How MSNBC Screwed Over Hillary Clinton (Not you, Joy Reid and Lawrence O’Donnell)


As always, the opinions in this blog are strictly my own.

Any discussion of how MSNBC let Hillary Clinton down has to start with Joe Scarborough, of course. Before the station made its recent, concerted shift to the center, he was MSNBC’s token Republican, so perhaps it stands to reason that he would support Trump. His co-host Mika Brzezinski, however, was the real disappointment. There was a time when she was a reliably left-leaning, even feminist, foil to Scarborough’s smug, jokey, right wing bonhomie. But something happened in the last year, fueled by her inexplicable hatred toward Hillary Clinton and her starry-eyed adoration of her cohost—she joined Joe in normalizing the greatest threat our country has seen in my lifetime.

This was the most horrifying aspect of Morning Joe. Both Mika and Joe have socialized with Trump and consider him a friend. They believe that the charming (allegedly) man they’ve shmoozed with at cocktail parties is the real Trump, not the bloviating, rage-filled fascist we saw on the stump. In fact, with the smirking cynicism that is their hallmark, they made fun of the people who saw Trump as a global threat. In the primaries, they gloated, because they had pegged him as a serious contender from the start. (This is true.) So instead of being horrified by the fact that this Cheeto-faced con artist could win the presidency, they did a victory lap. Around that time, a rumor began circulating that Joe was a potential Trump VP candidate. His credibility as a “journalist” in jeopardy, Joe got sober for a few weeks, even penning an editorial in the Washington Post calling for Trump to step down. But once he saved face, he went back to laughing over all the “liberal elites” who were wetting their pants over a potential Trump presidency. Meanwhile, the sycophants around the table mostly got in line—taking for granted Mika and Joe’s characterization of Clinton as grim, uninspiring, and corrupt to the bone, and reveling in how wrong the media had been about their boy Trump.

But the lightweights on Morning Joe weren’t the only MSNBC personalities that let Hillary down. The general trajectory of the station went like this. In the primaries, the story was all about Bernie and his youthful revolution, with all Hillary conversation focused on her apparent deficiencies: Why don’t young people like her? Why isn’t she more inspiring? What is she so unlikable? Why can’t she reduce her message to soundbites the way Bernie can?

If you watched the primaries through the lens of MSNBC, you’d be pretty convinced that Bernie was winning. Rarely was it mentioned that she had a substantial lead and, what’s more, there was a bad faith assumption that what support she had was unenthusiastic. There was never an attempt to find her supporters, and ask why many had retreated to the sidelines. (I tackled that a bit here.)

In the general election, the myriad Trump outrages were covered, but Trump surrogates were always brought in to defend their candidate, which generally meant leaning heavily on hyperbolic, anti-Clinton talking points. With a few notable exceptions, their outrageous, mean-spirited claims were rarely challenged. What’s more, the email scandal was never put in context—namely that it grew out of the protracted and partisan Benghazi hearings which were a known GOP witchhunt (and of which she was, again, found to have done no wrong) and that Colin Powell, himself, also used a private email account. (The “private server” sounded nefarious—and was always treated as such—but if you looked closer, you’d see that it had been set up by Bill Clinton years earlier and just happened to be where the Clintons conducted their personal business.)

One of the worst MSNBC offenders was Andrea Mitchell, who relentlessly grilled Hillary about her emails and seriously engaged with absurd conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health. Other offenders included Chris Matthews, who was nominally pro-Hillary during the general election, but couldn’t quite conceal his glee over Trump’s larger than life personality and populist tendencies. Other Hillary foes on MSNBC included Mark Halperin, a known Trump lackey, and Meet the Press‘s Chuck Todd, who routinely salivated all over Trump campaign director Kellyanne Conway. (“Don’t forget to enjoy the moment,” he sweet-talked her the night before the election, after congratulating her on a what a great job she had done.)

