The big picture of the Hillary Clinton email scandal

Democrats' worries grow as issue takes center stage in 2016 presidential election


This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," August 15, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," the Clinton campaign tells supporters not to panic as the e-mail scandal continues to unfold. With Bernie Sanders gaining in the polls and Joe Biden eyeing a run, what's the path forward for Hillary?

Plus, the angry left turns on its own as the Black Lives Matter movement targets Democrats on the campaign trail.

And opponents of the Iran nuclear deal are under attack, and it's taking on an ugly tone.

But first, these headlines.


GIGOT: Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.

After months of resistance, Hillary Clinton turned over her e-mail server to the Justice Department this week following reports that top-secret information crossed that private system during her tenure as secretary of state. The move comes as a new poll finds Clinton now trailing Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders by seven points in New Hampshire. But the Clinton campaign is urging supporters to stay calm, arguing in a memo this week that, quote, "winning campaigns have a plan and stick to it in good times and bad."

Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; Washington columnist, Kim Strassel; and columnist and Manhattan Institute senior fellow, Jason Riley.

So, Kim, let's fill our viewers in on the big picture. Now that she has turned over the e-mail server to the FBI, what are we hoping to learn?

KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: Well, Clinton has two distinct e- mail headaches here. One is the FBI did take the server. They have not officially said why they took it, but it does come on the back of this inspector general finding that volumes of classified information were on it, and some of it top secret. The assumption is that this investigation ultimately goes to whether or not she mishandled the classified data.


GIGOT: How much classified information was on her e-mail, and whether or not she mishandled it? OK, that's a big question number one.

STRASSEL: Exactly.

GIGOT: What's the second one?

STRASSEL: And the security of that computer.

The second question goes to the totality of her e-mail and whether or not she handed everything over to the government. That's playing out in several courtrooms that are dealing with Freedom of Information requests. One such judge a couple of weeks ago got tired of the games and demanded that Mrs. Clinton and two of her aides file declarations with the court saying they had turned over all work-related emails. That's raised more questions than it's answered. Mrs. Clinton gave a kind of half-hearted declaration. Her aides have yet to do so. We found out that at least one of her aides was also using her home computer system. Now the question is, how many more of her employees were using it and where's all that e-mail?

And I think the bigger question this week, Paul, which is now just starting to surface, is, does all of Mrs. Clinton's e-mails still exist somewhere, because there is now suggestions that it was perhaps transferred off that server onto another device? If so, where is it?

GIGOT: All right, Jason, two CIA directors, former CIA directors, pleaded guilty to misdemeanors for mishandling classified information that -- and maybe not on even the scale that Secretary Clinton has. This is some jeopardy here.

JASON RILEY, COLUMNIST & SENIOR FELLOW, MANHATTAN INSTITUTE: Oh, there's a huge amount of jeopardy. We know that the campaign is in panic mode because, as we saw from the memo, they're claiming that they're not in panic mode, which is, of course, the best indication that they are.


This is a very big deal. The Democratic front runner for the presidential nomination is under investigation by the FBI. Paul, that is a very big deal. It speaks to why her numbers are bad when it comes to trust worthiness and so forth. And, again, the bigger political headache for Mrs. Clinton is going to be to the extent to which others will continue to stay on the sidelines or decide to get in other Democratic candidates.

GIGOT: OK, the campaign is basically saying, look, the details don't matter. It'll go away. The public doesn't care. The Washington press corps cares or Republicans care. The American people really don't care. And what happens if the FBI kind of lets this all go, nothing happened, no big deal. Is she out of trouble?

DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: No, but I think -- I have a contrarian view of this. Look, there were -- there's probably classified information on that server. I'm sure that the FBI and the other intelligence services really want to know what was there because most likely the Chinese have already hacked in.


HENNINGER: In all probability.

GIGOT: Hard to believe they didn't.

HENNINGER: Hard to believe they did not. So the intelligence services want to see what is on those servers. But I think once they find out, they're going to go away as they always do. They have no interest in making a public issue out of this.

GIGOT: Are they really, Jason, going to say, you know, you need to plead guilty to a misdemeanor like David Petraeus?

RILEY: I don't believe they will, but I don't believe that's her biggest concern. Hillary Clinton, I think, believes she can survive this. Unless and until another Democrat comes out and starts saying Hillary Clinton has too much ethical baggage to go forward as our nominee. No one has done that, Paul.

