FNC’s Bret Baier Hammers Hillary on Her E-Mail Scandal, Disarray in Libya

The Fox News Channel and Special Report host Bret Baier finally received their first chance in the 2016 election to extensively question Hillary Clinton through their Democratic Town Hall on Monday and, put simply, Baier did not waste the roughly 30 minutes of airtime as he posed hard questions on Libya and her private e-mail server scandal. 

Following an opening question about Michael Bloomberg’s decision to not run for president, Baier prefaced the other questions by noting that he wanted “to ask you questions that haven't come up in town halls or debates.”

The first such topic was on Libya and Baier noted that she was “the leading voice in the Obama administration for the intervention” and while it was successful in removing Muammar Gaddafi, “Libya now is in total chaos.” 

Citing a U.N. official who stated that ISIS has “take[n] advantage of the political and security vacuum and is expanding to the West, East, and South,” Baier wondered to Clinton: “If the intervention of Libya was one of your great foreign policy successes, is the post-intervention transition one of your greatest failures?”

Clinton responded by citing the long-held desire in the U.S. to dispose of Gaddafi plus the fact that “the Libyan people have voted twice in free and fair elections for moderate leaders trying to get themselves to a better future.”

As for the current state of affairs in the North African country, Clinton merely brushed it off as “deeply regrettable” and the country would be similar to Syria “if there had not been that intervention to go after Gadhafi.”

Baier followed up by challenging Clinton on this outlook (which Clinton deflected): “Sure, but there are people who say Libya is a failed state and they're concerned about ISIS getting power. Would you put U.S. troops on the ground in Libya to prevent ISIS from gain a foothold?”

A few minutes later, Baier turned to her ever-growing e-mail scandal and the reality that “FBI investigation is still hanging over your campaign and there are Democrats who are worried about another shoe dropping, potentially with the word that there's immunity for your former IT staffer Bryan Pagliano.”

Highlighting her inability to answer a question about it in Sunday’s CNN debate, Baier asked: “I've heard others say that neither you nor your lawyers had been apprised that you are a target of the investigation. Is that true?”

When Clinton confirmed that point, Baier inquired whether it was the case concerning “any members of your current or former staff are targets of the investigation.” Clinton stated that they had not, so Baier shifted slightly to the issue of classified e-mails: “At the time you and your staff deleted nearly 32,000 emails, about half of the total volume, were you aware that the server was going to be sought as evidence by federal authorities?”

Not surprisingly, Clinton elaborated on how she believes she never sent anything classified: 

Nothing I sent was marked classified or that I received was marked classified and specifically, with respect to your question, every government official, and this is a legal theory — not just a theory, it's a legal rule, gets to choose what is personal and what is it official.What we turned over were more than 30,000 emails that I assumed were already in the government system, Bret, because they were sent to state.gov addresses.  

Baier shot back that this wasn’t the case as there were some “just recently discovered and turned over” but Clinton again denied it. In an exchange that’s unlikely to see any play on the Tuesday morning network newscasts, Baier pressed again:

Let me just clarify, the State Department has redacted and declared 2,101 of your work e-mails classified, at least at the confidential level, 44 classified as secret, 22 classified as top secret.  So you said at a March press conference in 2015, quote: “I did not email any classified material to anyone on my e-mail. There is no classified material.” So can we say definitively that that statement is not accurate? 

Clinton replied: “No, you can't. Here's what happened, the State Department has a process for determining what is or isn't classified. If they determine it is, they mark it as classified.”

Before moving on, the FNC anchor tried once last time:

BAIER: So your contention now is the 2,101 emails contained information that shouldn't be classified at any time, they should be — now or then, you're just saying it shouldn't have been classified? 

CLINTON:  Well, what I'm saying is, it wasn't at the time.

Tell the Truth 2016

The relevant portions of the transcript from FNC’s Special Report with Bret Baier on March 7 can be found below.

