Election 2016 sometimes feels less like a national debate on which presidential hopeful possesses superior experience, better ideas and greater leadership bona fides — and more like a candidate-on-candidate slap fight over who’s shadier, sleazier and more deviously opaque.
Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton argues, engages in the political dark arts of “bigotry,” bluster” and “bullying” while “embracing extremism and presenting a divisive and dystopian view of America.” He’s a master of “scams,” “frauds” and “questionable relationships” who promotes “business activities that have stiffed workers.”
Clinton, Trump says, is really herself a closet “bigot” who’s also “crooked,” “very unstable” and lacking “a presidential look.” She has “lied about her handling of confidential information” while “trying to cover up massive crimes.”
It all makes quaint President Barack Obama’s promise, not eight years gone, of a renaissance in executive branch trust — one marked by an “unprecedented level of openness” and undergirded by “transparency, public participation and collaboration.”
But this much is certain: Prospective voters overwhelmingly believe Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton represent a dimming of whatever White House sunlight Obama casts, according to a new Center for Public Integrity/Ipsos poll.
Only one-in-four respondents consider Trump “honest and transparent” about his financial, business or investment dealings, the poll indicates. For Clinton, it’s about one in three.
Meanwhile, more than half consider Obama honest and transparent.
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Such data indicate that most Americans “do not trust either candidate, which is further evidence that 2016 is a battle of the least popular candidates,” Ipsos pollster Chris Jackson said. “This election is similar to giving a child the option of either finishing their vegetables or changing their kid brother’s diaper.”
Said John Wonderlich, interim executive director for the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation: “It’s certainly a less transparent election cycle than previous cycles. A lot of our political norms are being violated.”
The task of accurately determining what a presidential candidate is hiding falls somewhere between notoriously difficult and darned near impossible.
To repurpose a statement once made by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: “There are known knowns … there are known unknowns … there are also unknown unknowns.” From private email servers hidden in bathroom closets to cockeyed medical documents written in haste, voters can’t be faulted for wondering what wacky, wild or troubling unknowns will next be known about Trump or Clinton. Election Day is TKTK days away.
In the meantime, there are several ways to measure — and draw conclusions from — the degrees to which Clinton and Trump have this year exposed their histories, finances, political operations and governing goals to public scrutiny.
A Center for Public Integrity analysis reveals a mixed record for both Clinton, whose campaign answered questions for this article, and Trump, whose campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Head-to-head, Clinton often bests Trump in transparency issues with direct bearing on their presidential campaigns. But in some regards, Trump outshines Clinton.
Campaign finance disclosures
To start positive: Both Clinton and Trump earn a solid “A” for the information they provide to the Federal Election Commission about their campaigns’ big-dollar donors — people who’ve contributed more than $200 to their respective campaigns this election.
Nearly 95.5 percent of such Clinton donors provide complete information about themselves: name, location, employer and occupation, according data provided to the Center for Public Integrity by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan campaign finance research organization. Such information helps illuminate the economic interests of a candidate’s supporters.
Trump isn’t far behind, with 92.2 percent of his major donors qualifying for “full disclosure” status, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ rubric.
Campaigns’ contribution information is considered incomplete when donors describe their occupation in vague terms — “self-employed” or “businessman,” for example. Less than 3 percent of Trump’s contributions, and less than 1 percent of Clinton’s contributions, fit this description.
About 5 percent of Trump’s big-dollar contributors offered no information about their employers or occupations, while about 3.6 percent of Clinton’s contributors skirted this requirement.
Federal law requires presidential and congressional campaigns to make their “best efforts” to collect and publicly disclose the personal information of their top donors.
The verdict: Give an edge — but only an edge — to Clinton. Two reasons: First, the quality of her campaign’s financial disclosure is marginally better than that of the Trump campaign. Secondly, the Clinton campaign, when compared to the Trump campaign, has processed more than 10 times the amount of money from people making donations of more than $200 — that’s a lot of labor. But neither Trump nor Clinton has so far performed poorly by this measure.
Presidential campaign “bundlers” are usually wealthy and well-connected, volunteer to raise hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars for their favored candidate’s political committee. They then deliver their cash stash in a “bundle” to their campaign of choice.
Since campaign finance laws prohibit individuals from contributing more than $2,700 to a federal candidate per election, bundlers help candidates efficiently collect money. They’re a bit like overachieving PTA parents who crush school fundraising records — except for their Bentleys and private jets.
