Trump. So, it's kind of like a Trump rally.

Q: Am I missing something? If Donald Trump and his supporters succeed in making their case against Hunter Biden, wouldn't that set a precedent that would end Trump's presidency and bring down much, if not all, of the Trump family? Are they accusing the younger Biden of anything the Trump kids aren't doing in plain sight? D.V.W., Everett, VA

A: We're going to start with a statement that is enormously judgmental. Trying to be diplomatic and soft-pedal it would just waste everyone's time, so we're going to come right out with it: Trump, his family, his base, and much of the GOP establishment that supports him are enormous hypocrites.

The evidence of this is overwhelming. As you note, even if Hunter Biden is found guilty of wrongdoing (and there's no evidence to suggest he will be), there is nothing he did that would be worse than what Eric Trump and Donald Jr. do on a daily basis. In these circumstances, Republicans work very hard to make apples to oranges out of something that is more like Fuji apples to Red Delicious apples. They do this even when the behavior isn't just comparable, it's identical. They slammed Hillary Clinton for using a private e-mail server for public business, then we found out that many White House insiders, including Ivanka Trump, are doing the same. They attacked Barack Obama for golfing while president, and wasting taxpayer dollars, and yet Donald Trump has already spent $110 million on golf trips, compared to less than $18 million for Obama at the same point in his presidency.

Of course, Democrats can be hypocritical, too. The effort to draw a bright, red line between the "tolerable" sexual misconduct of Bill Clinton and the "unacceptable" sexual conduct of Donald Trump is one obvious example, and every reader can surely think of others (though see below for a situation we believe is not an example). Hypocrisy is a form of cognitive dissonance, the dilemma the brain faces when faced with conflicting pieces of information. For example: "It is inappropriate and venal for a president to golf, and so I condemn Barack Obama for doing so. Donald Trump golfs a lot, though, and I like him."

A person might resolve this in a dozen ways, like convincing themselves that because Trump is working harder, and so is entitled to some rest and relaxation, while Obama was not. We suspect that the real objection to Obama's hobby, for many Trump supporters, is that he was golfing while black, but there's no good way to prove that. In any case, human beings are good at resolving cognitive dissonance of all sorts, including hypocrisy. In fact, it's even known which part of the brain is responsible for this task; it's the anterior cingulate cortex.

In A Study in Scarlet, Sherlock Holmes observed that, "From a drop of water, a logician could infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara without having seen or heard of one or the other." We would suggest that, knowing the neurological fact above, and knowing that with any cognitive task, some people are better than others, it is inferable that some people have more active and/or functional anterior cingulate cortexes than do others. In other words, some people are particularly nimble when it comes to "resolving" apparent hypocrisy. And recent scholarship, most notably this study, confirms that fact.

What we're saying is that some people are literally hardwired to tolerate hypocrisy. Maybe Trump and the GOP have, for whatever reason, done an unusually good job of attracting those folks. Or, maybe our supposition is way off base, and we're just talking out our anterior cingulate cortexes. However, whatever the explanation, there is simply no question that Republicans have consistently engaged in gross hypocrisy in the last three years. So, in answer to your original question, we can say with 100% confidence that it does not matter how much trouble Hunter Biden gets in, it will not affect how the base or how Republicans in Washington treat Donald Trump one bit.

Q: Do you think it would be wise strategy for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to include Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI) as part of House team to present articles of impeachment to the Senate during an impeachment trial? It seems to me that this would help deflate the argument that this is just a political act by the Democrats to overturn an election or weaken Trump in 2020. J.A., Henderson, NV

A: We will go further than that. If we were in Pelosi's shoes (painful, because she has size 7 feet), we would strongly consider asking Amash to lead the team. This would improve the optics, as you point out, and Amash is no slouch. He has a law degree (though he's never worked as a prosecutor), and anyone who sees him talk can tell he's very sharp. The "lead" manager is largely a symbolic title; any member of the team can perform whatever tasks need to be performed. So, there's no risk that, for example, Amash tries to overrule the Democrats on strategy, or that he decides not to call a witness they want called.