The redoubtable Chris Hayes was certainly anti-Trump, but never fully pro-Hillary. (He was a Bernie guy.) Rachel Maddow was a little better on that front, but never as enthusiastic as I might have hoped. Only Joy Reid and Lawrence O’Donnell were committed, enthusiastic Hillary truth-tellers. (I won’t say supporters, they just saw her without the cynicism and entrenched negative bias of their colleagues.) Joy Reid, in particular, was the only MSNBC host who could take on the unfair and transparent tactics of Trump surrogates with facts and the appropriate amount of disgust.
The truth is, Hillary was at a disadvantage across all cable news, even without the help of biased hosts. Her surrogates tended to be reasonable people, who answered direct questions, stuck to the facts, and played by the rules. As I said, his surrogates tended to be blowhards and liars, who never answered direct questions and pivoted to anti-Hillary talking points. (Famously, although not on MSNBC, one of Trump’s supporters brandished a pair of handcuffs mid-interview to demonstrate how Hillary should be behind bars.)

There’s a lot of blame to go around for Hillary’s loss on Tuesday, but I look squarely at the so-called liberal station (it’s really not anymore), which parroted right-wing conspiracy theories about Clinton, gave much airtime to Trump’s merry band of  bullies and liars, and started with a baseline characterization of the Democratic nominee as corrupt and uninspiring. How terribly, terribly sad.


Does Trump Have A Single Redeeming Quality? A Report.


Does Donald Trump have a single redeeming quality? I’m not kidding here. I actually gave this some serious thought recently and came up empty. His many negative qualities are manifest—Google “text book definition of sociopath” and it will look like his profile—but even the qualities his followers consider good (strength, straight-forwardness, etc.) are not all they seem.

So, without further ado, I thought I’d list Trump’s obviously unsavory qualities and then briefly challenge the ones people consider positive.

He’s a bully.
Whether he’s name-calling (“Miss Piggy,” “Crooked Hillary,” “Lyin’ Ted”), mocking the disabled, mocking his opponents, threatening to ruin people with law suits, or looming behind his competitor during the debate, he tries to make himself seem tough by intimidating and belittling others.

He’s thin-skinned.
The phrase “can dish it out but can’t take it” was made for this guy. He hurls all sorts of insults at people, but the moment you dare to challenge him, he goes nuclear. This is why he spent a week going after Miss Universe Alicia Machado when his advisers begged him to drop it, why he insists on bashing any newspaper or TV show that dares to criticize him, why he calls Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas,” why he bragged about the size of his penis in the middle of a debate (bet you’d forgotten about that presidential moment, eh?), and why, yes, he attacked a Gold Star family after the DNC. The guy is so easily provoked, it’s terrifying. (“Itchy trigger finger” is not a quality once looks for in a president). Need proof? Check out this damning spread of Trump’s insults in the New York Times.

He’s not generous.
A months-long investigation by The Washington Post‘s David Fahrenthold shows how he never contributes a cent of his own money to charity, and, in fact, uses his foundation to advance his own business ventures.

He’s a bald-faced liar.
He lies so frequently, and so boldly, all the lies begin to feel like some alternate version of truth. First he brags that he has a relationship with Vladamir Putin, then he claims he never met the guy. He denies saying that Climate Change is a hoax, even when his tweets stating just that have not been deleted. He lies about his taxes. He lies about being the leader of the Birtherism movement. He lies about his charitable giving. (See above) He lies about his stance on the Iraq War. He lies about seeing American Muslims celebrate 9/11. He lies, absurdly, about Hillary’s immigration policy. And so on…

He’s a racist.
He claims, with classic hyperbole, that he’s the “least racist person you’ll ever meet,” but, in fact, he is demonstrably racist, from putting out a full-page ad in the Daily News calling for the execution of the Central Park Five, to RTing racist and demonstrably false memes about crime stats, to calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” and drug dealers, to questioning the integrity of a judge because he’s Mexican, to saying that “I think Islam hates us,” to his famous policy of putting a small “c” for “colored” on the applications of African-Americans who wanted to rent one of his properties.

He’s a misogynist.
Even before the now infamous “grab them by the pussy” incident and even before 12 women came forward accusing him of sexual assault, we knew the guy was a misogynist. There’s so much proof, I have neither the time nor the stomach to list it all here, but suffice it to say, “Blood coming out of her whatever,” RTing an insult to the appearance of Ted Cruz’s wife, his “look at that face!” remark about Carly Fiorina, his absurd ongoing feud with Rosie O’Donnell, and his many interviews with Howard Stern where he ranked women’s breasts and physical appearance, were proof enough. Since the accusations came forward, he has merely doubled down on his piggishness, noting that the women weren’t hot enough for him to assault and, finally, depressingly, saying that he was “unimpressed” with what he saw when he loomed behind Secretary Clinton. (It was just a matter of time before he sexually objectified her, wasn’t it?)