Federal law doesn’t require presidential candidates to disclose their bundlers, unless the bundler is a registered federal lobbyist.
But come George W. Bush, John Kerry, John McCain and Barack Obama, recent presidential candidates have volunteered at least some information about their bundlers, lobbyist or not.
During the 2012 election, for example, Obama disclosed the names and locations of his bundlers. He also provided dollar ranges — $50,000 to $100,000, $100,000 to $200,000, $200,000 to $500,000 and $500,000 and up — indicating their bundling totals.
Republican nominee Mitt Romney became the first major presidential candidate since 2000 to release no bundler information at all.
Clinton calls her bundlers “Hillblazers.” Her campaign maintains a list, available on her website, of Hillblazers who’ve bundled at least $100,000.
While Clinton provides a city and state for each person listed, she offers no added detail about how much money a person has bundled. Nor does she provide additional identifying information about her bundlers. That’s hardly a problem if one wants to confirm the identity of “Andrew M. Cuomo / Albany, N.Y.” It’s a touch trickier for, say, “Richard Cohen / New York, N.Y.”
Trump has so far played the Romney card, disclosing no information about his campaign bundlers. He has not said whether he will change his mind between now and Nov. 8.
The verdict: A clear win for Clinton. Sure, she could provide more information about her biggest bag men and women and falls short of the disclosure standard Obama set. But some bundler transparency is worth more than nothing, and nothing is all Trump has offered to date.
Both Clinton and Trump have at times denied or decried super PACs — political groups that may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to advocate for and against candidates. The Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, coupled with a later federal court ruling in SpeechNow.org v. FEC, made them possible.
Candidate committees generally can’t coordinate messaging with super PACs. But both candidates are nevertheless benefiting from super PACs, which are often run by their friends and close political allies.
While super PACs must regularly reveal their donors, the groups are allowed to accept money from corporations, labor unions, limited liability companies and nonprofit organizations — entities that aren’t generally required to disclose the root source of their funding. Super PACs supporting both Clinton and Trump have accepted such “dark money.”
Through July, pro-Clinton super PACs have raised about $120 million overall this election cycle, while pro-Trump super PACs have raised about $13.5 million, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of federal records.
Trump’s biggest issue here is how he repeatedly said he’d self-fund his campaign and eschew super PACs, only to abandon the promise.
The verdict: Advantage Trump. While Clinton talks a strong game against big money and Citizens United, His campaign has been decidedly less reliant on super PAC money overall, and likewise, super PAC money derived from tough-to-trace sources.
In April, the Center for Public Integrity calculated that pro-Clinton super PACs had raised about $14 million from donors who aren’t flesh-and-blood people. They’ve collected millions more of this kind of money since, federal records indicate.
Pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA Action even returned $200,000 from Boston-based Suffolk Construction Company Inc., after the Center for Public Integrity and The Hill detailed how Suffolk Construction had federal government contracts — and was therefore prohibited from making political contributions.
Personal financial disclosures
In mid-May, federal law required both Trump and Clinton to file personal financial disclosures that detail — to an extent — their assets and income.
The primary purpose of these disclosures is to “assist agencies in identifying potential conflicts of interest between a filer’s official duties and the filer’s private financial interests and affiliations,” according to the United States Office of Government Ethics.
Both Trump and Clinton fully complied with federal requirements and submitted their information without delay, even though federal rules entitled them to apply for up to two, 45-day filing extensions. They offered no more, and no less, than what the forms required.
The documents themselves have limits.
Candidates, for example, are only required to provide values of their assets in broad ranges, meaning a stock holding worth $2.5 million would be listed as being worth “$1,000,001 to $5 million.” If a candidate is exceptionally rich as both Trump and Clinton are, such reporting wiggle room makes it virtually impossible for anyone to accurately calculate a candidate’s overall wealth.
Moreover, candidates aren’t generally required to list the values of their residence or vehicles.
The documents, therefore, not of much use for determining how much of a billionaire Trump really is. But that’s not Trump’s fault.
The verdict: A tie. Had Bernie Sanders won the Democratic nomination, Trump would have won this category. (Sanders twice asked for — and received — filing extensions, then declined to file a personal financial document after officially ending his presidential bid.)
Presidential nominees aren’t required to publicly release their income tax returns.
But almost all do, more or less, according to the Tax History Project. (Some candidates are stingy, such as Romney in 2012, Republican nominee John McCain in 2008 and Democratic nominee John Kerry — at least when it came to the returns of his ultra-rich wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry — in 2004.)