Q: After President Trump is impeached (and the silly congressional Republican argument goes away that he committed no impeachable offenses), will there be a rule for the Senate trial about the evidentiary standard for conviction? In a civil trial, it's the preponderance of evidence. In a criminal trial, it's proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Will it be "jungle rules" in the Senate? J.G., Garner, NC

A: An impeachment is closer to being a civil trial than a criminal trial, and so one could argue that a preponderance should be all that is needed. On the other hand, a presidential impeachment and removal would be an event of enormous consequence, one that effectively overruled tens of millions of voters. So, one could argue that beyond all reasonable doubt is the proper standard. That is the case that Bill Clinton's lawyers made in this widely circulated memo prior to his impeachment trial, though they used the phrase "very high standard of evidence" rather than the phrase "beyond all reasonable doubt," because they did not want to imply in any way that he was a criminal. That memo also lays out evidence that Congress saw things similarly as they prepared (needlessly, as it turns out) to impeach Richard Nixon.

With that said, and as we point out all the time, impeachment is a political process. And so, to paraphrase Gerald Ford, the evidentiary standard that will actually be in use is: "Whatever 100 Senators think it is."

Q: You wrote:

...Senate rules also don't leave a lot of leeway for trickery, it would only take a couple of GOP senators to torpedo something silly, like trying to subpoena the whistleblower's barber.

Do Senate rules permit witnesses to be called who could then attempt to make corruption by the Bidens and Barisma seem plausible in an attempt to make pressuring Ukraine appear justified? I presume House impeachment managers will be able to cross examine such witnesses, so such a tactic would be risky, as such witnesses may be forced to contradict themselves and may be made buffoons. Can Trump's lawyers call the witnesses that Republicans wanted to call in the impeachment hearings? G.W., Oxnard, CA

A: We are glad to have the opportunity to expand on that. Because the Constitution has so little in the way of instructions, and because there have been so few presidential impeachment trials, there's no set answer to this. But we'll do the best we can; if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) were answering, even they likely wouldn't be able to be much more precise.

There are three ways that questions about witnesses might be decided. The first is that Chief Justice John Roberts, as presiding officer, could plausibly be called upon to determine which witnesses will be allowed and which will not be. However, to rule on that question would be pretty assertive, which is not his style. The other two chief justices who oversaw impeachment trials, Salmon P. Chase and William Rehnquist, did not rule on whether witnesses could or could not testify. Further, even if Roberts did rule, he could be overruled by a vote of 51 senators.

That leads us to the second option. If McConnell & Co. are basically unified (that is, 51 of 53 GOP senators agree), then they can approve or reject any witnesses as they see fit. This is what happened during the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, where the anti-Johnson forces controlled well more than half the Senate, and so crafted the witness list exactly as they saw fit. Ultimately, 40 different witnesses testified. The problem with doing it this way is that it would emphasize that the whole thing is just political theater, and would weaken the value of "exonerating" Trump. Further, it is far from guaranteed that McConnell could get 50 of his colleagues to agree to join with him in railroading the process.

That brings us to option three. McConnell and Schumer could get together with some of their lieutenants, and hammer out a witness list tolerable to everyone. This is what happened during the impeachment of Bill Clinton; ultimately, three witnesses were approved (Monica Lewinsky, Clinton friend Vernon Jordan and White House aide Sidney Blumenthal). They testified in private, and video clips of their testimony were played during the actual hearings. The problem with this option, this time around, is that McConnell and Schumer are not terribly chummy these days, and there may not be anybody with cross-aisle credibility to assist in facilitating (as Ted Kennedy and Phil Gramm did back in 1998).

Which path Trump's impeachment will take is anybody's guess. It could be any of these, or it could be some combination of the three.

Q: Ever since you mentioned that the Senate has the prerogative to remove an official from office, but not bar them from holding office in the future, as the result of a guilty verdict in an impeachment trial, I've been considering this interesting, albeit highly improbable scenario:

  • Trump is impeached, convicted, and removed from office, but not barred from running for president again.

  • Since he is no longer a sitting president, the Justice Department policy that prevents criminal indictment against him no longer applies

  • As the result of a rapid criminal trial, Trump is convicted of criminal charges before the 2020 election

Would there be anything preventing Trump from running for president as a convicted criminal? Could he hold the office if reelected, even if his criminal sentence is still ongoing? How would that work in practice if he is facing some kind of jail time? Is there any precedent for a convicted criminal running for or holding office in U.S. history? J.V., Bangkok, Thailand

A: We picked this question not because it's likely to be relevant, but because it illustrates something about the current state of the political system.

