Adding to the aura of secrecy surrounding Hillary Rodham Clinton's erupting e-mail-gate is the John le Carré-esque revelation that Chelsea Clinton had an account on her mother's homemade website domain – but under a pseudonym, Diane Reynolds, the same name she uses when checking into hotels, reports The New York Times.
The use of an alias, of course, is not uncommon for celebrities (or celebrity-esque politicians' kids), but it does add to the impression, fair or not, that Mrs. Clinton was trying to hide something when she had a private computer server installed at her Chappaqua, N.Y., home.
Over the past two days, the presumptive 2016 Democratic front-runner has found herself in a pre-campaign scandal, touched off by the revelation that she had a private computer server installed at her Chappaqua home that allowed her to use her own personal e-mail system during her tenure as secretary of State, rather than the State Department's. Importantly, that allowed Clinton, and not the State Department, to store her e-mail correspondence and later decide which ones to turn over as public records.
Coming a mere month before she is expected to announce her 2016 presidential race, it's safe to say Hillary is feeling the heat.
According to reports, Clinton used her private e-mail address for everything, from State Department matters to planning her daughter’s wedding to issues related to the Clinton's philanthropic foundation.
The practice also has raised questions about whether Clinton’s private e-mail was vulnerable to security risks and hacking.
“She obviously would have been targeted when she stepped outside of the secure State Department networks,” Tom Kellermann, a cybersecurity expert with Trend Micro, told The New York Tmes. Using her own "homebrew" e-mail server instead of her government account, with its built-in security systems, is akin to leaving her bodyguard in a dangerous place, he said, adding that Clinton may have “undermined State Department security.”
How much will this hurt Clinton politically?
Team Hillary, which is determined to minimize the fallout, has leapt into damage-control-mode.
Late Wednesday evening, Clinton tweeted that "I want the public to see my email," and has asked for their release.
The team has also prepared their talking points.
“As somebody who desperately wants her to run and wants her to win, on a scale of 1 to 10 this is a negative 12,” Paul Begala, a longtime Clinton family friend and Democratic strategist, told The Washington Post. No real voter, Mr. Begala said, is going to base a decision on whether “she had a non-archival-compliant e-mail server.”
Burns Strider, a senior adviser to Correct the Record, a group that defends Clinton in the news media, pointed out that former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, also a likely 2016 presidential candidate, also hosts his own personal-email server, as The New York Times reported.
It turns out Mr. Bush continued to use his personal jeb.org domain while he was in the governor’s office. But under Florida’s records laws, e-mails from Bush’s personal account have been made public, Kristy Campbell, Mr. Bush’s spokeswoman, told the Times. “His e-mails were available via public records requests throughout his time in office and have remained available."
Other allies have reminded the public that Clinton already released more than 55,000 pages of e-mails from her time as secretary of State.
Of course, because she used her own e-mail system, however, it was Clinton and her staff who decided which e-mails to turn over. "That's not exactly the height of transparency for someone who is the de facto Democratic presidential nominee in 2016," writes The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza.
For the "anybody-but-Hillary," camp, however, the e-mail controversy is proof that the party should broaden its search. Already, some Democrats are giving potential contenders like former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren fresh attention.
“There’s always another shoe to drop with Hillary,” Dick Harpootlian, a former Democratic Party chairman in South Carolina, told CNN. “Do we nominate her not knowing what’s in those e-mails?”
Added Boyd Brown, a Democratic National Committee member and former state legislator from South Carolina, "These are problems that raise real leadership and transparency concerns, concerns that can be addressed in caucuses and primaries, but would go ignored in a coronation process."