GIGOT: Bernie --

RILEY: No one is saying -- Bernie Sanders isn't out there saying we have ethical problems with our front runner, so no one is saying that. And until --


HENNINGER: Bernie is doing pretty well at the moment.

RILEY: Until that happens, though, I think Clinton believes she can survive this.

GIGOT: All right.

Kim, do you agree with that that she can survive this? Jason is not saying she will, but he is saying that she can until a Democrat begins to make the case on ethics. So far, the big truth tellers, Bernie Sanders, he is not talking this truth.

STRASSEL: So far, except for Democrats had a bit of a wakeup call this week. When you get cracks in the whole of an operation like Hillary Clinton's -- look, the Clintons always want to suggest that they're invincible, but now you have this FBI investigation, and Democrats are looking around. They see her terrible poll numbers. They see a lot of her liabilities. The fact that she can't necessarily effectively talk about some of what they view as their best themes, income inequality, the war on women. And they're concerned about not just, by the way, the servers and the e-mails, but the foundation questions and other ethical baggage. The question is as Jason states it, does somebody else get in. Does Barack Obama decide to start distancing himself from her? Does some Grand Poobah in the party --


-- call her out? In which case, all of this could tumble down.

GIGOT: Who is the Poobah that is going to do this?


I mean -- look, Joe Biden is -- I mean, he might get in. But he would have a terrible time beating her. He'll have to organize late. John Kerry may get in after he wins the Nobel Peace Prize later this fall for the Iran deal.

GIGOT: Right.

GIGOT: But that's the only real plausible threat to her, don't you think?

HENNINGER: Absolutely. But, look, she's trying to reassemble Barack Obama's new coalition base, the new majority. A significant part of that majority is now supporting Bernie Sanders. A significant amount. The question is, are those people going to vote for Hillary if she is the nominee or are they going to stay home? They have a really big problem at the moment.

GIGOT: All right. Thank you all.

When we come back, the left goes after its own as the Democratic Party's presidential candidates are confronted by protesters from the group Black Lives Matter. A look at what's behind the anger, next.





GIGOT: Some candidates are facing an unexpected challenge on the campaign trail as activists associated with a Black Lives Matter movement have set their sights on the Democratic presidential hopefuls. At last month's Net Roots Nation conference in Phoenix, both former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders were heckled by protesters. And last weekend, Sanders was driven off the stage at an event in Seattle when activists seized the microphone. Members of the group planned a similar demonstration at a Clinton campaign stop in New Hampshire on Tuesday, but were denied access to the event and, instead, met with Clinton in private.

So, Jason, what's behind these protests?

RILEY: Well, I think a lot of it starts at the top with President Obama and the deterioration of race relations on his watch. Poll after poll has shown that race relations have really gone south since he has taken office. I think it has to do with his handling of these high profile incidents, whether it's Ferguson or Trayvon Martin and so forth.

GIGOT: How so? I mean, what has he done that has radicalized his base supporters against fellow Democrats?

RILEY: Well, I --


GIGOT: These aren't Republican candidates.

RILEY: I understand, Paul, but what he has done is riled up black voters in this country by going around talking about Republicans trying to disenfranchise them with voter I.D. laws. He is joined at the hip with folks like Al Sharpton. I think this has just really poisoned the environment in terms of race relations.

But the important point to make here is this is really a product of the left, which, for decades now, has been conditioning blacks to see themselves as victims. And blacks have come to guard their victim status fiercely. When they hear someone say all lives matter instead of Black Lives Matter, they feel like that is an encroachment on their victim status. I think that's a lot of what's going on here.

GIGOT: Bernie Sanders must look at this and say, wait a minute, I was at the 1963 march on Washington. Most of you guys weren't even born yet. And I have been fighting this fight for a long time, so how am I, somehow, you know, not adequate when it comes to pushing civil rights? Is this at all fair or rationale?

HENNINGER: Not particularly. I think I agree with Jason. It is a piece of the Occupy movement. If you like them, you're going to like Black Lives Matter.

