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that running up to the very edge of the law, and not stepping over it, is a really fucking bad idea when you plan to ask the voters for their trust by running for President.

You’re assuming that “running up to the edge of the law” is what’s caused Clinton’s negative optics. I’ll put my money on the anti-Clinton smear campaign for creating bad optics. The propaganda on Clinton emphasizes that she’s

The fact that she huddled with her inner circle and deleted masses of emails before turning her server over is shady….The optics are terrible.

You’re blaming Clinton for the optics when she didn’t create them. The anti-Clinton propaganda did. Clinton didn’t “huddle” with anyone. Her attorneys sorted her emails at her request outside her presence and without her supervision. Lawyers are officers of the court who have taken an absolute oath to tell the truth within the legal system. Clinton arranged this method deliberately to demonstrate that the emails she submitted had not been tampered with or. That’s not “running up against the edge of the law.” It’s bending over backward to follow it.

It doesn’t matter if she was technically allowed to delete her emails on her own…

It does when her critics shout, “Lock her up” and “Hillary for prison.” These slogans envision a world in which Clinton is symbolically rendered guilty and denied due process when she hasn’t actually committed a crime. The people who shout that slogan believe she’s guilty of something because the propaganda campaign promotes that idea.

On a government server, all of your emails are backed up and retained by the system anyway…

That’s supposed to be true, but the Director of the National Archives, Thomas Blanton and this 2014 OIG Report have indicated that during Clinton’s tenure, the State Department’s email preservation system archived a shockingly small portion of the total emails, and its employees (including Clinton) received inadequate “training or guidance on their responsibilities for using those systems to preserve ‘record emails.’” That explains a lot about why Clinton misunderstood proper archiving and didn’t realize the implications of using a personal server.

a ton of cases in which a single instance of mishandling classified data resulted in the loss of security clearance, and therefore the loss of employment.

We weren’t addressing classified data but “the regulations on retention and back up.” You had written, “So, did she technically break regulations on retention and back up? Absolutely, she did [and] there have been plenty of incidents of lower level government employees being prosecuted for far less.

My own research on people convicted of mishandling classified data found no case in which someone did less than Clinton in terms of classified data but was still prosecuted.