And 71 percent of respondents in the Center for Public Integrity/Ipsos’ poll said all presidential candidates should release their 2016 tax returns. Just 12 percent said the candidates should not.
Tax documents “don’t necessarily present a full picture of someone’s wealth, but they do provide more detailed information on decisions about charitable contributions, investment strategies and foreign holdings,” as tax reporter Richard Rubin wrote for Bloomberg last year.
Clinton has made public her annual income tax returns since 1977 — a fact she has regularly touted as proof of her commitment to transparency.
“Donald Trump is hiding behind fake excuses and backtracking on his previous promises to release his tax returns … what is he trying to hide?” Clinton said earlier this year upon releasing her 2015 tax return.
In a statement to the Center for Public Integrity, the Clinton campaign further asserted that Trump “is breaking with the long-standing bipartisan tradition of releasing his tax returns and is hiding the full extent of his financial entanglements.”
Never has Trump publicly released a tax return, which would likely provide deep insight into the financial and philanthropic priorities of a man who ranks among the nation’s most wealthy.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, told Fox News he will release his own tax returns this month, and Trump will be “releasing his tax returns at the completion of an audit.”
Former IRS commissioners have said an audit does not prevent Trump from releasing his tax returns at his leisure.
The verdict: It’d be difficult for Clinton to be more transparent with her tax returns. It’d be difficult for Trump to be less transparent. Trump, however, still has time to make his tax returns public, ensuring that he doesn’t become the first major presidential nominee in more than 40 years to not release his or her tax returns.
In 2008, questions about Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s health — he endured deplorable conditions as a prisoner of war and underwent surgery for melanoma — swirled around the then-71-year-old candidate.
So months before Election Day 2008, McCain let reporters review nearly 1,173 pages of his medical records and interview his doctors.
Clinton, 68, in July 2015 released a comparatively voluminous eight-paragraph health letter written by her physician.
The letters declared both Trump and Clinton healthy and fit to serve as president.
But some medical professionals and health policy experts consider the health letters a poor substitute for the candidates releasing actual records, particularly given how old they are — ages when medical problems become more likely.
“If a person has any health risk that could lead to a problem, the public would want to know that,” said Howard Brody, a physician and ethicist who recently retired from the University of Texas Medical Branch Institute for the Medical Humanities, where he for years served as director. “And with presidential candidates, the public has become used to general openness about health.”
Both Clinton and Trump are also setting a bad precedent that could tempt future presidential candidates to shield their health histories, argues Mark Peterson, Department of Public Policy chairman at the University of California-Los Angeles’ Luskin School of Public Affairs.
“We find ourselves with this most unusual circumstance of having two candidates who are pushing the boundaries of where we’ve been before on medical information,” Peterson said. “The big loss is the violation of the norm of transparency.”
In a statement, the Clinton campaign argued that Clinton is “the only candidate in the race who has met the standard expected of presidential candidates and provided a detailed medical letter by her long time physician … Donald Trump has put forward a laughable letter that omits basic health information including the date of his exam, past medications, family medical history, heart rate, respiratory rate, EKG, or cholesterol level.”
Last week, Trump promised to release his full medical records — no specific date provided. “I think that both candidates, Crooked Hillary and myself, should release detailed medical records. I have no problem in doing so! Hillary?” Trump tweeted Aug. 28. Trump on Monday added that he recently underwent a medical exam, some details from which he says he’ll release this week.
For what it’s worth, Trump suggested he would release his records before Clinton released hers. Clinton, who on Sunday fell ill from pneumonia, has not indicated whether she will release additional information before Election Day about her medical history or current health status.
The verdict: Clinton currently edges Trump on the technicality that her paltry medical letter contains marginally more information than Trump’s letter. That’d instantly change if Trump makes good on his open-the-records promise. But neither candidate has remotely approached the modern transparency standard set by McCain — one that Obama and Romney also fell short of.
Speeches, debates, interviews, web videos, press releases. Both Trump and Clinton have used these and many other techniques for disseminating information about their policy positions.
But a candidate’s website is a likely starting spot for someone itching for detailed policy information straight from the source.
In early September, Clinton’s website featured an “issues” section containing information on six topic areas: “economy and jobs,” “education,” “environment,” “health,” “justice and equality” and “national security.”
These six topic areas are then broken down into sections detailing 38 separate policy matters — “LGBT rights and equality” to “Wall Street reform” to “protecting animals and wildlife.”
