Andrea Mitchell: Clinton Critics ‘Just Want to See Conspiracy Theories’

Rushing to defend Hillary Clinton in the wake of revelations that the former secretary of state sent classified material via a private e-mail server, MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell fretted on Wednesday: “...there's going to be a cloud of suspicion, though, by those who just want to see conspiracy theories. There's almost no way she can clear this up to the satisfaction of critics on the other side in terms of the politics of this, and it's taking its toll.”

The Washington Post’s Anne Gearan agreed: “Certainly she's not going to be able to clear it up to the satisfaction of Trey Gowdy or other congressional Republicans.”

Minutes later, Mitchell aired an interview with Congressman Gowdy, chair of the House committtee investigating the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack. She grilled the Republican for daring to call Clinton before the committee: “What do you say to those in her corner who say she's answered all these questions about Benghazi and that this is a politically-motivated witch hunt?”

Gowdy replied:

Well, I have about six pages of questions that are exclusively related to Benghazi. There's not a single e-mail question on my first six pages of questions for Secretary Clinton, so I don't know how she or any of her acolytes could possibly say that....I don't think it's asking too much that she do what she says she's going to do, which is come before Congress and answer all the questions that we have with respect to the security profile, the pendency of the attacks, and the administration response in the aftermath. And ultimately it will be you and my fellow citizens who judge whether or not our questions are fair and whether or not they’re appropriate or whether or not they're duplicative of other questions that have been asked and answered.     

In the earlier segment, Mitchell touted how Clinton’s former employees at the State Department were protesting the inspector general finding that e-mails she sent were classified:

I've just talked to [State Department spokesman] John Kirby and he explains that they are appealing that ruling by the inspector general. They have asked the head of national intelligence, the intelligence agencies, to rule as to whether those two e-mails should have been top secret, so you do have, as Clinton has claimed, a dispute, an internal dispute within agencies.

Justice correspondent Pete Williams noted: “No one knows yet whether Mrs. Clinton actually e-mailed any classified information. What we're told repeatedly that the FBI is not investigating people, it's investigating how the system worked and did classified information wrongly get onto the server?”

Here is a transcript of the August 12 exchange:

12:01 PM ET

(...)

ANDREA MITCHELL: Joining me now, Anne Gearan, covering the Clinton campaign for The Washington Post, and NBC justice correspondent Pete Williams. Thanks to both of you, Pete and Anne. You both – Anne, you've covered every agency, the Pentagon, the State Department, the White House, Pete, you know government inside and out. I've just talked to John Kirby and he explains that they are appealing that ruling by the inspector general. They have asked the head of national intelligence, the intelligence agencies, to rule as to whether those two e-mails should have been top secret, so you do have, as Clinton has claimed, a dispute, an internal dispute within agencies. That said, Pete, what is the Justice Department now going to be looking at?

PETE WILLIAMS: Well, they want to have – remember, the whole point of this investigation is to see whether classified information was mishandled, so it's only natural that the FBI would want to get the best evidence, if you will, get the actual servers, get the thumb drives. And we understand that, that process of turning over that material to the FBI will probably be completed by tomorrow. It hasn't happened yet. At least it hadn't happened by mid-morning.

So the FBI wants to see if there's still anything on the servers. Secretary Clinton has said that they were erased. It's one thing to just delete files on your computer. It's another thing to have a forensic expert actually wipe them clean. But the FBI can see if there’s anything that can be retrieved. They’ll look at the thumb drives. They just want to see what was on the servers, was classified information mishandled? No one knows yet whether Mrs. Clinton actually e-mailed any classified information. What we're told repeatedly that the FBI is not investigating people, it's investigating how the system worked and did classified information wrongly get onto the server?

MITCHELL: Anne Gearan, there's going to be a cloud of suspicion, though, by those who just want to see conspiracy theories. There's almost no way she can clear this up to the satisfaction of critics on the other side in terms of the politics of this, and it's taking its toll.

ANNE GEARAN [WASHINGTON POST]: Certainly she's not going to be able to clear it up to the satisfaction of Trey Gowdy or other congressional Republicans. But really a larger problem for her is going to be, can she clear it up to the satisfaction of any undecided voters, or voters who may have – may be even inclined to vote for her but have some lingering questions about her trustworthiness.

You and I have seen her on the stump in recent weeks appearing to address that deficit. She's really going out as a fighter. She's trying to tell Democrats and she's trying to tell anyone who might be undecided that she's going to go after Republicans, that she is their champion and so forth. That is one of the ways that she's politically trying to address the trust question.

The other potential liability for her here, of course, is as Pete said, this is the first part of the investigation. This is, you know, what actually happened to that material and was it mishandled? A potential second part of the inquiry could be, and who did what with it? And that is where she has a liability that she didn't have even two, three weeks ago publicly that we knew, and that is going to continue to hang over her until it's finally cleared up. And that could be a very long time from now.

(...)

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