To start, generally speaking, there is no prohibition on convicted criminals running for office. Some states temporarily or permanently disqualify felons from running for state-level offices, but they cannot dictate the qualifications for federal office. Heck, Eugene V. Debs even ran for president in 1920 from prison. There have also been plenty of folks convicted of various offenses, including felonies, elected to Congress. The problem here, beyond a general First Amendment right to political expression (including running for office), is that it would be difficult to draw the line between "acceptable" conviction and "disqualifying" conviction. There are things that are or were felonies that probably shouldn't be disqualifying (bouncing checks, possession of marijuana, etc.), and there are misdemeanors that maybe should be (DUIs, exposing oneself in public, etc.).

Consequently, it's generally been up to voters to decide what is and what is not acceptable and, when they blew it, for the folks in Washington to step in and take care of business. Several people have been expelled from Congress when crimes they committed came to light, and similarly, judges and executive branch employees have failed to secure Senate confirmation due to past misdeeds.

The problem is that, in our current polarized environment, people have tolerance for things that they probably should not, and that past generations of voters and political leaders certainly did not. This is particularly true of the GOP, which very nearly elected Roy Moore to the Senate despite his being a child molester. Of course, he wasn't a convict, but four other GOP candidates for office in 2018 were (Joe Arpaio, Michael Grimm, Greg Gianforte, and Don Blankenship).

And so, the answer to your question is: There is nothing in the law that prevents an impeached and convicted Donald Trump from running for the White House in 2020. In the past, a candidate with such baggage would not have bothered running. But such is the state of affairs right now that having a conviction on his record would likely not affect Trump's chances at all, and might even boost them. He was definitely on to something when he said that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and it wouldn't matter a bit.

Q: I've noticed on my Facebook feed and elsewhere, many examples of conservatives gleefully predicting that Trump will win "in a landslide." I don't see the same confidence from liberals that he will lose. Democrats seem to be genuinely concerned that if they don't pick the right nominee, Trump could very well win. It's the reverse of 2016, where many liberals believed that Trump couldn't possibly win, so they didn't need to bother with voting for Clinton since she was going to win regardless. Could the same thing be happening now, where a significant number of conservatives will assume that Trump's victory is guaranteed and not bother to vote for him? Have there been any polls that have attempted to gauge this? L.B., Savannah, GA

A: This would be virtually impossible to poll, particularly this far out. To do so would require respondents to admit to someone else that they are basically flaky, and that is something that people do not even like to admit to themselves.

That leaves us to guess. It is certainly possible that complacency could set in with Trump's base, and that he could be hurt in the same way Clinton was in 2016. That said, if it does happen, the effect will likely be less pronounced than it was three years ago. First, because Trump has focused mostly on appealing to true believers, not folks who are just mildly supportive. Second, because there's not an obvious third-party that he might lose "protest" votes to, as Clinton did to the Green Party's Jill Stein. Of course, if the Democrats nominate Joe Biden and the Green Party nominates a strong candidate, some young voters may once again go with "I'm not voting for the lesser of two evils," just as they did in 2016.

Q: Having lived in Michigan my entire life, I agree with your assessment of the 2020 Senate race. John James' (R) father is well respected in Detroit. Although he is a Democrat, it would carry a lot of weight in Detroit if he endorsed his son. My question, though, is in regard to your statement that Sen. Gary Peters' (D-MI) approval rating is 36%. What is his disapproval rating, and how many people have no opinion? My sense of Peters is that he is low-key and boring (with little name recognition), rather than having high disapproval numbers. Can you comment? M.K., Charlotte, MI

A: Let us start by noting that there is only one polling house that regularly polls the approval ratings of senators and governors, and that polls Donald Trump's support on a state-by-state basis. That would be Morning Consult, which is only an "ok" polling house, not a great one. Further, any pollster could be making mistakes of various sorts. Since there is no other house to compare Morning Consult's numbers to, there is no way to get a sense of how good their results are. Still, some data is better than no data.

