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Journal Editorial Report

Did Clinton knowingly violate State Dept. email rules?

This is a rush transcript from "Journal: Editorial Report," May 28, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

PAUL GIGOT, FOX NEWS HOST:  This week on the "Journal: Editorial Report," new email woes for Hillary Clinton as an inspector general's report said she violated federal rules with her private server and ignored repeated warnings about its security.  And looking ahead to a general election showdown, Donald Trump revisits the Clinton scandals of the '90s while Hillary focuses on Trump's record as a businessman.  So will either line of attack work with voters?

Find out, after these headlines.

(FOX NEWS REPORT)

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

New trouble for Hillary Clinton this week after a scathing report by the State Department inspector general concludes that the likely Democratic nominee violated federal rules, both by using a private server as secretary of state and by failing to turn over those e-mails before leaving government service.  The report reveals that Clinton never sought and did not receive permission for her off-grid server, and repeatedly ignored security concerns raised by other State Department officials.  

Mrs. Clinton addressed the report Thursday in Las Vegas.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: It's a report that is consistent with what I have been saying, that the use of personal e-mail was a practice by other secretaries of state.  And the rules were not clarified until after I had left.  And as I've said many times, if I could do it over again, I would have done it differently.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIGOT:  Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal Potomac Watch columnist, Kim Strassel; associate editorial page editor, James Freeman; and editorial board member, Joe Rago.  

So, Kim, the former secretary of state says report merely corroborates all that she has been saying all along.  Is that true?  

KIM STRASSEL, POTOMAC WATCH COLUMNIST:  It's the exact opposite, Paul. The importance of this report is it demolishes the two central claims that she has made since the beginning of this scandal, and the first claim was that this was entirely allowable.  The report, in fact, comes out and says that -- flat-out says that she violated federal recordkeeping rules that were very clear when she was in office.

GIGOT:  Right.

STRASSEL:  And her other claim was that this was all OK because it was all secure.  The email was fine.  Nothing bad happened.  What we also find out in this report is that she was warned by many people in the State Department involved in security that this was not a safe thing to do, and she bulled ahead and did it anyway.  

GIGOT:  And she was warned, her staff was warned about the risk from hackers, explicit risks from hackers.  The secretary of state took that warning and sent it out under her signature to all diplomatic posts, and then she ignored that advice in her own case.  

STRASSEL:  Yeah, and I think this gets to the most possibly damaging and problem of this report for her, which is this question of the FBI investigation, which is obviously looking at whether or not she was willfully negligent in the handling of classified material.  And I think in that regard, one of the most important aspects of this report is a line that says that she did not seek permission, and had she sought it, she would not have been given it because of the security concerns.  

GIGOT:  And, Joe, that gets to this question of intent, which is central to the Comey investigation, which is did she know what she was doing, did she know she was violating rules, and did it anyway.  

JOE RAGO, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER:  There was an exchange where one of her aides tells her, this is a problem for you, and she says, no, we're not going to do anything, I don't want to take any risks of the personal being assessable.  So, in her own words, in an email exchange that was not turned over in the initial document disclosure, she's essentially conceding the question of intent.  

GIGOT:  James, she didn't meet with the I.G.  She refused to do it.  That's strange behavior for a former secretary of state, who wants to be president, and therefore, in that role, have to hold the rest of the government accountable, and you're not cooperating with an investigation?  

JAMES FREEMAN, ASSOCIATE EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR:  Yeah, this is really what the Clintons have been doing for decades, is somehow managing to rewrite political rules for themselves.  Can you imagine anyone else getting away with the idea that, I'm seeking a promotion, I'm running for president, while I'm refusing to cooperate with a federal investigation into my conduct in public office.  

(LAUGHTER)

It's a threshold question.  It's kind of amazing that she goes on.  

But I think, getting back to this question, what we now have is we know she lied when she said this was done for simply convenience, given that email exchange, showing this was specifically to prevent disclosure.  I think the question now for Mr. Comey at the FBI is what more does he need to bring a criminal case for at least mishandling classified information.  

GIGOT:  So, you think this is a road map for Comey, in essence, with this report?  

FREEMAN:  Just only on what's been disclosed now publicly.  I imagine he's got more than hasn't been disclosed, but just on what we know publicly, we see the intent with this report, we see the deceptions.  And we already know numerous classified emails on the server, despite what she had said earlier, I don't what else he would need to bring a case.  