FNC’s Special Report with Bret Baier
March 7, 2016
6:34 p.m. Eastern

BRET BAIER: I want to ask you questions that haven't come up in town halls or debates, one of them is about Libya, you were the leading voice in the Obama administration for the intervention. An intervention that obviously toppled Gaddafi’s dictatorship using what you called smart power and it's important to point out there were no U.S. casualties, minimal resources expended. However, Libya now is in total chaos. The U.N. representative just said last week this, “ISIS had,” quote, “take[n] advantage of the political and security vacuum and is expanding to the West, East, and South. While Libya's financial resources are dwindling, the networks are booming.” If the intervention of Libya was one of your great foreign policy successes, is the post-intervention transition one of your greatest failures?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, Bret, let's talk about it in context, and let's remember what was going on at the time. It was during the so-called Arab Spring, people in Libya who had been living under the dictatorship of Gadhafi for 42 years were rising up and he, as we all can remember, was a ruthless dictator with American blood on his hands. Ronald Reagan, as you recall, tried to take him out because of the danger he posed and once it became clear to him that the people of Libya were trying to get more freedom and hopefully a better future, he basically said he was going to hunt them down like cockroaches....Let's also remember that the Libyan people have voted twice in free and fair elections for moderate leaders trying to get themselves to a better future. Now, what has happened is deeply regrettable. There have been forces coming from the outside, internal squabbles that have led to the instability that has given terrorist groups, including ISIS, a foot hold in some parts of Libya. I think it's fair to say however if there had not been that intervention to go after Gadhafi, we would be looking at something much more resembling Syria now, than what we faced in Libya. 

BAIER: Sure, but there are people who say Libya is a failed state and they're concerned about ISIS getting power. Would you put U.S. troops on the ground in Libya —

CLINTON: No. No 

BAIER: — to prevent ISIS from gain a foothold? 

CLINTON: Not U.S. combat troops. We already are, as you know from the headlines and the stories, using special forces, using air strikes to go after ISIS leaders. I want to just stress the point I was making. Leaving a dictator in place, like the Iranians and Russians have done with Assad where we have at least 250,000 people killed, Libya, the numbers are minuscule in comparison about 1,500 last year.

(....)

6:39 p.m. Eastern

BAIER: I know you have said you're not worried at all about what you call the “security review” of your private server and the personal e-mails during your time as secretary, but the FBI investigation is still hanging over your campaign and there are Democrats who are worried about another shoe dropping, potentially with the word that there's immunity for your former IT staffer Bryan Pagliano. You were asked a question about it at the debate last night.  You chose not to answer the e-mail part, so I'd like to ask you just a few quick questions on this before we take audience questions on this specific policy. I've heard others say that neither you nor your lawyers had been apprised that you are a target of the investigation. Is that true? 

CLINTON: Absolutely true. 

BAIER: Have you or your lawyers been apprised that any members of your current or former staff are targets of the investigation? 

CLINTON:  Absolutely not. 

BAIER: At the time you and your staff deleted nearly 32,000 emails, about half of the total volume, were you aware that the server was going to be sought as evidence by federal authorities? 

CLINTON: No, but let me clarify this, because, you know, there's much misinformation going on around here and let me just start with the basic facts.  I have said it wasn't the best choice to use a personal email. It was a mistake. However, I am not alone in that. Many people in the government, past and current, have on occasion or as a practice done the same. Nothing I sent was marked classified or that I received was marked classified and specifically, with respect to your question, every government official, and this is a legal theory — not just a theory, it's a legal rule, gets to choose what is personal and what is it official.  What we turned over were more than 30,000 emails that I assumed were already in the government system, Bret, because they were sent to state.gov addresses.  

BAIER: Sure, but there were some that were just recently discovered and turned over — 

CLINTON: No, that was in the State Department, not in me. I've turned over everything. 

BAIER: Let me just clarify, the State Department has redacted and declared 2,101 of your work e-mails classified, at least at the confidential level, 44 classified as secret, 22 classified as top secret.  So you said at a March press conference in 2015, quote: “I did not email any classified material to anyone on my e-mail.  There is no classified material.” So can we say definitively that that statement is not accurate? 

CLINTON:  No, you can't. Here's what happened, the State Department has a process for determining what is or isn't classified. If they determine it is, they mark it as classified. 

BAIER: Well, who decides —

CLINTON: The State Department decides. 

BAIER:  — but what about you when you're typing an email? 

CLINTON: No, the State Department decides what is — and let me go a step further here, I will reiterate, because it's a fact, nothing I sent or received was marked classified. Now, what happens when you ask or when you are asked to make information public is that it's reviewed and different agencies come in with their opinions. As you know, just recently, Colin Powell's e-mails were retroactively classified from more than 10 years ago.  As he said, that was an absurdity.  I could not agree more. 

BAIER: So your contention now is the 2,101 emails contained information that shouldn't be classified at any time, they should be — now or then, you're just saying it shouldn't have been classified? 

CLINTON:  Well, what I'm saying is, it wasn't at the time.

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center