10

According to US President Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton destroyed phones with a hammer, presumably during the email scandal mid-2016.

Quote from Donald Trump "Hillary destroyed phones with hammer"

This is the first I've heard of that and it sounds... suspicious. Is there any evidence of Clinton or her campaign destroying mobile phones with a hammer?

  • 3
    Highly relevant CNN clip. – Jordy Jun 16 '17 at 9:23
  • 11
    Physically destroying electronics isn't unusual, if you e.g. want to throw them away and want to make sure no data remains on them. – Mad Scientist Jun 16 '17 at 9:51
  • 6
    @JonathonWisnoski I should have been more specific, just from the description "hitting the phones with a hammer" it is not clear if that is sufficient to destroy all data. You have to make sure that you actually destroy the flash storage (which is not necessarily removable on phones). – Mad Scientist Jun 16 '17 at 12:11
  • 2
    I have restored the original claim of the question in the title, as that is also the claim presented in the tweet. If we want to examine the explicit claim, it is relevant who destroyed phones. If the question is mainly about the implicit claim - Clinton obstructed justice - the title would need major revisions, and ideally a better source for the claim. – tim Jun 17 '17 at 23:10
  • 2
    @tim: I disagree. If you dismiss Trump's claim because it wasn't Clinton herself wielding the hammer, you have attacked a strawman based on pedantry. It is clear from context that Trump is employing synecdoche. The background facts are well known. – Oddthinking Jun 17 '17 at 23:20
26

There are several claims to be addressed in that tweet:


Explicit claims:

1. Hillary Clinton is crooked.

The definition of "crooked" is unclear. One particular definition would require Hillary Clinton to be guilty of some specific crimes beyond reasonable doubt - for that particular definition the claim is false. Another definition of crooked merely requires Hillary Clinton to be dishonest, which - as with most public figures - is subject to debate. Yet another definition only requires her to be a professional politician, in which case it is true.


2. Hillary Clinton destroyed phones with a hammer.

Hard to prove, there is no evidence she personally destroyed a phone with a hammer, and no evidence otherwise. Some of her phones were physically destroyed on disposal, so this is likely a misrepresentation of something else, which I'll get to in the implicit claims. Also, I'm adding "destroy phone with a hammer" to my bucket list.


3. Hillary Clinton bleached emails.

Probably no, considering that emails cannot be bleached. "Bleached" might be intended as a stand in for a series of verbs, such as "deleted", "wiped any trace of", or "attempted to wipe any trace of". Depending on the exact meaning of "bleached" this statement could be true or false. Because we can't know the intended meaning of "bleached", the truthfulness of this statement is unclear.


4. Hillary Clinton had Bill Clinton meet with Loretta Lynch.

Unproven. Bill Clinton and Loretta Lynch did meet, but there is no evidence this happened on Hillary Clinton's request. The source of this claim is Donald Trump, but he himself was unsure at the time, and offered no evidence. His tweet was "Bill's meeting was probably initiated and demanded by Hillary,". This new information lacks the "probably" of his initial claim, so unless Trump gained additional information this is just a guess.


Implicit claims:

1. Hillary Clinton and/or affiliates destroyed phones with a hammer, thus destroying evidence.

This seems to be a misrepresentation of the fact that phones were destroyed after migrating data to a new phone, as outlined by BobTheAverage's answer. Destroying a device after migrating data is not usually destruction of evidence.


2. Hillary Clinton and/or affiliates deleted emails to destroy evidence.

Unproven, although debatable. The story about how some emails were deleted involves a sufficient amount of details and incompetence to be either completely believable or completely made up, depending on the observer's point of view.


3. Bill Clinton met with Loretta Lynch in order to successfully obstruct the email investigation.

The obstruction part is unproven, and the "successful" part seems to be false, considering that the way the investigation was conducted cost Hillary Clinton the Presidency with a reasonable level of confidence.


4. People who talk about obstruction of justice in the Trump case are Hillary Clinton supporters.

This is most likely false given that at least one poll claims a quarter of Republicans think Trump tried to obstruct or impede the Russia investigation.


5. If Hillary Clinton commits a crime, it is legal for Donald Trump to commit a similar crime.

This is false.


For completeness, let's also rate the claim this tweet responds to:

  • Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice in some of his interactions with James Comey.

Unproven, although debatable. If we assume Comey's account of the events is untrue then we can assume the claim is false. If we assume Comey's account of events is true, then it's a matter of which law professor you ask.