GIGOT:  So, Joe, what about the response from Secretary Clinton that, well, Colin Powell did it, everybody else did it.  Nothing major different here.  

RAGO:  We know Colin Powell had a personal e-mail, which he used for personal business.  He also had an official email he used for official business.  

GIGOT:  And it was pretty limited.  

RAGO:  Limited.  He didn't set up his own private server.  It was just a different technological era where the threats of hacking and cybersecurity were just far less sophisticated than they are today.  

GIGOT:  So, Kim, what's the larger -- leaving Comey aside, what's the larger political impact of this among Democrats?  Still got the California primary coming up.  Is this going to hurt her among Democrats?  

STRASSEL:  All it does is it backs up the idea that she is untrustworthy. And you know, this has been her biggest problem all along in this election, those numbers and polls saying Americans don't believe what she has to say.  Now, you've got a report in which the I.G. demolishes, again, everything she's done over the last year, and she's still out claiming and spinning it is something other than it is.  

GIGOT:  All right.  When we come back, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump sharpen their attacks as they look ahead to the general election.  Trump is rehashing the Clinton scandals of the 1990s while Hillary is focusing on her rival's record as a businessman.  So, will either strategy work?  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT:  As Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton look ahead to the general election, the lines of attack are beginning to emerge, with the Republican nominee intent on reminding voters of the Clinton scandals of the 1990s. The Trump campaign released an Instagram ad this week focusing on the sexual assault allegations against former President Bill Clinton, with Trump tweeting, "Is Hillary really protecting women?"  His camp has also reportedly asked the RNC to work up information on the Whitewater real estate scandal.  

We're back with Kim Strassel.  Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; and columnist, Bill McGurn, also join the panel.  

So, Dan, you were there, chronicling this in the 1990s, The Mark Rich pardon, the Whitewater scandal, Travelgate, the rest of it.  Is this really relevant to the current moment?  

DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST AND DEPUTY EDITOR:  It is relevant in the sense that this is big time politics, it's hardball politics, and Donald Trump knows that the Clinton camp is doing opposition research on him.  He's got a past.  It's been documented in the New York tabloids over the years, with women and his business relationships.  And what Donald Trump is engaging in here is mutual assured destruction, the old atomic weapon theory from the Cold War.  

(CROSSTALK)

HENNINGER:  You want to escalate, I'm going to escalate, too.  And he's firing the first salvo, and telling them, don't go there about my past.  

GIGOT:  But, Bill, the question, the Clintons will suggest to people, voters, old news.  All of this stuff, who cares?  You all knew that.  It was all litigated before.  I was impeached.  It didn't work then.  You elected me a Senator after this, if you're Hillary Clinton.  Is it really relevant?  

BILL MCGURN, COLUMNIST:  Yes, it is, because it's not past.  It's the present.  The same Hillary Clinton that parlayed thousands of dollars into cattle futures, the same Hillary who ran on television to support her husband's lie about Jennifer Flowers, the same Hillary Clinton involved in these Whitewater scandals, this is the same Hillary Clinton under investigation by the FBI today, and who, as secretary of state, allowed her husband to rake in millions of dollars from people overseas.  This is a woman who never tells the truth when a lie will serve her purposes equally well.  

GIGOT:  Kim, particularly the women response that Trump has -- he's used this.  He's raised Bill Clinton's women issues, all the accusations against him.  Why is he doing that?  

STRASSEL:  I think this is smart because, for years now, Democrats have been using this war on women theme against Republicans.  They say that women don't -- that Republicans don't care about women.  They put them on the defensive.  And Republicans have never put a good answer to this.  Go back and remember, the best Mitt Romney could do was to talk about how he had delivered to him binders full of women.  What Trump is saying is, you want to talk about women, fine, let's talk about Bill, and then going through some of this behavior and linking Hillary to it.  It is not necessarily answering the charges against himself, but he's saying that the Clintons do not have a leg to stand on in making those accusations, and hoping to make it uncomfortable enough that they stop.  

GIGOT:  But, Bill, Donald Trump gave an energy speech this week.  

MCGURN:  Right.

GIGOT:  A big policy -- actually, pretty good policy.  

MCGURN:  Right.  Right.

MCGURN:  I bet you can't find five people who know what happened, because nobody's reporting it because they're all focusing on this other stuff.  

