Hillary Rodham Clinton acknowledged Tuesday that she had erred in using only a private e-mail server for work correspondence at the State Department, saying that she sent about 60,000 e-mails from her private account during her four-year tenure as secretary of state.
Scrambling to extinguish the growing controversy over her unconventional use of a private e-mail server ahead of the expected launch of her 2016 presidential campaign, Clinton said “there were no security breaches” with her private account and that she was pleased the State Department will soon release her work-related e-mails into the public domain.
Clinton said “it would have been probably smarter” to use two e-mail accounts, a government one and a personal one, but that she opted to only use the personal one out of “convenience.”
“I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal e-mails than two,” Clinton said. “I did it for convenience and I now lokoing back think that it might have been smarter to have those two devices from the very beginning.”
But Clinton said she deleted thousands of personal e-mails from her server — including correspondence about daughter Chelsea’s wedding, her mother Dorothy’s funeral and yoga routines — and that they were not provided to the State Department for review.
“No one wants their personal e-mails made public and I think most people understand that and respect that privacy,” Clinton said.
Clinton’s comments came at what was her first news conference in more than two years here at the United Nations. Clinton has been under mounting pressure, including from Democratic allies, to personally address questions about her exclusive use of a private e-mail server while secretary of state, a violation of Obama administration guidelines.
An hour earlier in Washington, State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said the department is undergoing a review of 55,000 pages of e-mails that Clinton has handed over that could take several months. All of the e-mails that meet the standards for public release will be available in a single batch on a Web site once the process is completed, Psaki said.
Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said Clinton would hold a “brief press conference” here at the United Nations at about 3:30 p.m., following her speech at a Women’s Empowerment Principles event.
At the U.N., where she was warmly welcomed as a “future president,” Clinton said that “the full participation of women and girls is the great unfinished business of the 21st century.” Marking the 20th anniversary of her landmark address in Beijing at the World Conference on Women, she said progress had been made towards equality, but lamented that “We’re still not there yet.”
Still, the e-mail story overshadowed Clinton’s long-planned remarks on women. Behind the scenes, Clinton’s aides and U.S. officials scrambled to speed up the process and secure entry for reporters, but the scene outside the hulking headquarters building was chaotic.
Word of her planned appearance quickly spread among reporters already gathered in New York for Clinton events pegged to International Women’s Day. But her office did not confirm plans for the news conference until about 11:30 a.m.
Rather than staging the press conference at an easily accessible venue, such as a Manhattan hotel, Clinton scheduled it inside the high-security U.N. headquarters building.
Securing credentials for the United Nations is a laborious process that typically takes days at best, leaving members of the media scrambling to gain access Tuesday morning. The line for credentials wrapped the block outside the cramped U.N. office where all badges are issued. A lone staffer, beleaguered but polite, was handling all press requests. Badges in hand, reporters then waited in a long line to pass through security.
The scene drew immediate criticism from Republicans, who accused Clinton of trying to block access to her press conference.
“Hillary Clinton’s response to her email scandal is already turning into another exercise in limiting transparency,” Michael Short, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said in a statement. “She and her team had perhaps hundreds — if not thousands — of options for a venue for today’s press conference on her secret email scandal, but Clinton instead chose one of the most difficult places for reporters to get access to: the UN.”
Merrill responded in a statement, “Before we climb on board the RNC’s Malarkey Express let’s remember that this is where a large number of press have long-planned to be today for the Secretary’s speech. We’ve been working double-time to make this work with the help of USUN, and want to be as inclusive as possible.”’
In the week since revelations of her use of a private e-mail account, Clinton has ignored the issue at multiple public appearances while surrogates defended her in media interviews and accused news outlets of unfairly demonizing her.
The dynamic changed over the weekend, however, when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Clinton should “step up and come out” to personally answer questions about the e-mail arrangement. Feinstein said Clinton’s “silence is going to hurt her.”
President Obama also did not come to Clinton’s defense in an interview over the weekend, adding to pressure on Clinton to clear up questions about why she set up the outside system. The White House has distanced itself from the controversy, stating that Clinton did not follow administration guidance against using private or commercial e-mail for government business.
On Tuesday, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat in Senate leadership, called on Clinton to publicly explain her side of the story. “She should come forward and explain the situation,” he said on MSNBC. “I think it’s only fair to say to Hillary Clinton: Tell us your side of the story. . . . What did you put on this personal e-mail?”
Privately, senior Democrats have been wringing their hands at what they consider a botched response to questions about Clinton’s private e-mail usage. They have said they fear her silence fed suspicion that she had something to hide.
Clinton limited her personal response to a tweet late Wednesday night, saying she wanted the public to see her e-mails and had turned them over to the State Department for a review before their release. She had hoped otherwise to stay above the fray, but the pressure within her party appears to have forced Clinton to shift strategy and answer questions from reporters.
The e-mails issue — coupled with recent revelations that the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars in donations from foreign governments while she was secretary of state — mushroomed into a test of Clinton’s leadership and overshadowed a series of women’s events leading up to her formal entry into the presidential race.
The issue also has tested Clinton’s strategy of remaining on the sidelines of the official 2016 presidential contest as long as possible. As the undisputed frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, Clinton has had the luxury of picking which issues to address while keeping most details of her forthcoming campaign secret.
The controversies have thrown Clinton off her carefully planned week to showcase her lifetime of advocacy on behalf of women and girls — one of the foundations of her emerging campaign platform. She participated in back-to-back events Monday and Tuesday related to the 20th anniversary of her U.N. address in Beijing declaring that “women’s rights are human rights.”
Clinton’s e-mails during her four years at the State Department were on a private domain registered at her upstate New York home and were not archived by the government as now required.
The unorthodox arrangement gave Clinton unprecedented control over the paper trail from her time in public service and meant that her communications were not automatically included in public records searches or legal queries.
Clinton turned over a trove of 55,000 pages of e-mails last year at the State Department’s request. The trove did not include every e-mail sent from Clinton’s private account. An aide said some were deemed personal. Most of the 55,000 pages are communications between Clinton and other State Department officials, the aide said last week.
This article originally appeared in The Washington Post.
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