New York, March 10: Hillary Rodham Clinton used a private e-mail account to conduct State Department business for “convenience” but has since released all e-mails related to her work as secretary of State, she said Tuesday as she tried to dampen a controversy that could overshadow her potential presidential campaign.
“Looking back, it would have been better for me to use two separate phones and two separate e-mail accounts,” Clinton said at a news conference following a speech at a U.N. conference on women’s economic status. “I thought using one (mobile) device would be simpler. Obviously, it hasn’t worked out that way.”
Clinton said she went “above and beyond” what she was required to do regarding preserving e-mails from the personal account she used on a private server. Using a personal e-mail was permissible during her tenure as the nation’s top diplomat as long as she kept the records.
Clinton said she did not discuss classified information on her personal e-mail. “I have no doubt we have done exactly what we should have done,” she said.
Clinton turned over 30,490 e-mails to the State Department last fall at the department’s request, just under half of the 62,320 total e-mails she sent or received as Secretary of State. Clinton’s office said in information supplied after her news conference. More than 27,500 involved official government e-mail addresses. To identify which e-mails were work related, her office searched not only for .gov addresses, for names of government officials and Clinton’s staff, but also for terms including “Benghazi” and “Libya.”
The remaining 31,830 e-mails were deemed personal and deleted.
Clinton said she “chose not to keep” personal e-mails, such as those related to daughter Chelsea’s wedding in 2010 or the funeral for her mother, Dorothy Rodham, who died in 2011. “No one wants their personal e-mails made public and I think most people understand that and respect that privacy,” she said.
The leading Democratic presidential contender downplayed the role the uproar would play in the presidential campaign.
“I trust the American people to make their decisions about political and public matters and I feel that I’ve taken unprecedented steps to provide these work-related emails,” she said. “They’re going to be in the public domain, and I think that Americans will, you know, find that interesting and I look forward to having that discussion.”
The former secretary of State’s remarks at a crowded news conference outside the U.N. Security Council chambers overshadowed her message earlier in the day about gender equality. A throng of cameras and reporters, many waiting for hours to get their credentials, were there only to hear her comments about the e-mail controversy.
Clinton said she used a private e-mail server that was installed in her home originally for the use of former president Bill Clinton.
Hillary Clinton insisted that there were “numerous safeguards” in place and there were “no security breaches.” Clinton said personal e-mails were discarded and added the server would remain private.
Shortly before Clinton’s news conference, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki announced the agency will make 55,000 pages of Clinton’s e-mails available on a website after a review that could take months. “We will … release in one batch at the end of that review to ensure that standards are consistently applied,” Psaki said.
Separately, 300 pages of e-mails provided to the House Select Committee on Benghazi will also be reviewed and released before the entire set is available, Psaki said. The department has said repeatedly that Clinton’s use of a private e-mail account was not prohibited as long as she kept records.
Clinton said that even if she had used two e-mail accounts, it would still have been her responsibility to determine which of her personal e-mails were work-related and needed to be preserved.
Republicans have demanded an investigation. The House Select Committee on Benghazi — which is investigating the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. compound in Libya — has subpoenaed Clinton and the State Department individually for the e-mails it does not yet have.
Following Clinton’s news conference, Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said:
“Secretary Clinton didn’t hand over her emails out of the goodness of her heart – she was forced to by smart, determined, and effective oversight by the House Select Committee on Benghazi. Her press conference raised more questions than it answered, and the American people deserve the truth.”
President Obama exchanged e-mails with Clinton while she served in in his Cabinet, the White House has said.
“We have made clear that part of the security precautions we take around that (Obama) e-mail account is not talking about it much publicly,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said.
While Democrats have said the Clinton controversy is overblown, some had called on her to speak out. “It’s only fair to say to Hillary Clinton, ‘Tell us your side of the story,’ ” Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democratic leader, said on MSNBC. “What did you put on this personal e-mail?”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, warned prolonged silence would hurt Clinton.
“She is the leading candidate, whether it be Republican or Democrat … to be the next president,” Feinstein said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press. “And I think she needs to step up and come out and state exactly what the situation is.”
The controversy over the e-mails drew attention away from Clinton’s long-planned speeches this month aimed at women’s rights — a theme that has long expected to be part of her second try for the presidency.
At the United Nations, Clinton was introduced as a speaker as a “future president,” which drew applause from the audience. She recalled her remarks 20 years ago at a landmark U.N. conference, when she proclaimed: “Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.”
Clinton said progress has been made for women, but more needs to be done. “There’s never been a better time to be born female,” she said.