MCGURN:  Donald -- yeah.  But Donald Trump has been rising in the polls by ignoring all of us.  He beat 16 pretty professional people.  

GIGOT:  Yeah, but this is the guy who wants -- he gave the speech.  We didn't.  And he's the one who --

(CROSSTALK)

MCGURN:  I think what he's doing, further to what Kim says, clearly, Mrs. Clinton was going to run the war on women theme against him.  It's hard for traditional Republicans.  And he's not a moralist.  He's not a Rick Santorum.  He's basically Bill Clinton without the really bad allegations --

(LAUGHTER)

-- of exposure and so forth against him.  He's just taking the fight away from them.  He's making Hillary, in a Saul Alinsky move, live by her own code.  

HENNINGER:  In some weird way, he's making them fight on policy.  I mean --

GIGOT:  How so?  

HENNINGER:  Because he's saying, don't go into all this personal stuff because I will overwhelm you with mud.  Let's talk about what I want to talk about, which is building a wall against Mexico, talking about whether trade is doing anything good for the United States anymore, or his energy policy or his tax policy.  The problem is Trump himself seems to step on his own message by getting personal.  

GIGOT:  Would it be better if he linked that past behavior to the Clinton Foundation business and to the e-mail scandal so you can make it look contemporary?  It's not just about the 1990s.  This is how they governed in between time being in office and when she was in office, and this is what they will take to the White House.  That kind of a systematic case Trump doesn't make.  He goes, about the e-mail scandal, what he said this week was, "Not good."  Why can't he make a more sophisticated case?  

HENNINGER:  He's going to have to.  And I think he's going to have to get into details like the Clinton Foundation.  It's ultimately, as we said back in the '90s, a question of presidential character.  That was our complaint about Bill Clinton back then.  The question is, can Donald Trump make that argument?  

GIGOT:  Dan, thank you.  

When we come back, Hillary Clinton developing her own attack strategy as she looks ahead to a November race against Donald Trump.  Just how big a vulnerability is the New Yorker's record as a businessman and will it resonate with general election voters?  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  He could bankrupt America like he's bankrupted his companies.  I mean, ask yourselves, how can anybody lose money running a casino?  Really.  

He actually said he was hoping for the crash that caused hard-working families in California and across America to lose their homes, all because he thought he could take advantage of it to make some money for himself.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIGOT:  Hillary Clinton this week testing out her own attack strategy against Donald Trump, going after the New Yorker's record as a business man.  

We're back with Dan Henninger, James Freeman and Joe Rago.  

So, James, you've looked into Donald Trump's business record.  How vulnerable is he politically?  

FREEMAN:  I don't think he's vulnerable, especially not on the issues she's raising.  The Atlantic City stuff -- Atlantic's City's a mess.  His casinos did especially badly there.

GIGOT:  That's not a vulnerability?  

FREEMAN:  Well, look, he's got some big failures, those bankruptcies.  He's got some successes.  He's got his roughly 16 golf courses around the world and they have their fans.  He's got a building that he owns much on down here on 6th Avenue, another one in New York and other places in the world. It's a mixed record.  And the bankruptcies are a bad blot on that record and Atlantic City.  But it's all about the comparison, which is the theme of this whole race.  You look at the Clintons, and they've amassed this enormous pile of wealth, and there's not an honest nickel in the pile. It's all basically leveraging government connections and shady overseas deals.  

GIGOT:  Joe, this strategy is a lot like the Democrats tried against Mitt Romney.  They made Bain Capital -- they almost put Bain Capital on the ballot in 2012.  

(LAUGHTER)

And they're going to try to put Donald Trump's businesses on the ballot. You think that has a better chance of working than James does?  

RAGO:  I think it might have a good chance of working.  Trump is not Mitt Romney, right?  He's not embarrassed by his wealth.  He --

GIGOT:  He flaunts it.  He flaunts it.  I'll make you a billionaire.

(LAUGHTER)

RAGO:  When she talks about him bankrupting the country, like he bankrupted his companies, I mean, it does have a certain resonance.  Trump said, I'm going to pay down the U.S. debt by convincing U.S. creditors to take a haircut on treasury bonds.  So it raises real issues of how he would manage the Feds.  

