Wednesday, July 01, 2015
State Department confirms small number of Hillary's emails being withheld due to executive privilege purposes
What exactly does President Obama and Hillary Clinton not want the public to see in these emails?
The State Department acknowledged on Wednesday that it is withholding a small number of Hillary Clinton's emails from the Benghazi House Committee for executive privilege purposes.
QUESTION: Admiral Kirby, can you talk a little bit about Secretary Clinton’s emails? The State Department has now told the House Select Committee on Benghazi that you’re withholding a small number of documents from investigators because of what is called in a letter “important executive branch institutional interests.” Is the State Department invoking executive privilege?
MR KIRBY: There is – what we’re doing, Ed, is there are a small number that are being withheld for executive privilege purposes. That is not uncommon. It’s not atypical. And I would hasten to add that you need to keep it in perspective compared to the wide swath, just an amazing amount of material that’s already been provided to the select committee – 50,000 pages or more of documents, more than 23 witnesses, and we’ll continue to provide documents.
QUESTION: But the White House has very rarely invoked executive privilege. You’re right that you’ve turned over a lot of documents in this investigation, but executive privilege is very rarely invoked. So I just want to be clear: So you’re saying that executive privilege has been invoked now with respect to the Benghazi committee?
MR KIRBY: A small number of responsive documents are not included in this production because they implicate executive branch institutional interests.
QUESTION: Okay. And how – when you say “small number,” under 10, under five --
MR KIRBY: I don’t have a number for you, Ed.
QUESTION: Okay. Can you also address, then, on that point, executive privilege on some – there are also emails now that we’re being told after the fact have been deemed to be classified in nature. Is that true, and how many emails is --
MR KIRBY: Now we’re talking about the tranche that we released last night, so --
MR KIRBY: -- let’s make the distinction that this is different and – separate and distinct from --
QUESTION: Okay, and just real quick, executive privilege is being invoked on others that are – what’s the differentiation?
MR KIRBY: A small – so yeah, I think you’re getting – or maybe I’m getting confused here. You’re talking about the select committee’s – additional documents that we just provided to the select committee on Benghazi.
MR KIRBY: And there are a small number of responsive documents that we said are not included because they implicate executive branch institutional interests. I don’t know the number, but it’s small, and you need to keep it in perspective to the 50-some-odd-thousand pages of documents that have already been provided. I mean, so it’s – there is a perspective here that’s important. That’s separate and distinct from, I think, your question about some of the emails that we released last night.
QUESTION: The 3,000 pages.
MR KIRBY: Right. That is part of a separate process, has nothing to do with the select committee’s work. It has to do with the court ruling that every month, we need to do a rolling production of these documents, these emails that were turned over by former Secretary Clinton. And I would remind you again about perspective – 55,000 pages of documents were turned over, representing more than 30,000 emails alone. So of the tranche that was just posted last night through the Freedom of Information Act process, there were some 25 emails that were redacted from inclusion because of classification.
QUESTION: And they were deemed classified by the State Department in recent days as you went through it?
MR KIRBY: That’s correct.
QUESTION: Okay. Now, Secretary Clinton was very clear at her news conference in March that she never shared classified information --
MR KIRBY: Right.
QUESTION: -- in her personal email. You’re now saying that was not true.
MR KIRBY: What I’m saying is that in the review process – and this is not, again, uncommon over time – in the review process, it was deemed that the information, or at least some of the information in that traffic, should be classified. And so it was. That doesn’t mean that at the time it was sent it needed to have been classified, or that at the time it was sent it was known that there was a classification attached to it. So again, the last time we released a tranche online, it was the same thing. I don’t think it was as many as 25; it was one.
QUESTION: There was one email, as I recall, that the FBI said --
MR KIRBY: Right.
QUESTION: -- related to Benghazi, is classified now.
MR KIRBY: Right.
QUESTION: You’re saying this is much more, though; 25 emails.
MR KIRBY: Well, it’s 25; it’s more than one. But again, keep it in perspective; we turned – we released 3,300 pages of documents last night. We’re talking about 25 documents of that thousands of emails that were released last night. So again, you got to keep in perspective. That they are classified now doesn’t mean that they should have been classified then, or even if they should have been, that it would have been wrong to send them without knowing that ahead of time. So --
QUESTION: Fair point. But doesn’t that point to the fact you’ve got to be extremely careful when you’re in a sensitive position in this government about using personal email? Because on the fly you’re not sure if it’s classified or not.
MR KIRBY: Well, we all try to be as careful as possible when we send emails on the unclassified side, which I’ve been doing now for many, many years. You have to try to be cognizant. But it doesn’t – it’s not uncommon that something that you’re sending now on an unclassified network could in later years or later months be deemed to be classified, either because the passage of time made it so, or because events on the ground have borne out, perhaps, the sensitive nature of that traffic that you didn’t know was sensitive at the time. So it’s really important to understand that just because they’re classified now doesn’t mean that anybody did anything wrong back in 2009 when they were sent.
QUESTION: Do you know that they did not do anything wrong back then? Have you looked back and deemed whether it --
MR KIRBY: We’re not going to --
QUESTION: -- should have been classified back then?
MR KIRBY: There’s – I’m not aware of any investigative effort to go back and try to affix blame for that. Again, we’re trying to meet the best needs of the Freedom of Information Act now --
MR KIRBY: -- and be as transparent as possible while protecting classified and sensitive --
QUESTION: And I understand you’re not going to reveal classified information at the podium, obviously. But can you characterize – 25 emails is still a significant number. Are they about Benghazi, or are they about Russia? What’s the topic or what’s the --
MR KIRBY: Yeah, I’m not going to go into the actual content, Ed. I think, again, this was a prudent decision made to try to protect sensitive information. And again, just because it’s classified now doesn’t mean that it – that it was wrong to send it at the time.