Added up, Clinton’s issues section contains about 22,000 words, by the Center for Public Integrity’s count. Most of the individual sections contain fewer than 1,000 words each. But most provide links to supplementary material such as related speeches, campaign videos, blog items and fact sheets. The fact sheets alone contain about 120,000 additional words worth of information.
Trump’s website features a “positions” section with seven topic areas: “economic vision,” “pay for the wall,” “healthcare reform,” “U.S.-China trade reform,” “Veterans Administration reform,” “Second Amendment rights” and “immigration reform.”
Added up, Trump’s issues section contained about 9,200 words in early September. More than one-fourth of those words detail Trump’s immigration and border wall plans.
Trump’s website also contains separate sections for press releases, statements and “issues.” The issues section is composed of 21 YouTube videos, most featuring Trump himself discussing both broad-based topics — the economy, the military — and the decidedly esoteric, such as “Trump University Truth” and “Live Free or Die.”
The videos are thick with superlatives, thin on specifics and range from 28 seconds in length to 3 minutes 7 seconds.
In one video, titled “Self Funding,” Trump makes statements that are demonstrably false. “I’m totally self-funding my campaign so I don’t have to take donors and special-interest people and lobbyists — I don’t have to bring them in,” Trump declares.
Except Trump is not totally self-funding his campaign, nor is he anywhere close to doing so. Rather, Trump’s campaign has in recent months aggressively solicited money from individuals and political committees. Of the $128 million Trump’s campaign has raised through July, $52 million has personally come from Trump. Separately, Trump has welcomed the support of several pro-Trump super PACs, which may raise unlimited amounts of money to promote or attack candidates.
The verdict: Clinton’s website features more policy information and covers more topics. A political novice who wants to learn about where the candidates stand on issues will learn much more from Clinton ‘s website than from Trump’s website.
Then again, you may consider him a rare commodity in American politics: someone willing to communicate candidly, even to his own detriment.
Trump’s Twitter followers need not worry about Trump speaking his mind. He calls CNN “unwatchable.” Sen. Ted Cruz is a “nasty guy” and “loser.” Television host Bill Maher is an “idiot.” His Twitter account is equal parts tornado, torpedo and vaudeville, smashing, attacking and entertaining its way to attention.
It’s tempting to dismiss Twitter — and Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and others — as secondary to press conferences, campaign statements, commercials and other, more traditional forms of political messaging.
But Trump has 11.5 million Twitter followers. During Election 2016, reporters have written and broadcast hundreds of news stories about what Trump tweets.
Clinton has 8.74 million Twitter followers of her own, but her tweets come largely from her campaign, generally well-polished and merit much less attention.
Much of what people see and read about Trump and Clinton comes from @realDonaldTrump and @HillaryClinton.
The verdict: Trump by a terabyte. No presidential candidate has ever, for better or for worse, been more open and aggressive on social media.
Presidential candidates are running to lead a country. How the candidates run their own charitable operations offers insight on how they lead.
The Clinton Foundation, in its own words, sounds like a leader and a winner. It exists to build “partnerships of great purpose between businesses, governments, NGOs, and individuals to work faster, better, and leaner; to find solutions that last; and to transform lives and communities from what they are today to what they can be, tomorrow.”
Like most charities, the organization — led in part by former President Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea Clinton — must file annual reports with the IRS detailing its finances.
It’s done that, and more. In December 2008, as Hillary Clinton was poised to become secretary of state, the Clinton Foundation — formerly the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation when Clinton herself was directly involved — signed a memorandum of understanding requiring it to name its contributors.
On paper, the arrangement represents an “unusual” level of transparency among charitable initiatives, said Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
The foundation failed to properly reveal some donors, slow-walked other disclosures and provided donation figures in broad ranges, making it impossible to determine how much money a litany of questionable donors — foreign governments, included — have given.
Meanwhile, Clinton is facing endless attacks from conservatives who consider the Clinton Foundation a play-to-play monstrosity. Write the Clintons a big check, get access to Bill and Hillary, the criticism goes. Even liberals such as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow have questioned Clinton.
“The illegality of the Clinton Foundation has left it woefully unpopular among voters,” the Trump campaign said in an Aug. 28 statement, citing a Morning Consult poll.
“Secretary Clinton, the other day your campaign said that voters who are concerned about the ethics surrounding the Clinton Foundation should not vote for you. Do you agree?” Trump spokesman Jason Miller asked rhetorically the same day, pointing to an MSNBC interview with Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon.
