Team Hillary changes its story on e-mail deletions

“That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it” worked for Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon, but Hillary Clinton’s undeclared presidential campaign is taking a different approach to explaining how thirty-some thousand e-mails on her personal e-mail server (that also handled her official correspondence) ended up deleted.

Following her U.N. press conference last week, her office released a nine-page “fact sheet” that explained how the deletion process is supposed to have worked.  Here is a copy of the relevant section, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal:

Time Magazine’s cover story on the e-mail scandal summarized the clear meaning a reasonable person would understand:

This review did not involve opening and reading each email. Instead, Clinton’s lawyers created a list of names and keywords related to her work and searched for those. Slightly more than half the total cache -- 31,830 emails -- did not contain any of the search terms, according to Clinton’s staff, so they were deemed to be 'private, personal records.'

In the word used by team Nixon in the Watergate scandal, that explanation is now declared “inoperative.”  Shushannah Walshe and Liz Kreutz of ABC News write:

Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill has released a statement saying that “in wanting the public to understand how robust of a search was conducted, the fact sheet laid out several examples of the methods used by the reviewers to double and triple check they were capturing everything." (snip)

The statement continues: "It was not meant to be taken as a list of every approach performed to ensure thoroughness. Those subsequent steps were in addition to reading them all, not in lieu of reading them all. (No different than our explaining such terms were used but not listing every search term used.) We simply took for granted that reading every single email came across as the most important, fundamental and exhaustive step that was performed. The fact sheet should have been clearer every email was read, which we are doing now.”

The most charitable interpretation of this switcheroo is that when Mrs. Clinton’s representatives declare something as factual, it should not be taken as a complete and true account.  In other words, regard all statements as tentative and subject to revision if criticism results.  Less charitable interpretations trend in the direction of covering up misbehavior and possible criminality.

The hole Hillary Clinton is digging for herself got deeper yesterday, and there is no sign that she is finished excavating it.