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Editorial: Get to bottom of Hillary Clinton emails

The Detroit News

Turn the spotlight for a moment away from the theatrics of Donald Trump and examine an issue that is truly relevant in the 2016 presidential race and to national security. Did Hillary Clinton use a private email server to send classified information while she was Secretary of State?

Two government watchdogs say the evidence suggests she did and are recommending a Justice Department investigation to determine whether critical security information still exists on at least “one private server and thumb drive that are not in the government’s possession.”

That’s an important question to answer and, unfortunately, the former first lady and current Democratic presidential frontrunner can’t be trusted to provide a comprehensive answer.

Clinton has been serially deceptive since it was first revealed she set-up a private email server in her home and often used it instead of her State Department email account, even while conducting government business.

For example, she initially said she turned over to the department all of the emails that were left on the server after she destroyed thousands of them in a purge. But at least 15 potentially embarrassing documents were not given to the State Department.

Then she said she used only one device to send email, and in reality she used several. She also claimed she followed the department’s rules regarding email; the department has now acknowledged she did not.

The misstatement that is perhaps most troubling is that she did not use the private server to send classified information.

That’s appears not to be true. A review of a small sampling of 40 emails reveals at least four contained classified information.

The two inspectors general who issued a statement Friday said, “classified information should never have been transmitted via an unclassified personal system.”

The dangers are obvious. A private server outside the government’s cybersecurity protections is more susceptible to hacking. For a secretary of state to disregard that danger in the interest of protecting her privacy, and who knows what else, is shockingly reckless.

Beyond the security issues, questions remain about the content of the emails Clinton deemed private and erased before surrendering the remainder. Would they shed light on the former secretary of state’s role in the Benghazi debacle? Is there information that would fuel persistent allegations that she traded favors as secretary of state with big donors to the family charitable foundation run by Bill Clinton?

The candidate is pushing back against the call for an investigation in typical fashion, downplaying the significance of her actions and blaming the controversy on her political enemies.

But these are not Republicans or a conservative press asking for the probe; they’re government watchdogs.

The Justice Department must respond. It can’t ignore the legitimate questions raised by the inspectors simply because Hillary Clinton is a Democrat running for president. This issue has moved beyond the gotcha games of the presidential campaign and into the realm of national security.

A further and more robust investigation is necessary.