First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
The email story returns for Hillary
Since she apologized for having a personal email system, Hillary Clinton has had a pretty good last two weeks. She's talked policy on health care; she's racked up key endorsements; she's had a long, serious conversation with the Des Moines Register's editorial board; and she's had fun on "Ellen" and Jimmy Fallon. So it looked like she was turning the corner -- until new stories surfaced about her email system. Here's the Washington Post, calling into question her initial explanation why she turned over her emails: "Throughout the controversy over her use of a private e-mail system while she was secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton has described her decision last year to turn over thousands of work-related e-mails as a response to a routine-sounding records request... They said the request was not simply about general record-keeping but was prompted entirely by the discovery that Clinton had exclusively used a private e-mail system." And here's Bloomberg: "The FBI has recovered personal and work-related e-mails from the private computer server used by Hillary Clinton during her time as secretary of state, according to a person familiar with the investigation." Bottom line: This entire story has continued to drip-drip for her, and Clinton's next best chance to try to COMPLETELY put it behind her is next month during her testimony before the House Benghazi committee.
The two central email questions to consider
Yet given the drip-drip nature of the entire email story -- Will we see Hillary's private emails? Does her past words match up with the actual record of events? -- as well as the constant leaks, it's important to keep these two central questions in mind:
- Did Hillary Clinton and her top aides knowingly and willfully mishandle classified information?
- Did hackers or foreign governments obtain classified information from her private server?
The answers to those two questions are what the FBI is looking at. If "yes," then this email story could truly jeopardize her chances of winning the White House -- let alone the Democratic nomination. If "no," then it's more than possible she can put the story behind her. But these are the two questions we should all be asking. Of course, there's one other question she hasn't sufficiently answered: Beyond convenience, why did she set up this system?
Hillary -- finally -- comes out against Keystone
"After months of declining to take a position on the Keystone XL pipeline, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says she opposes the construction of the project," NBC's Monica Alba reported. Said Clinton: "I oppose it because I don't think it's in the best interest of what we need to do to combat climate change." Of course, this comes after Clinton had declined to take a position on the thorny matter, citing her past work as secretary of state -- and not wanting to prejudge a decision the Obama administration was still working on. Bernie Sanders issued this statement in response: "As a senator who has vigorously opposed the Keystone pipeline from the beginning, I am glad that Secretary Clinton finally has made a decision and I welcome her opposition to the pipeline." Martin O'Malley's statement was more harsh: "On issue after issue--marriage equality, drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants, children fleeing violence in Central America, the Syrian refugee crisis, and now the Keystone Pipeline, Secretary Clinton has followed--not forged--public opinion." Consider the political expediency: Had Hillary Clinton supported Keystone, it might have led to a donor meltdown.
Joe Biden and Keystone
So with Hillary joining the rest of the Democratic field on Keystone, here is another angle to consider: With the Obama White House still undecided on the issue, Joe Biden might find himself in an uncomfortable place -- if he decides to run. He would face the situation of either having to break with his boss on Keystone, President Obama, or pray that the White House comes out with a decision nixing the pipeline.
Trump takes on Rubio
Donald Trump has targeted Jeb Bush ("low energy"), Carly Fiorina ("terrible business record"), and Ben Carson (just an "ok" doctor). Now he's going after Marco Rubio, attaching the word "amnesty" to his name. "Senator Marco 'amnesty" Rubio, who has worst voting record in Senate, just hit me on national security-but I said don't go into Iraq. VISION," Trump tweeted last night. Trump's broadside at Rubio was in response to Rubio pointing out that Trump "hasn't really answered serious questions about national security and until he does there should be concerns, not just about him, but about any candidate that's not able to speak in detail with clarity and with seriousness about the national security threats that we face."
Trump on Obama's place of birth
"I don't talk about it anymore": NBC's Ali Vitali reports that Trump, appearing on Stephen Colbert's show last night, was asked about President Obama's birthplace
Colbert: This is the LAST time you ever have to address this question if you hit the ball [out of the park], OK?... Barack Obama -- born in the United States?
Trump: You wanna know? I don't talk about it anymore.
Colbert: You don't talk about it?
Trump: I talk about jobs, I talk about our veterans being horribly treated.
Remember, it was essentially the same answer that Trump gave on "Meet the Press" a several weeks ago. But also remember: The "birther" issue was what first launched Trump's political profile in the Obama Era.
On the trail
Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, Rand Paul, and Mike Huckabee are all in South Carolina… Ben Carson stumps in Michigan… Lindsey Graham campaigns in New Hampshire… And Jeb Bush and his wife attend mass at the Basilica in Washington, DC.
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