The discovery of a big batch of previously undisclosed emails related to her private account is bad news for Hillary Clinton, a US politics scholar tells DW, as it takes the pressure off Trump and turns it up on Clinton.
DW: The State Department is now reviewing close to 15,000 undisclosed documents connected to Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account. How bad is this latest development for Clinton?
Iwan Morgan: It could be quite damaging as it tends to confirm her reputation of untrustworthiness and slipperiness. In reality perhaps there is nothing untoward in the emails, but where the problem might arise is if there is really material in these emails that should not have been sent to her private email address and if there is a security compromise in having done so. Then it will look bad.
The State Department is now going through them to finalize a release, and it will take a while before we know what’s in them. The potential for damage is there. And, even if the emails don’t hold material which is compromising to national security, they really force the issue back onto Clinton. Up until now the election issue has been Trump. This, if it doesn’t take the heat off Trump entirely, makes Clinton an issue as well.
Clinton said in March 2015 that she was confident that everything related to her work emails had been turned over. Could this latest twist in the email saga lead people to believe that it hadn’t been?
Well, it’s difficult to mislay 15,000 emails. It is difficult to comment on that. But the first thought would be: ‘Oh my goodness – what is she playing at? is her trustworthiness as much as an issue as Trump is unreliable under fire? And does Clinton have a problem with the truth?’
A federal judge ordered the State Department to develop a preliminary release schedule and set a new hearing for September 23. Does that mean that this issue will not go away essentially until election day?
In a way it’s the worst of all worlds for Clinton because there can be lots and lots of speculation in the months to come. And then the emails are released just in time for the debates and will become a big issue in the debates whereas Clinton was hoping the focus would be on Trump. It will now become as well an issue of how trustworthy and truthful is she. So, yes, it will continue to bubble over – and, if there is a damaging revelation, it will be even worse.
What can she do about this issue now?
She can engage in damage control by what could be put “a full and frank admission of error and judgment,” explain why these virtually 15,000 emails turned up, and give some kind of guarantee that they contain no damaging evidence. But, of course, we are back to the territory of Richard Nixon and the smoking gun, aren’t we?
It is bad news for Clinton at a time when Trump was helping her all he could. Now she has scored the political equivalent of an own goal. She could make a clean breath of things, and she might gain credit for having done so, although there are risks involved with that. The other thing she has to hope for is that Trump doesn’t keep to script and doesn’t keep his mouth shut – and that the pendulum swings back to him.
Iwan Morgan is professor of US studies and head of US programs at the Institute of the Americas at University College London.
The interview was conducted by Michael Knigge.