Wow: Lauer, Veteran Come Out Swinging Against Hillary on E-Mail Scandal in Forum

Looking at the history of NBC’s Today co-host Matt Lauer leading into Wednesday night’s MSNBC/NBC Commander in Chief Forum, one would conclude that he’d be anything but neutral compared to some of his colleagues for impartial questioning both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, but he brought the heat early on in Clinton’s portion about her e-mail scandal that left Clinton on the defensive. 

After an opening question about what she finds to be the most important trait in a president, Lauer used her answer of judgement being most paramount against her to hammer home concerns that the American people have about her with the private e-mail servers. 

Here’s the first and perhaps most scathing question from Lauer: 

The word judgment has been used a lot around you, Secretary Clinton, over the last year and a half, and in particular, concerning the use of your personal e-mail and server to communicate while you were secretary of state. You've said it's a mistake. You've said you made not the best choice. You were communicating on highly sensitive topics. Why wasn't it more than a mistake? Why wasn't it disqualifying, if you want to be commander in chief?

While Clinton attempted to weasel her way out by falsely claiming that she hasn’t made excuses for her behavior, Lauer came back with one specific angle of the e-mail scandal in the sensitivity of the drone program to which Clinton admitted to e-mailing about but claimed it was safe “because of course there were no discussions of any of the covert actions in process, being determined, about whether or not to go forward.”

The former secretary of state invoked the FBI report notes about their investigation of her and touted how “[t]hey discussed drone matters in the unclassified section of their report.” Lauer promptly recognized that this meant nothing about answering his initial question and fired back:

But Director Comey also said this after reviewing all the evidence. He said there is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton's position should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation?

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“You mentioned you were in Pakistan. Some of the e-mails you sent and received happened while you were overseas, and Director Comey also said that while they have no proof, ‘we assess that it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton's personal e-mail accounts,’” asked Lauer in a later question before going to the audience.

For the first audience question, NBC noticeably had a veteran from the opposing party of each candidate quiz them and for Clinton’s, retired Lieutenant John Lester didn’t waste his opportunity and grilled her about how he and others like him are supposed to “have any confidence in your leadership as president when you clearly corrupted our national security”:

Secretary Clinton, thank you very much for coming tonight. As a naval flight officer, I held a top secret, sensitive, compartmentalized information clearance and that provided me access to materials and information highly sensitive to our war-fighting capabilities. Had I communicated this information not following prescribed protocols, I would have been prosecuted and imprisoned. Secretary Clinton, how can you expect those such as myself who are entrusted with America's most sensitive information to have any confidence in your leadership as president when you clearly corrupted our national security?

The relevant portions of the transcript from NBC’s Commander in Chief Forum on September 7 can be found below.

NBC’s Commander in Chief Forum
September 7, 2016
8:04 p.m. Eastern

MATT LAUER: The word judgment has been used a lot around you, Secretary Clinton, over the last year and a half, and in particular, concerning the use of your personal e-mail and server to communicate while you were secretary of state. You've said it's a mistake. You've said you made not the best choice. You were communicating on highly sensitive topics. Why wasn't it more than a mistake? Why wasn't it disqualifying, if you want to be commander in chief?

(....)

LAUER: Were some of the e-mails sent or received by you, referring to our drone program, our covert drone program? 

HILLARY CLINTON: Yes because of course there were no discussions of any of the covert actions in process, being determined, about whether or not to go forward, but every part of our government had to deal with questions and the secretary of state's office was first and foremost. So there are ways of talking about the drone program —

LAUER: And you said you thought your communications on that were fairly routine? 

CLINTON: Well, let me say, the FBI just released their report about their investigation. They discussed drone matters in the unclassified section of their report. 

LAUER: But Director Comey also said this after reviewing all the evidence. He said there is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton's position should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation? 

(....)

LAUER: You mentioned you were in Pakistan. Some of the e-mails you sent and received happened while you were overseas, and Director Comey also said that while they have no proof, “we assess that it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton's personal e-mail accounts.”

(....)

LIEUTENANT JOHN LESTER (RET.): Secretary Clinton, thank you very much for coming tonight. As a naval flight officer, I held a top secret, sensitive, compartmentalized information clearance and that provided me access to materials and information highly sensitive to our war-fighting capabilities. Had I communicated this information not following prescribed protocols, I would have been prosecuted and imprisoned. Secretary Clinton, how can you expect those such as myself who are entrusted with America's most sensitive information to have any confidence in your leadership as president when you clearly corrupted our national security?


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