He’s boastful.
I mean, do I even have to elaborate?

He’s ostentatious.


He’s a cheat.
He cheats on his taxes. He cheats on his wives. He cheated the thousands of people who put their faith in him and Trump University, which was a complete fraud. He cheats people who have worked for him by stiffing them. He cheats other people by declaring bankruptcy.

He never admits to being wrong or apologizes.

He’s litigious.
Maybe it’s just me, but 4,095 lawsuits seems like a lot.

Did I mention he’s a sociopath?
On 9/11, he boasted that he now had the tallest building in Lower Manhattan. Scum. Of. The. Earth.

He disrespects his constituents.
This is the one that galls me. There was, of course, the famous “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, okay, and I wouldn’t lose any voters” crack. But more than that, there’s the taxes. Here’s the thing on Trump’s taxes: Everyone knows he’s lying. This excuse about the audit? Total bullshit debunked by numerous tax experts. He’s withholding his taxes because there’s something damning in them—ties to Russia; a total lack of charitable giving; the likely fact that he’s not really a billionaire—he doesn’t want his voters to see. He’s obviously and intentionally deceiving them—calling them morons, essentially—and they don’t seem to care.

Okay, I could go on (and on), but let’s get to the qualities that Trump fans seem to like about him.

He’s strong.
You see, here’s where we disagree. Bullying is the opposite of strength. It’s overcompensating for feelings of weakness and insecurity. People who have high self-esteem and truly feel strong do not need to belittle others. Do you see the similarly boastful and bullying Kim Jong Un (who just endorsed Trump!) as strong, or as one of the most pathetic, child-like, insecure narcissists alive? Yeah, ditto.

He tells it like it is.
Actually, he’s just mean and rude. Again and again, it has been proven that, far from telling it like it is, he’s the biggest liar in the history of politics.

He’ll keep us safe.
How? By cozying up to Putin? By torturing people? By bombing the shit of places he couldn’t identify on a map? I don’t trust a man who thinks more countries should have nuclear weapons, who didn’t even realize that Russia was ALREADY in Ukraine, and who wants to start a war over rude hand gestures to keep us safe.

He loves his kids.
Okay, I’ll give you that. He seems to love his kids, although he had very little to do with raising them. I might argue that loving your children is the bare minimum qualification for being human.

So I know some of you are going to counter with, but…but… Hillary! Allow me to point you to this and this and this and this and this.

So there you have it. On Tuesday, we run the risk of putting not just the worst presidential candidate ever but literally one of the most disgusting human beings alive in the Oval Office. Vote wisely, America.








Hillary Clinton’s Well-Behaved Women


There’s a famous saying, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” This is both empirically true and a sentiment I can fully get behind. However, the Hillary Clinton candidacy might be the exception that proves the rule.

Take the debate on Sunday night: Trump was rude. He was taunting. He made threats, he loomed ominously, he called his opponent unspeakable names. And throughout it all, Hillary Clinton kept her decorum. She smiled, perhaps through gritted teeth. She waited for her turn to speak. She quoted Michelle Obama’s now famous “when they go low, we go high.” Not once, but twice she evoked the idea that “America is great because America is good.” She was, in short, well behaved.

Then there’s us, her devoted followers. We, too, have been largely well-behaved. We haven’t worn vulgar tee-shirts or buttons, or chanted gleefully for the incarceration of our rival. We haven’t thrown dollar bills at a motorcade or chairs at a stage. We haven’t bullied or harassed on line. We haven’t roughly thrown protesters out of rallies. Instead, we’ve done the opposite—retreated politely to the sidelines. This is one of the many reasons there is a perceived “enthusiasm gap.” This is on us. But please don’t mistake our politeness for a lack of enthusiasm.

