'Emailgate' shows Hillary what lies ahead

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton checks her Blackberry from a desk inside a C-17 military plane upon her departure from Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea, bound for Tripoli, Libya

I'm sure those around Clinton would love to be able to put the whole brouhaha over her emails (still amazed I haven't read one piece that dubs it "emailgate" - maybe this blog can lay stake to that claim) in the junk folder, but it's not going to be that easy.

There is a certain familiarity to the trajectory of a Washington beltway "scandal". In this deeply polarised city, her Republican detractors have a sniff of serious wrongdoing.

Another Clinton scandal to sink their teeth into. Subpoenas are flying, questions being asked - and two plus two will never add up to four.

Some are raising questions of national security. How secure was that private email account that she was using while serving as secretary of state? Could hackers have gained access to sensitive information?

Or from the other direction, the freedom of information lobby are expressing concern at this apparent opaque way of operating. Was it an exercise by Mrs Clinton to exert total control over her correspondence and behaviour, and shield it from prying eyes?

It may be that this will erupt into a full-scale, fizzing, popping, pyrotechnic scandal. But at this stage all we have are questions - which might have entirely plausible answers.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton holds up a cell phone as she announces release of 100 million dollars in emergency aid to help displaced civilians in Pakistan in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, 19 May 2009. A Congressional select committee has subpoenaed her personal emails relating to the 2012 Benghazi attack

For her part, Hillary Clinton put out a tweet last night, which read: "I want the public to see my email. I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible."

But if Hillary Clinton is - genuinely - so supremely relaxed about everyone seeing her emails, why did she conduct her business through this private email account and server, rather than through normal US government systems?

Also the State Department say that releasing the cache of emails is not that easy. There are literally thousands of documents to sift through, and so the process might take several months.

And that is dangerous for Hillary Clinton. Nature abhors a vacuum, and in the absence of information there is always room in US politics for wildfire speculation and rumour.

There is much that we don't know, and at this stage this still feels more "Beltway" than anything else - but what it does is give us a flavour of how everything under the sun will be pored over during the presidential campaign

For all that Hillary Clinton is the runaway favourite to be the next Democratic Party candidate, you always feel there is something that might just cause her to stumble.

It could be a trap carefully laid by her opponents - or sometimes you can just trip over your own two feet.


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