Anyhow, Morning Consult's numbers support your supposition. They have Peters with 36% approval which, as we pointed out, is third-worst in the Senate. However, they also have him with 28% disapproval and 37% no opinion. That means he's above water by 8 points, which is actually above average compared to his colleagues. He's also got the highest "no opinion" of any of the senators by far, the only other one in the thirties is Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), who is at 30%.

Q: Can the president break treaties unilaterally if he can't make them unilaterally in the first place? The Constitution is clear on the requirement of Senate confirmation of treaties, i.e., that the President cannot unilaterally make promises on behalf of the United States. Yet it appears that the President can unilaterally break treaty promises confirmed by the Senate. R.P., Redmond, WA

A: As you point out, the Constitution is not at all clear on this point. And even where it is clear, it's not necessarily followed. Article I specifically calls for the president to get the advice of the Senate on treaties, but after George Washington did that once, and got annoyed, he never did it again. Other presidents have followed his lead.

Anyhow, this issue comes up less often than you may think, for three reasons. First, because many treaties go off the books due to having been superseded by updated agreements. The various Geneva Conventions, which have gone through five iterations since 1863, are one example of this. Second, because many treaties go off the books due to the other party or parties abandoning them. Such is the case, for example, with the treaty the U.S. signed with Germany after World War I (which is not the Treaty of Versailles, incidentally, as the U.S. never formally approved that one). Third, because many treaties contain within them the exact rules for ending the treaty, often specifically empowering the president to make the decision. That was true, for example, of the now-defunct Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia that Donald Trump killed.

When none of these three circumstances applies, however, then it generally is the president who unilaterally decides on withdrawal, and he generally gets away with it, even if he is arguably on shaky legal footing. By contrast, Congress has taken it upon themselves to declare an end to a treaty only once, and that was back in 1798.

Q: As you (and others) point out, Michael Bloomberg will not take part in the debates as, not accepting donors, he will not match the fundraising numbers required by the DNC. Would you consider this as a plus or a minus? One could make the case that Bloomberg stays above the fray when he does not participate, which might be considered as a plus. But, on the other hand, he gives away the opportunity to sharpen his profile and to show the electorate how he acts in a debate-modus, which is certainly a minus. What is your standpoint on this? A.C., Aachen, Germany

A: From Bloomberg's perspective, it probably is a good thing, as it gives him 100% control over his messaging. He's also not a great debater or very telegenic, so he avoids a circumstance that does not serve him well.

From the perspective of everyone else, this is surely not a good thing. Democratic voters will not get to know Bloomberg, and he won't be battle-tested on the national stage in any meaningful way. For Americans in general, it is not a great precedent for not one, not two, but three billionaires to use their money to bend the process to their will.

Q: Maybe Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) hasn't gone down in polls because of her mistakes. Maybe she had a bump up because of Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) health issues and it really wasn't about what she did. I'm the kind of person who would like to see one of them as president and would vote if I could (not a citizen) for the one of them who I thought had the greatest chance to win the primaries. Has their combined support changed much during the last months? J.L. Finspång, Sweden

Q: Do you have any idea why Elizabeth Warren, who was steadily rising in the polls for a few months, has begun to drop so rapidly in the past few weeks? There's been no big gaffe, and she actually stepped back a little from "Medicare for All" to "gradually working toward Medicare for All."

My speculation is that as her original position of Medicare for All seeped into people's awareness, more and more people disliked the idea of the government ordering them to give up the medical insurance they selected on their own.
J.B., Bend, OR

A: Let's start with the combined Warren-Sanders support in polls this year. Here's the averages by month:

Month Sanders Avg. Warren Avg. Combined
November 17.6% 17.8% 35.4%
October 16.1% 22.4% 38.5%
September 17.1% 19.8% 36.9%
August 16.7% 16.0% 32.6%
July 15.0% 14.5% 29.5%
June 16.3% 12.1% 28.4%
May 17.6% 8.4% 26.0%
April 20.2% 7.3% 27.5%
March 23.3% 6.3% 29.6%
February 21.3% 6.7% 28.0%
January 14.6% 5.6% 20.3%

As you can see, Sanders' support has actually been pretty consistent this year. Other than a surge at the beginning, he is pretty well ensconced in the 15.5%-17.5% range. To the extent that the progressive "total" changes on a month-by-month basis, it is mostly as Warren's support ebbs and flows. So, she does not appear to be directly bleeding support to him.