It started, of course, in the primaries. Bernie supporters were not just zealous, they seemed to have an unlimited supply of time on their hands. Some of the young men—the anti-Hillary, pro-Bernie Subreddit crowd—were, in fact, abusive. Most were just relentless. They came out of the woodwork. If you dared to post a pro-Hillary meme on Twitter or Facebook, they always managed to find you. They wanted to argue, they wanted to debate. They never accepted that last refuge of the polite person: “Let’s agree to disagree.” They wanted to CONVERT you. Who the hell had time for these Facebook threads that went on for pages, these fights that went on for hours? Yes, some of us retreated to the sidelines because we were being harassed. But many did so because we had freaking LIVES TO LIVE.

So we found refuge in private Facebook groups, safe spaces, where we cheered on Hillary, shared memes both positive and negative, gushed about Hillary’s outfits (and then chided each other for focusing on the superficial), vented about misogyny and injustice, and, every once in while, proudly shared a public moment where we engaged with our detractors, didn’t back down, chose to roar. (“Represent!” and “You go, girl!” came the inevitable replies.) There were many reasons why we didn’t go public—some of the older supporters, Hillary’s age and older, really did come from a generation where decorum and civility were valued highly; others had family and work and busy schedules to juggle and simply didn’t have time for this shit; a few of us felt triggered or abused by the vitriol that was often hurled our way—but we followed our chosen candidate closely, with pride and admiration, fretfulness (because Hillary supporters are nothing if not an anxious lot), and love.

There really isn’t an enthusiasm gap, but there is a volume gap. We may not be that loud or rude. We may be the last gasp of the well-behaved women. And this is a good thing. Women should be loud, we should demand things, make our voices heard, take up public space. But right about now, in this obnoxious political climate where an orange-faced vulgarian is leading the Republican party and the ugliest side of America’s id has been unleashed, good behavior feels like a kind of grace. It feels like a benediction. And as of today, it feels like victory.

Girl Trouble: How The Night Of Repeatedly Let Its Female Characters Down

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Photo of Amara Karan as Chandra Kapoor, courtesy of HBO


Just for a second, let’s put aside The Night Of’s dead girl. Much has already been written about the wild, self-destructive dead girl (Sofia Black D’Elia), who lures our young hero Naz (Riz Ahmed) into her den of iniquity and exists on the show only so she can die. And just to be clear, there’s nothing inherently wrong with a dead girl being a show’s launching point, but between True Detective, The Killing, The Top of the Lake, Pretty Little Liars, et al, many of us have dead girl fatigue. (Also, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the fact that Naz is innocent, although the guy who just had sex with the dead girl usually is the one who made her dead, so it could be argued that shows like this send the wrong message. But I digress…)

Anyway, Andrea—the dead girl has a name, it’s Andrea—is just the first female character that The Night Of betrays. Allow me to count them down.

Chandra Kapoor

Let’s start with the character that the show betrays the most, and the impetus for this essay—Chandra Kapoor, played by Amara Karan. As an actress, Karan just has it—on top of being quite pretty, she projects intelligence, relatability, and warmth (TV decision-making-types—get on it!). Chandra is an assistant to celebrity lawyer Alison Crowe (more on her in a bit), who has glommed onto Naz’s sensational case to raise her own profile. Crowe plucks Chandra from her stable of young lawyers for the most cynical of reasons—to ease the concerns of Naz’s parents by presenting them with someone who looks more like they do (Naz is Pakistani; Chandra is Indian). But Chandra ends up becoming the lead lawyer on the case due to some spectacularly bad advice she gives Naz—the first of many such blunders.

Crowe has arranged for a plea bargain that would have Naz confessing to manslaughter and receiving 15 years in prison. Regardless of the trial’s ultimate outcome, that is actually a great deal for Naz, whose semen and blood was on Andrea and who was found with the murder weapon in his pocket. But Chandra, you see, believes in the system, and, what’s more, she believes in Naz, so she tells him that, if he didn’t do it, he should plead not guilty. I guess Chandra is meant to contrast all the jaded cops, civil servants, and lawyers who populate the series, but this is extremely shitty advice. Naz, however, listens to Chandra—because what innocent man doesn’t crave someone who believes him?—and pleads not guilty. As a result, Crowe withdraws her offer to defend Naz pro bono and the case falls into Chandra’s lap.