Blunting Trump’s criticism is the fact that he personally gave $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation years ago. (Trump defended the donation to Fox News, saying, “The Clinton Foundation was helping with Haiti and with lots of other things and I thought it was going to do some good work. So, it didn’t make any difference to me.”)
Trump’s Donald J. Trump Foundation — a much smaller charity that in 2014 doled out less than $600,000 in grants, according to tax returns — has its own problems.
One big problem in particular: The Donald J. Trump Foundation straight up broke federal tax laws in 2013 when it illegally pumped money into political organization supporting Pam Bondi, Florida’s attorney general. Charitable nonprofits are prohibited from making such political contributions.
The $25,000 donation to a pro-Bondi political group — the latest campaign finance-related trouble Trump has faced — came six days after Bondi spokeswoman said Bondi’s office was “reviewing” allegations Trump University, Trump’s for-profit program that offered courses in real estate investments. Critics have lambasted the program as a “scam,” “scheme,” “fraud” and “lie.”
Bondi’s office never pursued the Trump University matter.
After the IRS flagged the illegal donation, the Donald J. Trump Foundation coughed up $2,500 to placate the tax man.
“It was just an honest mistake,” Jeffrey McConney, president and controller at the Trump Organization, told the Washington Post’s David A. Fahrenthold. “It wasn’t done intentionally to hide a political donation, it was just an error.”
Bill Clinton, speaking this month to a crowd in Orlando, disagreed.
“My charity helps people,” he said. “His is used to pay off your attorney general.”
This follows a damning report by the Washington Post that casts doubt on Trump’s claims of charity. Trump’s campaign refuses to provide documentation, including tax returns, detailing or verifying his charitable contributions.
“He makes contributions personally and there’s no way for you to know or understand what those gifts are or when they are made,” Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks told BuzzFeed.
And this weekend, the Washington Post published a scathing report explaining how Trump has taken credit for charitable activity that other people funded.
The verdict: Politically speaking, there no winners here. Both foundations are different in size and service, but neither Clinton nor Trump have done themselves election season favors this year through their charitable operations.
Regardless of what good the Clinton Foundation is doing and has done, its grown into a massive albatross for Clinton. USA Today, the Boston Globe, Huffington Post — hardly Trump train passengers — have either called on the Clinton Foundation to curtain its fundraising or shut down altogether.
Trump, meanwhile, faces continued fallout from his charity’s illegal political contribution: a Democratic organization has filed a complaint against the foundation with the U.S. Department of Justice.
On balance, Trump has this election been less transparent about his philanthropy — to the extent he’s genuinely philanthropic — than Clinton has been. If Trump is generous with his money, he’s not offering much evidence of it.
Trump brings the fire.
Reporters are “dishonest,” “scum,” “horrible,” “sleazy” and “disgusting and corrupt” — although probably not worth killing. They’re targets of mockery. They get tossed from Trump rallies. Their news organizations are blacklisted and banned from obtaining coverage credentials. And, of course, there was the arrest in March of then- Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski for allegedly battering then-Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields. (Lewandowski was not prosecuted.)
Clinton brings the ice.
First, there was Clinton’s reporter rope jail. Then, she went 275 days between bona fide press conferences — maybe? — and all but froze out journalists traveling with her. Like Trump, she flew around the country on a different plane than reporters, only bringing the press aboard earlier this month.
So much for Clinton’s promise to a roomful of journalists gathered last year in Washington, D.C., for Syracuse University’s Toner Prize political reporting award ceremony. There, Clinton said she’d aim for a “new relationship with the press … no more secrecy, no more zone of privacy.”
Leaders of several journalism organizations consider neither Trump nor Clinton paragons of transparency.
“Because of the power vested in the president, it is critical for the press to have access to the leading White House contenders so that the public stays well informed. As the general election heats up, both candidates can still do better on this score,” said Jeff Mason, president of the White House Correspondents Association and a Reuters reporter.
“If you want to be the leader of the free world, you shouldn’t be afraid of holding a news conference and answering questions. If you want to prove to Americans you have the temperament to be president, you can’t ban reporters because you don’t like what they write,” said Thomas Burr, president of the National Press Club and reporter in the Salt Lake Tribune’s Washington, D.C., bureau.
Said Pam Fine, president of the American Society of News Editors: “It doesn’t serve the public when candidates either keep the press at arms’ length or constantly accuses the news media of being biased or self-serving.”