We do, in fact, have a theory as to what's going on with Warren. And our theory has room for J.B.'s observation, while also explaining how Sanders might be affecting Warren's totals, albeit indirectly. However, you're going to have to wait to read about it, because it's somewhat complicated and we want to try to express it as clearly as possible. Hopefully it will be ready next week.

Q: Just one question about your editorial choice on the past U.S. scandals. I guess you're going to write about Watergate (of course) and about Bill and Monica, so why did you skip the impeachment of Andrew Johnson? I know the global facts, but not in the details with which you deal with those scandals. So, a Johnson entry would be welcomed, in my opinion. E.K., Brignoles, France

A: Truth be told, this whole thing developed organically, and without advance planning. It started with the reader who proposed that we call it Ukrainepot Dome. Then, (Z) started using that joke to create other names for the scandal, like Ukraine of Pigs and Ukraineagon Papers. On the second night of that, he thought about linking to the Wikipedia article for the scandal being referenced, but then decided it might be even better to write up a whole series on scandals after getting a couple of weeks mileage out of the Ukraineyola/Caning of Volodymyr Zelensky/Ukrainecoat Affair bit. Even after starting the series, feedback made clear that people preferred longer explanations with more comment on background and on post-scandal effects. So, we went from running three shorter explanations on the first day of the series to one or two longer ones thereafter.

All of this is to say that the list of scandals was chosen on the flimsiest basis one can imagine, namely: Can the scandal's name be turned into something that incorporates Ukraine? The Johnson impeachment, to take one example, really can't be, so it didn't make the cut.

This process still generated a pretty good list, but probably not the list we would have had if our starting point had been "What are the 15 most important (or most interesting) scandals?" The series has gotten a lot of positive feedback, so we're certainly willing to expand it a bit. To that end, we're open to suggestions for additional scandals that people would like to read about. We've done 11 already (The XYZ Affair, the Caning of Charles Sumner, Crédit Mobilier, the Petticoat Affair, the Whiskey Ring, the Dreyfus Affair, Teapot Dome, Payola, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Chappaquiddick Incident, and the Pentagon Papers). Watergate is up next, and ABSCAM, the Iran-Contra Affair, the Keating Five, Benghazi, and the Panama Papers are still pending. Beyond that, we're all ears.

Q: How important was the Whitewater controversy to the widespread adoption of the "-gate" suffix? I have a distinct memory of someone (possibly Newt Gingrich?) spouting the phrase "This is a new Watergate, a Whitewatergate!" on the television news back then. I see in Wikipedia's list of "-gate" scandals several other uses of the suffix in the seventies and eighties, but with the rise of 24-hour news, the Republican takeover of Congress, and the rising political partisanship, coupled with the admittedly appropriate appropriation of "Watergate" into "Whitewatergate", it seems possible that this was the suffix's watershed moment. B.T.B., Laveen, AZ

A: You are right that Newt Gingrich said many things like that, but he most certainly didn't coin "Whitewatergate." That was the work of someone else, who first used the term in 1993, well before Bill Clinton was impeached. We'll let folks try to guess who it was; it should be reasonably gettable for long-time politics-watchers, who might note that the phrase "Whitewatergate" embodies both conservative politics and wordplay. Answer is at the bottom of the page.

Anyhow, we think you are on the right track, but you have things in the wrong order. As you have observed, the use of the -gate suffix was very well established long before Whitewatergate. What changed is not that Whitewatergate put ideas in people's minds, it's that scandals became more commonplace. Hyper-polarization and other changes in American politics, not to mention the rise of political talk radio, cable TV, and other media—all of them in desperate need of content that will attract eyeballs—meant that the search for dirt became a 24/7 thing. And if you have many more scandals, you need many more clever scandal names, hence many more "-gates."

Q: Shortly after Bill Clinton was elected, I seem to recall a furor regarding the possible influence of Chinese money on the Democratic presidential campaign. There was an incident that received much ballyhoo at the time with regards to guests who stayed at the White House guest room (Lincoln bedroom?) as "re-payment" for support. Unfortunately, the guests in question were Chinese nationals.