Then Chandra, being a girl—with all its attendant squooshy, girly, uncontrollable emotions, I suppose—can’t resist her handsome, doe-eyed client. She is so overcome with longing for him, or a need to soothe his restless soul (you pick it), she kisses him in a holding cell, despite the fact that a cop is a few feet away and she knows (or should know) there are surveillance cameras. Later, Naz, who has become addicted to crack cocaine, asks her to acquire drugs for him—and she does. So now she’s gone from being a shitty, irresponsible lawyer, to actually breaking the law for him.

Oh, and why was she getting crack for Naz? Because, among other reasons, he needs the drugs to function at a peak level when he testifies. Yes, Chandra wants Naz to testify at his trial, despite the fact that John Stone (John Turturro), Naz’s much more experienced co-lawyer (and the show’s other outsider hero), has explained how reckless and dangerous that is. Look, I get that Chandra is both an idealist (the truth shall set Naz free!) and headstrong (no man is going to tell me how to handle my client!), but anyone with a working television set knows that a murder suspect testifying on his own behalf is always a last resort. What’s more, you would think that once Naz told her he needed crack to testify she might have reconsidered. (Also, there’s the pesky fact that Naz isn’t 100-percent sure he didn’t do it. Details, details…) So yes. Naz testifies and things are actually going pretty great until, as Stone anticipated, the cross examination starts, at which point he breaks down and tearfully admits he’s not sure whether he did it or not. I’m no legal expert, but that seems bad.

The thing that’s so annoying about all of this—besides, well, all of it—is the fact that Chandra actually seemed like a pretty good lawyer when she wasn’t royally screwing up. Her interrogations of other suspects, including an undertaker and Andrea’s sketchy stepfather, were pretty effective. So why also make her a total moron? Well, here’s a theory: Just as Andrea was sacrificed so Naz could be falsely accused and The Night Of could exist, Chandra was sacrificed so that John Stone could have his moment of redemptive glory. (Chandra has been demoted to second chair after the judge sees the tape of her kissing Naz.) Again, there’s nothing wrong with Stone getting to give closing arguments. From a dramatic standpoint, it works. And Turturro absolutely delivers—it’ll undoubtedly be the scene he submits to Emmy voters (he even had a flare-up of eczema!). But it’s a bit dismaying that Chandra had to be weak-willed, ethically compromised, and legally derelict, so John Stone could shine.

Safar Khan

Now we get to Naz’s mother, Safar Khan, played by Poorna Jagannathan. On its own, the fact that she has doubts about her son, and worries that she perhaps “raised a monster,” isn’t too problematic, but when you put it in the larger context of the show, it seems to be part of a pattern. It’s Naz’s father who never wavers in his support, who always believes in his son, who is the only one waiting for him when he gets out of Rikers, and Naz’s mother who allows herself to imagine the worst. Again, she’s being used as a plot device—if Naz’s own mother doubts him, shouldn’t we as well?—but she’s also an example of a disloyal woman, a mother who betrays her own son.

Alison Crowe

Here’s the funny thing about hotshot lawyer Alison Crowe (Glenn Headley). I think she’s supposed to be the worst, but I didn’t find her that horrible. Clearly she’s agreed to take on Naz’s case to raise her own profile and, as I mentioned, she exploits the fact that her assistant is Indian to get closer to Naz’s family, which is shady as hell. Yeah, she stole the case out from under Stone (who at least appeared to be in over his head) and yeah, she kind of left Naz in the lurch after he turned down the plea, but can you really blame her? It was a great offer. She had done her job. But the show clearly thinks she’s a bad person and, lest there be any doubt, she’s super bitchy to Chandra when she fires her.

Helen Weiss

On the face of it, Helen Weiss (Jeannie Berlin) is just one of The Night Of’s many world-weary, jaded bureacrats. But when you look closer, you see that she’s the worst of the worst. Our lead detective Dennis Box (Bill Camp) is actually haunted by the fact that he may’ve locked up the wrong guy, and even continues to doggedly pursue the case after he retires. John Stone may be a hack, but he cares deeply about his clients (and cats). It’s only Helen Weiss who seems willing to do anything to get her man, including coerce a forensics expert to fudge the truth on the witness stand. When she’s confronted with Box’s new suspect—and the preponderance of evidence linking him to the murder—she ignores it because it’ll be easier to convict Naz. Yes, she hesitates during her closing arguments—we see she’s having a crisis of conscience—and ultimately does the right thing when she agrees not to retry Naz, but only after she had already gone through with trying to convict him. Had the jury not been hung, Naz would be rotting away in a jail cell as we speak.

