One of the stranger comments to come from the second general election presidential debate is Donald Trump’s insistence that Clinton literally washed her deleted emails with a chemical.
While Trump speaks about appointing a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton and to “lock her up,” he brings up her email scandal and repeatedly mentions the idea that Clinton has “acid washed” her emails.
Right before calling for a special prosecutor, he says, “The thing that you should be apologizing for are the 33,000 emails that you deleted and that you acid washed.”
Later in the debate, and just before reiterating the call for a special prosecutor, he says again, “You delete 33,000 emails. And then you acid wash them, or bleach them, as you would say—a very expensive process.”
Trump’s campaign claims that the comment is a play on words. But the meaning of such a play on word isn’t clear. Acid washing is a process to fade the colors in mostly blue jeans and tee-shirts.
Slate theorizes that Trump read news reports that Platte Rivers Neworks employee Paul Combetta used a free computer program called BleachBit to destroy all traces of Clinton’s emails from her private server. Then Trump began referring to Clinton “bleaching” her emails. But somehow that evolved into frequent mentions of “acid washing” instead.
Slate further theorizes that Trump has come to take these words literally. In a public speech in August 2016, Trump suggested Clinton used chemicals to destroy the emails: “Thirty-three thousand emails that she deleted. They’re gone. And not only deleted folks, she bleached—which somebody said they had never even heard of—in a very expensive fashion, used chemicals so nobody will ever be able to see ‘em. Who does this?” (Slate, 10/10/2016) (Slate, 9/1/2016)