This strikes me as pertinent on two levels. First, the impeachment of Clinton was contemplated by some (at that time), the idea being that there must be some sort of quid pro quo (though the phrase didn't seem to have been used, as it is now). Since foreign nationals cannot influence our elections, this was considered "evidence" of a conspiracy of foreign money entering into Democrat campaigns. Secondly, in a much broader sense, Donald Trump regularly has people staying at his resorts and many are foreign nationals. When Trump visits his resorts, particularly Bedminster and Mar-a-Lago, there is ample opportunity for them to meet and converse with the President and many of his influential support personnel. Do you have insight as to the relevancy of White House Lincoln bedroom scandal?
B.W., Easton, PA

A: You are somewhat commingling two different scandals. The first involved Clinton's general habit of rewarding contributors with various perks, including the chance to golf/jog with him and the opportunity to stay in the Lincoln Bedroom. In the end, 938 people got at least one overnight stay, 821 of them in the Lincoln Bedroom. These folks collectively donated about $5.5 million to the Clinton campaign/inauguration. That said, one should not assume that all (or even most) of the guests bought their way in. In fact, the majority were old friends of the Clintons, or were political officials invited to stay overnight for various reasons.

The second scandal, which emerged after the first, involved several Americans of Chinese descent who became generous political donors to various officeholders, including to Bill Clinton (specifically to his impeachment defense). There was some evidence that the money came from the Chinese government, with the purpose of influencing policy, but this was never conclusively proven or disproven, and Chinese officials denied it (for what that's worth). The most famous of these donors, and the focal point of the scandal, was Yah-Lin "Charlie" Trie, a short-order cook turned restaurateur who donated $450,000 to Clinton to help him fight impeachment.

When it comes to giving perks to big donors, that's probably not great, but nearly all politicians do it, and it's not inherently corrupt (although, to their credit, the Obamas never let anyone stay in the Lincoln Bedroom). Similarly, meeting with, talking to, and hanging out with foreign nationals isn't the best look, but it's not inherently problematic. Sometimes, the national interests of the United States are served when presidents network with, learn from, and potentially influence those people.

As to the money from the Chinese donors, the fate of Trie and his money is representative of what happened to the whole lot. Team Clinton suspected that his $450,000 might be questionable, so they rejected part of it and flagged the rest. Then, after investigating, they returned all the money they had accepted. Trie eventually fled the United States for a while, and upon his return he was convicted of campaign finance violations and sentenced to four months of house arrest and three years' probation. The authorities were able to determine that the money donated was not Trie's, though they could not prove it came from China.

As to Trump, some of what he does is identical to Clinton, and so is ok (if a little icky). Hosting people at Mar-a-Lago, for example, is on the "ok" side of the line. However, some folks have used Clinton's situation with the Chinese to justify either the shady behavior surrounding Donald Trump's inaugural funding, or possible violations of the emoluments clause. And, to pay off our observation from the first answer above, we don't think it's hypocrisy to see significant differences between the Clinton situation and the Trump situation. Most obviously, Trie (and the other involved parties) were American citizens, not foreign nationals. Further, they were tried and punished for their actions. Oh, and Clinton didn't keep the money.

Q: My question is about Hillary Clinton's 30,000 missing e-mails. If they are "missing," how do they know that? I realize this Rudy Giuliani snipe hunt is to, in part, locate the non-existent server containing the 30,000 missing e-mails, but there just doesn't seem to be ANY evidence there are ANY missing emails, so I'm kind of wondering what the hullabaloo is about. D.W., Keene, New Hampshire

A: We know about the 30,000 missing e-mails because Clinton herself acknowledged their existence. "Missing" is a bit of a misnomer, however, as it implies—in a manner that serves the agenda of Donald Trump & Co.—that there is something mysterious about their disappearance. In fact, the e-mails were deleted.

As we all know, Clinton used a private e-mail server during her time as Secretary of State. When the Benghazi investigation heated up, House Republicans decided they wanted to take a look at the work-related e-mails on that server, so they subpoenaed them. There were, of course, private e-mails in the mix, as well as junk of various sorts. So, the then-Secretary asked her underlings to go through all of the messages left on the server and to weed out the ones unrelated to her work. Clinton gave no instructions beyond that, and did not take any role in the process. Clinton lawyer David Kendall and aide Cheryl Mills did most of the work, and developed a series of "rules" to help them make decisions. For example, all e-mails from a .gov or .mil account were kept, as were any that mentioned State Department employees by name. Ultimately, they turned about 30,000 messages over to House Republicans and deleted the rest, about three weeks after the subpoena was received. Frankly, we're a little surprised that only half of Clinton's e-mails were personal and/or junk.