Despite Trump’s tempestuousness, the Republican nominee has in recent months repeatedly sat for lengthy, no-holds-barred interviews with national news outlets, including NBC’s “Meet the Press” with Chuck Todd, CNN’s “The Lead” with Jake Tapper, ABC World News Tonight with David Muir and Fox News’ “Fox and Friends.”
For example, while enforcing a ban on Washington Post reporters from campaign events, Trump was in the midst of 20-hours-worth of interviews for “Trump Revealed,” said Michael Kranish, the book’s co-author and a Washington Post investigative reporter.
“That’s a high level of access — he took our questions, he answered follow-ups, he repeatedly called back,” Kranish said. “He’d both complain and say he respected what we were trying to do.”
NBC reporter Katy Tur, who’s traveled with Trump for more than a year, chronicled in Marie Claire her roiling reporter-candidate relationship with the Republican candidate. Its boomeranged from him publicly demeaning her to sitting for exclusive interviews.
In contrast, New York Times reporter Amy Chozick, who’s covered Clinton for more than eight years, described in an interview July 27 on public radio program Fresh Air how Clinton has been “very inaccessible” in 2016 with the reporters who cover her most closely. Chozick confirmed in an email last week Clinton has only conducted a single one-on-one interview with Chozick during Election 2016 while keeping most of her traveling press corps at bay.
Clinton, Chozick said, was notably more accessible during her 2008 presidential run. She flew on the same airplane with reporters, regularly joked and chatted with them — glass of wine in hand, occasionally — and even called some of their significant others on Valentine’s Day to apologize for keeping them tethered to the campaign trail.
Clinton’s campaign parried such access criticism, noting that the Democratic nominee “has sat for hundreds of interviews across the country from a wide range of outlets and has answered thousands of questions on every conceivable topic without ground rules on the questions that can be asked.”
But an analysis last month by National Public Radio’s David Folkenflik shows that some of the interviews Clinton has conducted have been with non-journalists, such as entertainers or even other politicians. Clinton “favored television above all other forms of media” and “emphasized brief interviews with local television news stations,” the analysis concluded. “She also frequently graced local radio hosts with her calls.”
The analysis also showed that Trump has appeared for more interviews than Clinton on Sunday morning public affairs shows.
The verdict: Trump is hostile toward reporters. He may even “hate” them. Many journalists are concerns his love of press freedom is somewhere between his fondness for federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel and windmills. But by most measures, Trump has been more consistently accessible to the press during Election 2016.
Best of the rest: Emails, immigration, transcripts
So continues the seemingly never-ending saga that is Clinton’s private State Department email server — why she had one, whether she misused it and if still continues to hide material the public is entitled to read. Oh, and why an aide destroyed two of Clinton’s BlackBerry devices with a hammer.
“If you’re not telling the truth about your conduct, then that is the exact opposite of transparency,” said Tom Fitton, president of conservative nonprofit organization Judicial Watch, which has waged a years-long legal battle with the federal government to access Clinton’s emails. “
And remember the paid, private speeches Clinton gave earlier this decade to Wall Street executives, including those at Goldman Sachs, the financial giant whose employees have over the years ranked among the nation’s most generous to Clinton’s political campaigns?
Trump isn’t dogged by email issues. But he’s has been party to a variety of lawsuits, the details of which he often doesn’t discuss.
He also hasn’t fully answered questions about the immigration history of his Slovenian-born wife, Melania, who since a widely panned speech at the Republican National Convention in July has all but disappeared.
The verdict: Clinton’s secrets in part involve her service as secretary of state, the official fourth in line to the presidency. They have caused her campaign sustained troubles that have yet to dissipate.
Her refusal to reveal transcripts of speeches to financial titans help fuel a criticism — raised again in recent days as she conducted a series of private fundraisers with some of the world’s most well-known people — that she’s quite candid and accessible to people with massive wealth and a willingness to help her with it.
(Clinton’s campaign noted that “throughout this race, we have been the only campaign to provide press with background information about every fundraiser Hillary Clinton attends.)
And while Trump is no open book, his lack of transparency in these regards hasn’t been nearly as much a campaign liability for him. Advantage Trump.
The Clinton campaign, in a statement to the Center for Public Integrity, said of Trump: “We know the least about Donald Trump of any major party nominee in recent memory.”
Trump’s staff, meanwhile, has accused Clinton of waging a “campaign to deceive media and the public.”
Both candidates will have their first opportunity to directly question the other when they meet on Sept. 26 in Hempstead, N.Y., for the first of three presidential debates.
It’ll initially fall to NBC News anchor Lester Holt to get Clinton and Trump to open up.