How Trump’s obsession with Clinton’s emails could come back to bite him now he has his own server issues

Donald Trump has made sure that nobody who even remotely follows his actions has been able to forget the scandal of Hillary Clinton using a private server to store emails.

The president has repeatedly abused the former secretary of state since facing Clinton during the 2016 election campaign, with Trump supporters still chanting “lock her up” at rallies held by Trump close to three years into his presidency.

Investigations into Clinton’s use of email took place at various points, with tens of thousands of messages being handed over to authorities. The most famous was the FBI, then led by James Comey, interviewing her and then saying in July 2016 that there was no evidence that would lead to criminal charges being pursued. However, Comey did rebuke Clinton and her team for mishandling her emails – with some chains of messages containing top secret information. 

According to the national archives, employees of government agencies should now generally only use personal email accounts in “emergency situations” and all emails should be stored according to record keeping guidelines.

Clinton’s case was then reopened at the end of October 2016, just over a week before the presidential election, with Comey saying further emails that could pertain to the investigation were found. The case was closed by 6 November, with Comey telling congress that after reviewing those emails, their view of the case had not changed after all.

Trump has refused to let it go, even mentioning it during a Q&A with reporters while meeting Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky. Asked whether he believes there are missing Clinton emails in Ukraine (there is no evidence for this), Trump said: “I think there could be.” He was speaking after a July phone call with Zelensky that is at the centre of the Democrat-led impeachment investigation against Trump, where the president asked Zelensky for a “favour” that included helping look into the Clinton email scandal.

That call was also part of a whistleblower complaint that Democrats believe is key to the issue of impeachment – and that complaint has given Trump his own server-related case. It is likely to give him as much trouble as Clinton had with another election year around the corner.

The complaint – which comprises allegations from officials relating to an exchange that they say posed a risk to US national security – accuses White House officials trying to “lock down” the transcript of the call. The complaint alleges that the conversation between Trump and Zelensky was removed from the computer system that typically houses such records and was loaded onto a separate electronic system that usually houses information of an “especially sensitive nature”.

According to the complaint, one White House official told the whistleblower that this was likely an abuse of the system as there was nothing “remotely sensitive” about the call. In the words of the whistleblower, such action “underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired on the call”.

Volodymyr Zelensky looks worried as Trump mentions Ukraine relationship with Russia

Trump says he has done nothing wrong. The White House states that the memo showed the contents of the call and the whistleblower complaint proved “no improper conduct” by the president. 

Trump has repeatedly derided what he calls Clinton’s “corruption” and use of that private email server, but now Democrats are focused on this Ukraine issue – including the alleged moving of the call transcript. They are unlikely to let it drop.

With just over 12 months to go until election night 2020, Trump and his team are likely hoping that they do not have to face the same music as Clinton did during the 2016 campaign.

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