And that’s it. Those are all the major female characters in the show: a wild girl who leads a young man astray, a disloyal mother, a ruthless prosecutor, a headline-grabbing TV lawyer, and a young lawyer who compromises her ethics and professionalism for a crush. Look, The Night Of was gripping, well-executed TV, but turns out its dead girl trope wasn’t a mere fluke. It reflected the series’ willingness to sacrifice female characters for the sake of good drama and to prop up a male hero, over and over again.


A Brief Disclaimer To Be Used on All Stories Concerning Hillary Clinton and Her Emails

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I understand that it’s awkward for journalists these days. You want to appear fair and balanced. One candidate is a longtime politician, a former first lady and Secretary of State, who, as a result, has had an uncommon amount of influence and access.  That’s a lot to unpack! The other is a carnival-barking sociopath conman with ties to White Supremacists and Russian oligarchs. But I feel you, news media. It’s important to cover both sides! So, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like the following disclaimer to be included on all stories concerning Hillary Clinton, Benghazi, Her Emails, and the Clinton Foundation going forward.


First, it is always important to note that the reason we are poring over Secretary Clinton’s emails, the ONLY reason the so-called email controversy exists, is because of an explicitly politically-motivated witch hunt. Allow us to explain:

When George W. Bush was president there were at least 13 attacks on embassies and 60 people killed. There were no congressional inquiries into these attacks. (Compare that to Benghazi, where 4 people were killed.)

Two separate GOP congressmen admitted that the Benghazi committee was motivated by politics, specifically as part of an ongoing campaign to bring Hillary Clinton down.

And yet, despite their best efforts, the highly partisan committee found that Hillary Clinton and the State Department had done nothing wrong.

Through this Benghazi committee, it was discovered that Secretary Clinton used a private email server, that was possibly more secure than the one at the state department.

The FBI launched their own investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server and, despite the fact that the FBI director James Comey is a Republican, they too found that Clinton had not violated the law.

Now, desperate to keep the story in the news as their embarrassment of a candidate continues to unravel, the GOP-congress is undertaking the unprecedented action of pursuing a perjury charge against Secretary Clinton. John Dean, the former White House counsel for Richard Nixon (also a Republican!),  calls the charges “outrageously false,” an “abuse of power,” and a tactic that could “undermine our democracy.” That seems bad.

But wait…it’s really, really important for us to explain how unprecedented and outrageously unfair this kind of scrutiny is:
When George W. Bush waged a bogus war against Iraq that killed nearly 5,000 American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, the company that benefited the most from this was Halliburton, which made an estimated $39.5 billion. The former CEO of Halliburton was Vice President Dick Cheney. There was no congressional investigation into Cheney’s ties to Halliburton.

Meanwhile, when a 2007 investigation was launched over the Bush White House’s partisan firing of 8 U.S. attorneys, it was discovered that 5 million White House emails had been secretly deleted. There was no congressional investigation into these deleted emails. (Compare that to the 30,000 emails Secretary Clinton is accused of deleting, which she maintains were all personal.)

Also, before we discuss the Clinton Foundation, we should probably mention that it has received an A rating from the nonpartisan Charity Watch and that neither Hillary nor Bill Clinton draw a salary from the foundation. The big scandal is that companies and people who donated millions of dollars to fight AIDS, poverty, and civil rights violations around the globe were possibly granted access to the Secretary of State. Thus far, there is no indication that any policy was influenced by these donors. “We haven’t seen any clear evidence of pay to play,” said the AP report.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump refuses to release his taxes; owes $650 million to the Bank of China and Goldman Sachs; once had a campaign manager with ties to Russian oligarchs; has paid off Attorney Generals to avoid lawsuits against Trump University; has been involved in an outrageous 3,500 lawsuits, both as plaintiff and defendant; and is funneling money out of his own campaign to pay his children and his own companies.

Now please read or watch this story about Hillary Clinton’s emails and her A-rated international foundation that helped millions of people all over the world!