GIGOT:  Let's get Donald Trump's response.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  She goes, "And Donald Trump is a terrible person and he wanted to buy housing when it was at a low point."  Who the hell doesn't?  "He went bankrupt with his casino company."  I made so much in Atlantic City, folk.  But I'm a business guy.  Like all of the other big shots, we all use the laws.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIGOT:  What do you make of that one, Dan?

(LAUGHTER)  

HENNINGER:  Well, that's Trump, isn't it?  

(LAUGHTER)

Look, with Mitt Romney, Bain Capital personified a certain idea, which was that Wall Street and companies like Bain were shafting the little guy. Donald Trump is Trump.  There's no Bain Capital.  There's just Trump, and his businesses.  One guy.  And this one guy, who is operating at the level of media personality, stands there and just pounds back at her.  So I think this innuendo that Hillary is filtering out is going to have a tough time with Donald Trump.  

GIGOT:  So here's the thing, James, Trump is ahead by about 10 points in the polling, head to head, because -- on economics.  And it's part, I think, because people look at him as a businessman and they say, you know what, he knows how to run the economy.  But that's why I think Clinton is going to undermine his record on the economy.  Just like the Bush campaign tried to undermine John Kerry's war record.  When you make something central to your candidacy, it becomes a target.  

FREEMAN:  Yeah.  And she can try to do that, but that is definitely not the way to do it, to accuse him of wanting to buy low and sell high in the mortgage market --

(LAUGHTER)

-- in the housing market, the real estate market.  Two years ago, basically, we heard exactly the same thing about Warren Buffett, who told Timothy Geithner, after the bailouts of the banks had started in 2008, I wish you hadn't done that, because when the prices went down, I would have been first in line to buy.  And this is what business people do, they try to buy assets when they're cheap.

GIGOT:  What about his associations with some unsavory characters in organized crime, which I think he's spoken to in the past and said, I didn't know they were in organized crime.  But is that -- we're going to hear that.  Is that a vulnerability?

FREEMAN:  It's weird because he bought a lot of concrete from companies controlled by the mob in the 1980s when he was building his buildings here in New York.  What he is going to say is, look, I really didn't have a choice, there are only a few companies that do this, and by the way, they can do three floors a week --

(LAUGHTER)

FREEMAN:  But he's going to say, look, there was really no other game in town.  And I think he can be helped by a federal trial in the 1980s, which essentially that, that the mob controlled it, and there was really no way -- in fact, one of the Trump buildings was portrayed in the federal case as one of the victims.

GIGOT:  I think all of this, Joe, is part of a general -- an attack line the Clinton campaign is going to make, that Donald Trump is unfit to be president.  They don't want to fight over ideology as much, because that's a conventional Republican attack. They're going to take him on personally.

RAGO:  Yeah, I mean, look, if you don't want to believe in the mystic of Trump, there's plenty of evidence, to find it, for years and decades.  But he still has this appeal.  So is this attack really going to work?  I have my doubts.

GIGOT:  All right.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Kim, start us off.

STRASSEL:  Bernie Sanders just won a battle to have five of his people put on the Democratic party's national platform writing committee and what a crew it is, Paul.  Among the people Bernie has chosen to author the party's official positions this summer are the infamous professor and social justice activist, Cornel West; Bill McKibbon, an extremist environmentalist who wants to stop all oil and gas drilling; and James Zogby, an anti-Israel Palestinian rights activist.  They say honesty is the best policy.  If that's the case, I got to give Bernie a hit for, once again, being totally up front about the agenda he wants to put on his party on the nation.  

GIGOT:  All right.

Bill?

MCGURN:  Big hit to Yale.  Last Halloween, at Yale, the associate master of one of the residential colleges sent out an e-mail questioning a university notice warning students against culturally unaware costumes.  The e-mail was followed by protests, followed by the president defending free speech, followed by a capitulation.  How do we know it's capitulation?  Because this week, the husband and wife resigned as masters of the college.  

GIGOT:  All right.

Dan?

HENNINGER:  Paul, this is a hit to the American Battle Monuments Commission, which was founded in 1924.  It maintains American cemeteries in 16 foreign countries.  Now, this is Memorial Day, a holiday, but a rather solemn holiday, and we are glad this commission is out there honoring the people who sacrificed so much for the American people.  

GIGOT:  Have you ever seen those cemeteries overseas?  They do a brilliant job of maintaining them.  Just as good as Arlington Cemetery.  

And remember, if you have your own hit or miss, be sure to tweet it to us at JER on FNC.  

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

END

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