Many Republicans have convinced themselves of two things. The first is that there was something nefarious in one or more of those e-mails (in particular, proof of some Benghazi-related malfeasance). The second is that someone has those e-mails—Ukraine, Russia, Wikileaks, the whistleblower's barber—and that if they can just be recovered, Clinton's misdeeds can be proven.

There is no extant support for any of these suppositions. More than half of the deleted e-mails have been "recovered," courtesy of those who sent messages to Clinton or those who received messages from her (after all, there are at least two copies of every e-mail). The whole situation has been looked into several times, and by people who are very good at getting to the bottom of things. The conclusions, including those of the latest investigation, which was conducted by the State Department and concluded just a few weeks ago, are invariably the same: The server was a bad idea, and some of the deleted e-mails were very nominally work-related, but there's really nothing to see here.

The person who coined "Whitewatergate" was noted conservative columnist and lover of the English language William Safire.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec06 Pelosi Marches Forward
Dec06 Joe Loses His Cool
Dec06 Kim Promises "Christmas Gift"
Dec06 Warren Has Definitely Fallen Off
Dec06 Kerry Endorses Biden
Dec06 Democrats Try to Sweet Talk Bullock
Dec06 Graves Joins the Crowd Headed for the Exit
Dec05 House Learns What "High Crimes and Misdemeanors" Are, or Maybe It Doesn't
Dec05 Democrats Hint at Three Articles of Impeachment
Dec05 Giuliani Is Still at It
Dec05 Biden Says He Will Consider Harris as His Running Mate
Dec05 Kemp Defies Trump and Appoints Loeffler to the Senate
Dec05 Graham: Russia Interfered with the 2016 Election, Not Ukraine
Dec05 Horowitz: Russia Probe Was Legitimate
Dec05 Trump Calls Trudeau "Two-Faced"
Dec05 Heck Won't Run for Reelection
Dec04 House Intelligence Committee Releases Report on Ukraine
Dec04 Who Will Be the Impeachment Managers?
Dec04 Trump Loses Another Ruling Related to His Finances
Dec04 Harris Has Her Kamala to Jesus Moment
Dec04 Steyer Makes the Debate Cut
Dec04 Democrats Can't Sleep on Michigan Senate Seat
Dec04 I Am Not a Crook: A Look at History's Most Scandalous Scandals, Part VI
Dec03 Republicans Close Ranks Around Trump
Dec03 Page and Zelensky Speak Out
Dec03 Trump Readies for Another Trade War
Dec03 Steve Bullock Exits Democratic Presidential Race
Dec03 Garland Tucker Exits North Carolina Senate Race
Dec03 Duncan Hunter to Plead Guilty
Dec03 Assessment of Open House Seats
Dec03 I Am Not a Crook: A Look at History's Most Scandalous Scandals, Part V
Dec02 Intelligence Committee Will Circulate Draft Report Today
Dec02 Ranking Republican on Judiciary Committee Wants Schiff to Testify
Dec02 Biden Will Crisscross Iowa for 8 Days
Dec02 Booker is Desperate for Donors
Dec02 Candidates on the Cusp
Dec02 Joe Sestak, We Hardly Knew Ye
Dec02 Disinformation Will Run Rampant in 2020
Dec02 Adam Schiff's Star Is Rising
Dec02 The Youngest Potential Voters Are Not Interested in Voting
Dec02 Poll: Republican Voters Think that Trump Is a Better Leader than Abraham Lincoln
Dec02 I Am Not a Crook: A Look at History's Most Scandalous Scandals, Part IV
Dec01 Sunday Mailbag
Nov30 Saturday Q&A
Nov29 Trump Paints Impeachment as an Attack on All Conservatives
Nov29 Nadler Invites Trump to the First Judiciary Committee Hearing on Impeachment
Nov29 The Knives Are Coming Out for Buttigieg
Nov29 Yang Releases His Tax Returns
Nov29 Richard Spencer Is Not Going Gentle into that Good Night
Nov29 Congress May Pass a Bill Somewhat Limiting Robocalls