But let's understand something. The Washington Post in June ran an extremely interesting story whose headline was, "Disillusioned Black Voters Ask Is Voting Even Worth It?" Look, Barack Obama came in promising hope and change. Now we're got black anger. What happened over the last six or seven years? Well, we had a week economy. And do you know what the black youth unemployment rate was last month? 25 percent. So I think the black population, black voters do have a reason to be upset about what's going on in America right now. But a lot of it has to do with the fact that Barack Obama didn't deliver the hope and change that he had promised he would.

GIGOT: Kim, what do you think about that? Is this -- what kind of repercussion will this have going across the next 16 months in the presidential race?

STRASSEL: Look, I think that, all things equal, will this issue rise to the top and be a top-tier issue for Democratic candidates, alongside taxes or their income inequality themes or anything else? Probably not. Here's the thing for Democratic candidates and why they're worried. Is that every one of them, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, they see their path to the White House by reassembling the coalition that Barack Obama had. And that relied very heavily on having a big black turnout. So there's a lot of leverage here. These groups have actually said, if you don't do what we want you to do, we're not going to come out and vote for you next year. This is why you see these candidates already rushing. Hillary Clinton met with those activists. She gave a big speech on criminal justice reform. Bernie Sanders now has a new justice reform plan out. He hired one of the black activists from this group. Martin O'Malley has made it one of the top themes of his campaign because every one of them wants to make sure that they get those votes.

GIGOT: OK. Jason, but what message does this send to the larger electorate when voters who may not be core Democrats look at this debate?

RILEY: Well, I think -- I think what it says to me is that the left, for all of their record, have no interest in truly being post-racial. Their identity politics depend on divvying us up by race and gender and so forth and then making those race specific appeals. So I think that their agenda is to keep race front and center in all of our national conversations, whether or not it's relevant. And we're seeing what the product of that is.

GIGOT: All right, Jason, thank you.

When we come back, White House allies go on the attack as Senator Chuck Schumer comes out against the administration's Iran deal, but has criticism of the New York Democrat and others opposing the agreement gone too far amid accusations of disloyalty?



SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y.: The alternative is not war. I would be very much opposed to war. It is to go back to the bargaining table and come to a better agreement.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: And when I hear a Senator or a congressman stand up and say, well, we should get a better deal, let's stop and we'll renegotiate and we'll get a better deal, that is not going to happen. There isn't a, quote, "better deal" to be gotten.


GIGOT: New York Senator Chuck Schumer and Secretary of State John Kerry Tuesday staking out their positions on the Iran nuclear agreement. Schumer, of course, is the highest ranking Democrat to break with the administration, announcing last week that he'll oppose the deal when it comes up for a vote in September in Congress.

We're back with Dan Henninger and Kim Strassel. And Wall Street Journal editorial board member, Mary Kissel, also joins us. She's the host of Opinion Journal on WSJ Live.

So, Mary, how significant is it that Schumer has broken with the administration on this?

MARY KISSEL, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER & HOST, OPINION JOURNAL, WSJ LIVE: I think it's very significant. He called it a vote of conscience. It sets him up as an independent thinker. He weighed out his reasoning in a fairly long document and outlined why this is a bad deal. And it is a bad deal. Let's be honest about it. Even supporters say it's a bad deal.

GIGOT: How many Democrats can he bring with him? There's a report in "Politico" this week that said he is working the phones but not to persuade fellow Democrats but to say, don't worry, I'm not going to try to twist your arm on this, vote however you want.

KISSEL: Yeah, I think that's really a big disappointment. He could have been the Scoop Jackson of his era. He does aspire to be --


GIGOT: Who was a hawkish Democrat during the Cold War.

KISSEL: That's correct. And there are a lot of Democrats who are on the fence, Ben Cardin, Mike Bennett, Manchin in West Virginia, Richard Blumenthal in Connecticut. But if Schumer is not working the phones, I think what that says is he's looking more at the polls. In his local constituency, we had a Quinnipiac poll that said Jewish New Yorkers oppose this deal 53 percent to 33 percent. So it's less a vote of conscience, it's starting to go look like, and more are of a vote of creative politicians.

GIGOT: So quite a lot from Democratic funders pushing back on Chuck Schumer as well. Normal Lear's story in the papers this week, the Hollywood producer/director, is pushing back.

How much blowback is Schumer getting?

HENNINGER: Oh, he's getting lot. It's very interesting. I mean, Josh Earnest attacked him. Former White House Officials Dan Pfeiffer and David Plouffe have also attacked him publicly.

You know, Lyndon Johnson was the master of handling this sort of thing and he would take care of these sorts of problems in private. Why is the Obama White House going public in attacking Schumer? I don't quite get it. Understand he is probably going to be the next minority leader.


GIGOT: But the White House, Josh Earnest put that in doubt and said, well, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if some Democratic Senators, you know - -


HENNINGER: Paul, Barack Obama --


GIGOT: -- when they vote for a leader.

HENNINGER: Barack Obama is a lame duck. Chuck Schumer probably is going to be the next minority leader. Do you think any of those Senators want to be on his bad side in 2017? Because if they are, he'll stick them in a hole.


GIGOT: Kim, so why is President Obama casting this vote, as he has in speeches, in partisan terms? He did that in a speech attacking Republicans, equating them with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. That was before Senator Schumer came out against the deal. What's the strategy behind that?

STRASSEL: Because this is what he does.


Go back and look at every fight that he's ever had. He is incapable of believing that people may disagree.

GIGOT: But is it smart? Is it smart?

STRASSEL: No. In this case, it's silly. Chuck Schumer is a whole lot smarter than the White House, let me tell you that. This is why Chuck Schumer -- this is how he splits the baby. He came out and said he would oppose the deal, but he's been calling all of his colleagues saying, I'm not going to whip against it. And as a result, what you have are all of these Senators coming out saying, you know, we respect Senator Schumer for the fact he has his own mind and, of course, we're going to stick with him to be the new leader of our party. So he shined everybody up and he's also going to be able to go on the record of saying that he's opposed to the deal, and that's his way of getting through this tough spot.

GIGOT: The American-Israeli Political Action Committee has gone in a big way against this, and the White House has pushed back almost with implications that somehow maybe this group is more loyal to Israel than it is to the United States.

KISSEL: That's right.

GIGOT: Pretty rough stuff.

KISSEL: Yes, it's very rough stuff. It's almost anti-Semitic and Jewish overtones talking about money and lobbying and foreign interests. I think what's notable here, Paul, and why the president is taking this very, very hard line -- he didn't name any PAC --


GIGOT: No, but it was clear to whom he was referring.

KISSEL: The president and his allies, who support this deal, are not addressing the sincere concerns that Senator Schumer and others have laid out about what this agreement really is. I think that's another reason you see these partisan attacks because they have a hard time answering these questions.

GIGOT: All right, thank you all.

We have to take one more break. When we come back, "Hits & Misses" of the week.


GIGOT: Time now for "Hits & Misses" of the week.

Kim, first to you.

STRASSEL: Paul, if a company went out to Colorado and, through sheer ineptitude, poked a hole in a gold mine and sent millions of gallons of toxic slurry down river and then didn't tell anyone about it and underestimated how bad it was, executives would be going to jail. Instead, this is the EPA. So Administrator Gina McCarthy still has her job and no bureaucrats are being held to account for something that was totally preventable, given that the EPA was simply poking its nose into something it had no business doing. Americans hate it when the government is held to a different standard than average citizens. And I'm just saying, this might be a good scene for some presidential candidates out there.


GIGOT: All right, Kim, thanks.


KISSEL: I'm giving a really big miss to Secretary of State John Kerry who went to Cuba this week to raise the American flag at the recently reopened U.S. embassy there. Dissidents were not invited on the lame excuse that this was a government-to-government affair. I think you can chalk this up to another Obama administration's preference for easy photo- ops and not the hard work of promoting human freedom.



HENNINGER: Well, this is a myth, I think, to the social platform, Twitter, which allows people to put out political tweets limited to 140 characters and that's about 25 words.

GIGOT: You're an expert.

HENNINGER: I'm an expert in receiving them, yes. And --


-- Twitter announced this week, quote, "that now people can speak directly to each other privately in 10,000 character tweets." That's about 2,000 words. Some of those tweets probably should be limited to 25 words but getting into a nightmare of 22,000 word exchanges with somebody on Twitter, I just can't imagine.


GIGOT: That's for sure.

And remember, if you have your own hit or miss, be sure to tweet it to us at @JERonFNC.

That's it for this week's show. Thanks to my panel and to all of you for watching. I'm Paul Gigot. Hope to see you right here next week.

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