O’Malley’s topic was data-driven government, a concept he pioneered during his days as Baltimore mayor. But instead of being asked about the benefits of governing by statistics, he was peppered with questions related to Clinton’s news conference Tuesday in which the presumed 2016 front-runner acknowledged “it might have been smarter” not to use a private e-mail server for work-related correspondence while secretary of state.
“Oh God,” O’Malley said, when asked for his views on using private e-mail for official business.
“I’m not expert on federal requirements,” he said.
“In our state, whether you used a personal e-mail or a public e-mail or a carrier pigeon, it was all a public record subject to disclosure.”
For the next reporter called on, O’Malley had a query of his own: “You’re not going to ask about e-mails, are you?”
The reporter didn’t. But another question about the scandal came a few minutes later. O’Malley was asked whether he was satisfied with Clinton and her people deciding which e-mails should be made public and which were considered personal. Wouldn’t it be better for an independent party to make that call?
“I respect your interest in this issue,” O’Malley deadpanned.
“I didn’t watch the press conference yesterday, so I don’t know,” he continued. “I’ll leave that to you to figure out. I didn’t watch it.”
“Why not?” O’Malley was asked.
“Because I was working,” he said, drawing laughter.
O’Malley was also asked Wednesday if he would release his e-mail from his days as governor. Clinton has said she is eager for the public to see her e-mails, a process that has the State Department reviewing tens of thousands of pages of correspondence.
It didn’t sound like much would be forthcoming from O’Malley. He relayed that Maryland has no requirement for governors to keep copies of e-mail and that his office generally deleted them after “a set number of weeks,” unless the e-mail in question was part of litigation or a public information act request.
“We always abided by whatever the state law was on that, and I relied on my legal counsel to do that,” O’Malley said.
O’Malley faced similar questions Friday during an appearance in Concord, N.H. He gave largely similar answers but also allowed that “openness and transparency are required of governing in the modern age.”
Some Democratic activists in Concord later said they were surprised O’Malley didn’t take Clinton on more aggressively. His advisers say there’s no benefit to him criticizing Clinton at this point. She’s already on the defensive, they reason, and die-hard Democrats are likely to be turned off if O’Malley sounds too much like Clinton’s Republican critics.
O’Malley is headed back to New Hampshire at the end of the month to participate in a “Politics & Eggs” forum, a rite of passage for presidential hopefuls in the state. The series is hosted by the New England Council and The New Hampshire Institute of Politics. O’Malley is set to appear March 31.