THE GUARDIAN UK: Hillary Clinton conceded on Tuesday that she should have used a government email address while serving as US secretary of state, but insisted that she had broken no rules or laws by using her personal account and never used it to send classified material.
Publicly addressing a week-long controversy for the first time, Clinton told a press conference in New York that she had “provided all my emails that could possibly be work-related” to the State Department, and said that they would all be released to the public.
Clinton, however, is likely to face further questions after suggesting she had deleted about 30,000 emails from the same account that she classed as personal. “They have nothing to do with work, but I didn’t see any reason to keep them,” she said.
Controversy has mounted since it was revealed last week that Clinton did not use an official government email address during her four years at the State Department. She instead conducted all official business using a private address under the ClintonEmail.com domain.
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Clinton told the press conference at the United Nations that she had “opted, for convenience, to use my personal email account” at work in order to carry only one mobile phone.
“Looking back, it would’ve been better for me to use two separate phones and two email accounts,” she said. “I thought using one device would be simpler, and obviously, it hasn’t worked out that way.”
Trey Gowdy, the Republican congressman leading the latest inquiry into the deadly attack on a US diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, claims to have discovered significant gaps in a cache of Clinton’s emails that he had received.
She said that more than 60,000 emails that she had sent and received had been in her account. “About half were work-related and went to the State Department, and about half were personal that were not in any way related to my work,” she said.
However, she made conflicting remarks on whether the personal emails had been preserved. She twice said she “chose not to keep” the emails but elsewhere said: “I had no reason to save them, but that was my decision, because the federal guidelines are clear and the State Department request was clear.”
She also said the server “contains personal communications from my husband and me”. Clinton’s spokesman did not immediately respond to an email seeking clarification on whether the personal emails had been erased.
In any case, Clinton deflected suggestions from Republicans that an independent review of her email server be carried out. “I believe that I have met all of my responsibilities and the server will remain private,” she said.
The former secretary, 67, added that the publication of her work emails would give “unprecedented insight into a high government official’s daily communications, which I think will be quite interesting”.
Republicans in Congress, journalists and transparency advocates are demanding that all messages relating to her work as secretary of state be disclosed in response to ongoing inquiries in Washington and public records requests.
Data experts have questioned the security of her private email setup, which was detached from government servers. Clinton said the server was protected by “numerous safeguards” including being “on property guarded by the secret service”, and that it had never been breached. It “certainly proved to be effective and secure,” she said.
Asked whether she was briefed on the security of using private email when communicating with Barack Obama, Clinton said: “I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material. So I’m certainly well aware of the classification requirements and did not send classified material.”
Some have alleged Clinton may have violated government regulations, if not federal laws. The backchannel arrangement meant that her inner circle would be able to sift through her email records for potentially embarrassing messages before handing them over to State Department archives.
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Yet the former secretary simply insisted that she had breached no statutes or departmental rules by using the personal account. “The laws and regulations in effect when I was secretary of state allowed me to use my email for work,” she said. “That is undisputed.”
She assured voters that any email she sent or received relating to official business would be disclosed to the public. “I took the unprecedented step of asking that the State Department make all my work-related emails public for everyone to see,” she said.
When asked about how the controversy might affect a potential presidential run in 2016, Clinton said: “I trust the American people to make their decisions about political and public matters and I feel that I have taken unprecedented steps to provide these work-related emails. They’re going to be in the public domain and I think that Americans will find that interesting, and I look forward to having a discussion about that.”
Obama and his advisers have sought to distance themselves from the controversy. Stressing that his own emails comply with all demands under presidential records laws, Obama’s advisers have argued that Clinton’s camp is totally responsible for her unusual setup.
After Obama said he learned of Clinton’s controversial arrangement only through media reports, the White House confirmed he had emailed Clinton at her private address. “But he was not aware of the details of how that email address and that server had been set up,” said Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary.
Clinton’s most senior legal aide during her time at the State Department refused on Tuesday to disclose what advice he had given her on the legality of the email system. Harold Koh, the State Department’s legal adviser from 2009 to 2013, declined to discuss “advice I gave as a lawyer to my client”.
“This is attorney-client privilege, I can’t answer that question,” Koh told the Guardian. “You know, what as a lawyer you say to your client … I can’t answer that question.”
The scandal may persuade Clinton and her team to officially announce her campaign for president earlier than originally planned. An announcement was expected early next month. However, the row seems to have so far had little impact on her political standing.
A new poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal found that 86% of potential Democratic primary voters could see themselves supporting Clinton, while only 13% could not. Her 73% net approval rating was more than twice that found for any other potential presidential candidate in her party.