  • 13
    For a reference: "Classified IT storage media (e.g., hard drives) cannot be declassified by overwriting. Sanitization (which may destroy the usefulness of the media) or physical destruction is required for disposal.", "Manual", Department of Defense (DoD) (2013) – Nat Jun 18 '17 at 18:15
  • 3
    "There are several claims to be addressed in that tweet", er... That's not true. The question specifically only asks about the physical destruction of electronic devices by (or on behalf of) Hillary Clinton. The implicit claim that this means she also obstructed justice should be addressed as well. All other claims should be removed because they are off-topic for this question/site, e.g. "Hillary is crooked", "Hillary bleached e-mails", etc. – Jordy Jun 19 '17 at 9:25
  • 8
    @Jordy The claim is presented in the context of a tweet which contains several other claims, all of which are inaccurate. The inaccuracies of the other claims provide context for the specific claim the question asks about. I can see the benefits of a shorter more focused answer but that's not what this answer is. You could upvote BobTheAverage's answer or write one yourself, which I'd probably upvote. – Peter Jun 19 '17 at 12:41
  • 4
    @ABailey It was meant as a reference for the first implicit claim, to note that destroying hardware containing sensitive information is standard practice. – Nat Jun 19 '17 at 18:26
  • 3
    How on earth does Trump claim that Clinton's commiting a crime entitles him to commit a crime? He's very clearly implying that what he is doing pales in comparison with what Clinton did (according to him). I see no way to translate that into "... so what I'm doing is legal." – sgf Jun 20 '17 at 23:56
9

Yes. These FBI documents, released September 2, 2016, state that one of Clinton's aides smashed one or two blackberries with a hammer. From Document 1 page 9 of 47:

Monica Hanley, a former Clinton aide, often purchased replacement BlackBerry devices for Clinton during her tenure at State. Hanley recalled purchasing most of the BlackBerry devices for Clinton from AT&T stores located in the Washington, D.C. area. Whenever Clinton acquired new mobile devices, Cooper was responsible for setting up the new devices and syncing them to the server. Abedin, [REDACTED], and Hanley also assisted Clinton with setting up any new devices. According to Abedin, it was not uncommon for Clinton to use a new BlackBerry for a few days and then immediately switch it out for an older version with which she was more familiar. Clinton stated that when her BlackBerry device malfunctioned, her aides would assist her in obtaining a new BlackBerry, and, after moving to a new device, her old SIM cards were disposed of by her aides. Cooper advised he sometimes assisted users, including Clinton, when they obtained a new mobile device by helping them back up the data from the old device before transferring it to the new device and syncing the new device with Clinton's server. Abedin and Hanley indicated the whereabouts of Clinton's devices would frequently become unknown once she transitioned to a new device. Cooper did recall two instances where he destroyed Clinton's old mobile devices by breaking them in half or hitting them with a hammer.

This wired article discusses how this is not a good way to dispose of a phone that contains secret information. They suggested using a blender and fire.

  • 17
    So just to be clear, the implication of the tweet that Hillary Clinton obstructed justice by destroying her old mobile phones with a hammer is false. She backed up the data onto new devices before destroying the old devices. – Kevin Fee Jun 16 '17 at 16:38
  • 4
    @BobTheAverage - Since the questioner didn't know that ("This is the first I've heard of that and it sounds... suspicious"), it was worth adding that fact into your answer. – David Hammen Jun 16 '17 at 16:59
  • 25
    It would be very worrisome if the Secretary of State threw away her phone without the data on it being physically destroyed. – gerrit Jun 16 '17 at 18:30
  • 18
    "yes" doesn't seem correct, given the rest of your answer. If we take the claim literal, it's not true. Clinton didn't destroy a phone, an aid did (it doesn't even sound as if the aid was following an order by Clinton, but just tried to get rid of old equipment). If we look at the implied claim (Clinton had a phone destroyed to get rid of evidence), it's also not true, as the data was backed up. There is just no reasonable way to look at this claim and say that it is correct. – tim Jun 17 '17 at 10:27
  • 3
    "This wired article discusses how this is not a good way to dispose of a phone that contains secret information." The Wired article actually says that smashing is an effective disposal method, so long as you're sure to get the storage component. In practice, driving a nail through with a hammer's a popular choice. – Nat Jun 18 '17 at 18:29

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .