Hillary R. Clinton

Mahnoor Ayub
Hillary Clinton has faced various controversies during her current presidential campaign.
Hillary Clinton has faced various controversies during her current presidential campaign.

This past October marked the beginning of the most turbulent episode of Hilary Clinton’s election campaign so far. With newspapers reporting updates on the FBI investigation and her opposition reiterating her association with scandals in the past, such as that surrounding the Benghazi report, the Clinton campaign hasn’t been far from controversial. As the Democrat campaign faces some last-minute controversy, here is an overview of what has been scrutinized so far.

The emails

Clinton’s private email account became a subject of international news when approximately a year ago, a New York Times report, followed by an Associated Press report, revealed the existence of this basement server. The campaign has been flooded with lawsuits filed under the Freedom of Information act. There have been investigations initiated by congressional committees and inspector generals’ offices in the U.S. State Department and the U.S. intelligence community. After determining that the server contained classified material, the case was referred to the FBI in July for what has been termed “counter-intelligence purposes.” FBI personnel deployed to undertake this investigation have been trying to determine whether any criminal activity was carried out in the handling of this classified material and whether the server was hacked.

The resulting scandal now revolves around the preservation of government records, official government communication, and the vulnerability of Clinton’s email server. Clinton’s use of her private email on her private Blackberry for government communication had been cited as a potential security compromise by the State Department security officials. However, Clinton continued to carry it with her to most international trips, including China, the Middle East, and Europe. The number of emails moving through the basement server was an average of 296 a week, where about half of them have been reported to be work-related.

Most of the emails have been characterized as routine, including those sent to friends. But this section of emails has been a subject of controversy, revolving around mixing government and family business, where they involved the coordination of efforts to bring aid to Haiti by the U.S. State Department and Bill Clinton’s New York-based Clinton Foundation.

Benghazi scandal

The emails scandal was exaggerated in light of what has been called one of the longest and costliest investigations in U.S. history, by the publication of the House Benghazi report. Although the report did not dispute a central finding of previous inquiries—that the U.S. military forces stationed in Europe could not have reached Benghazi in time to rescue the personnel who died—it did issue criticism of the overall delay in response on part of the government.

Among the committee’s chief findings was the reception of conflicting orders to the Marines stationed in Spain and the fact that no U.S. military forces were deployed to Benghazi on the night of attacks, despite authorization from President Obama. According to the New York Times, Susan E. Rice, then the United States ambassador to the United Nations, was also reported to have made numerous false statements about the Benghazi attack on television. The Senior State Department officials, including Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl D. Mills, exerted excess influence over the Accountability Review Board that conducted the departments own inquiry, casting a shadow over the legitimacy of its independence and findings. The Obama administration was also criticized for obstructing the committee’s investigation by the delay or refusal of requests for documents and testimony.

However, The House Select Committee on Benghazi was unable to highlight any distinct finding of professional misconduct or dereliction of duty. Although the Clinton campaign pressed forward to move on from the two-year investigation, this controversy is what essentially spurred investigations into her handling of classified material.


Another facet to the controversy surrounding the campaign has been through the documents broadcasted by WikiLeaks. An example includes the paid speeches that Clinton delivered to elite financial firms, but refused to disclose to the public, where she praised a budget balancing plan that would have required cuts to Social Security. These speeches, along with Clinton’s statement of the necessity of having “both a public and a private position,” have been viewed as contrary to her public position, where she claims to be critical of large financial institutions.

Although the Clinton campaign has not confirmed the authenticity of the documents, the release by WikiLeaks has been stated to come from the email account of John D. Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman.

Approximately two weeks ago, FBI director James Comey reported the existence of approximately 650,000 emails as “pertinent” to the investigation, which were found on a laptop seized during an unrelated investigation of Anthony Weiner, a former New York congressman. There are few details available right now—it is not certain whether these emails are new or simply duplicates of emails that have previously been found in prior investigations.

Many, including senior officials at the U.S. Department of Justice, have expressed concern that Comey’s recent actions are an attempt to interfere with the upcoming election, which is just days away.

Donald J. Trump

Farah Qaiser
Donald J. Trump announced his bid to run for president in June 2015.
Donald J. Trump announced his bid to run for president in June 2015.

Donald J. Trump is no stranger to the media. In the past, he enjoyed the spotlight as the host of The Apprentice, cameos in various movies (including the 2001 Zoolander and Home Alone 2: Lost In New York), hosting WWE’s Wrestlemania events, and as the owner (or partial owner) of the Miss Universe, Miss USA, and Miss Teen USA beauty pageants.

In June 2015, Trump announced his bid to run for president as a Republican. Since then, his campaign has been marked with controversies and allegations as he attempted to woo voters. In fact, much of the controversy stems from Trump’s own statements, which have repeatedly been deemed false by various fact-checking organizations.

The wall

On June 16, 2015, Trump stated the now-infamous quote that “when Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

This quote was one of his earlier inflammatory comments that set the tone for his campaign on immigration policies. Trump proposed the building of a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border, which would supposedly be paid for by Mexico, to keep out illegal immigrants. Trump has also proposed mass deportation for the 11 million immigrants who are currently living illegally in the U.S., the majority of whom are from Mexico.

Putting aside the xenophobia associated with this form of border control, there are several problems associated with his proposal. It is unclear how exactly Trump would force the Mexicans to pay for the wall, though Trump has offered various suggestions. In a two-page memo to the Washington Post, Trump suggested that a one-time payment of $5-10 billion to the U.S. would be “an easy decision for Mexico.” In his presidency, Trump could pass legislation that would result in illegal immigrants being unable to send wire transfers outside of the U.S. This would be a move that would hurt Mexico significantly, because as per the memo, they receive approximately $24 billion a year from Mexican nationals.

Despite Trump’s repeated assurances, current and former Mexican leaders are not in agreement with his grandiose proposal. In fact, last August, when Trump met the Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto, Nieto made it clear in the beginning of their conversation that “Mexico will not pay for the wall.”

While Trump’s estimates for the costs of such a wall vary wildly (from $4-12 billion), according to a report from Berstein Research, such a wall would cost at least $15 billion, and could go up to a maximum of $25 billion.

Another core feature of Trump’s immigration policy is his call for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” which in effect, is proposing a ban of an entire religion from the U.S.

Sexual misconduct allegations

Two days before the second presidential debate, the Washington Post released a video from 2005, depicting a lewd conversation between Trump and Billy Bush (a correspondent on Access Hollywood). In the video, Trump discusses an attempt to seduce Nancy O’Dell (who was Bush’s co-host at the time) and then stated, “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it, you can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

While Bush was suspended and later resigned from his position as a co-host of the Today show, Trump is still running in the presidential election.

Trump has repeatedly tried to dismiss the conversation as mere “locker room” banter that occurred 10 years ago, and attempted to deflect attention from his controversy by saying his remarks were nothing compared to the Clintons’ treatment of women. “Bill Clinton has actually abused women, and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed, and intimidated his victims,” said Trump.

Following the release of the recording, at least 17 women have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment. Trump has referred to these allegations as a smear campaign, and has even suggested that the women accusing him of sexual assault are not attractive enough to be assaulted. When referring to Jessica Leeds, Trump stated, “Believe me, she would not be my first choice. That I can tell you. You don’t know. That would not be my first choice.”

Many individuals viewed this leaked Access Hollywood tape as an example of “rape culture” in action. It prompted the rise of the hashtag #PussyGrabsBack as a means of mobilizing women to vote against Trump. In fact, following the leaked tape, Nate Silver, the editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight, shared a projection which indicated that if all women refused to vote for Trump, Democrats would receive all 538 electoral college votes.

Hateful language

Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump has insulted numerous individuals, ethnicities, and religions. The New York Times published a list of people, places, and things that Trump has insulted on Twitter, and found that there was a total of 281 total targets. This list was limited to Trump’s tweets published during the current presidential election and excluded all insults that had been stated during rallies, speeches, and debates.

While it is almost impossible to recap every insult or controversial comment that has been tweeted or said during Trump’s presidential campaign, there are several that caused widespread public outrage.

Last November, Trump mocked Serge Kovaleski’s disability, who was a reporter with arthrogryposis, a congenital condition affecting the joints. Trump later insisted that he was trying to imitate grovelling, and did not know that Kovaleski was disabled. Trump has also spent several weeks, both on Twitter and in various interviews, attacking the parents of a Muslim U.S. soldier killed in combat, even stating that the mother did not speak at the Democratic National Convention because her faith would not let her do so.

During the Republican primary, Trump alleged that Ted Cruz’s father was in the presence of John F. Kennedy’s assassin, just before the assassination, thus implying that Cruz’s father was involved in the plot.

At the third presidential debate, despite an earlier affirmation that he has the greatest respect for women, Trump referred to Clinton as “a nasty woman.” He also referred to Latino immigrants as “bad hombres.”

Undermining democracy

Over the past few months, Trump has repeatedly voiced concerns about the election being “rigged.” This prompted Chris Wallace, the moderator in the third presidential debate, to ask whether Trump would accept the election results—and in case of a loss, would he concede to Hillary Clinton?

While Clinton affirmed her commitment to the long-held principle of a peaceful transition of power, Trump initiated yet another controversy by stating, “I will tell you at the time. I will keep you in suspense.” At a later rally, Trump stated that he would “totally accept” the results of this election—but only if he wins.

While this may seem to be nothing more than a flippant remark, there are fears that Trump’s refusal to accept the election results could potentially cause extensive post-election turmoil.

President Barack Obama said that Trump’s statement “undermines [the U.S.] democracy,” and that “democracy depends on people knowing their vote matters.”

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