Hillary Clinton, Taking Questions About Her Email, Says She 'Opted for Convenience'

Clinton addressed reporters Tuesday. Clinton addressed reporters Tuesday. Richard Drew/AP

Hillary Clinton gave the public more than a tweet about her email controversy on Tuesday. She gave them an explanation.

"When I got to work as secretary of State, I opted for convenience to use my personal email account, which was allowed by the State Department, because I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two," she said, referring to the use of one mobile phone to check her email. "Looking back, it would have been better if I'd simply used a second email account and carried a second phone, but at the time, this didn't seem like an issue."

Clinton spoke at a highly anticipated Tuesday press conference that clocked in at just under 21 minutes, after keynoting a Women's Empowerment Principles event at the United Nations in New York. The room she spoke in resembled a mosh pit, with dozens of reporters, along with 20-some cameras, packed inside. The former secretary of State appeared undaunted by the barrage of questions throughout the press conference. She opened with comments about the Clinton Foundation's work to advance women's rights, a nod to her preceding speech and a thinly veiled suggestion to the press to focus on something other than her emails.

Clinton said she responded immediately to a request for her emails by the State Department in October, and sent 55,000 pages worth of emails to the agency. After reviewing which emails to send to State, Clinton said she deleted personal correspondence. "I chose not to keep my private, personal emails—emails about planning Chelsea's wedding or my mother's funeral arrangements, condolence notes to friends, as well as yoga routines, family vacations—the other things you typically find in inboxes. No one wants their personal emails made public, and I think most people understand that and respect that privacy."

Clinton said she didn't exchange emails about classified government information using her personal account. "I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material," she said. "I''m certainly well aware of the classification requirements and did not send classified material."

She also said the "vast majority" of her work emails were sent to government employees at their government addresses, which means that they were recorded and preserved on government servers. 

Clinton's remarks come more than a week after a New York Times report revealed she exclusively used a personal email account—and not an official .gov address—to conduct government business as secretary of State. She also had a personal server set up in her home. Such email use may have violated federal laws requiring officials' correspondence within an agency to be recorded and preserved, and potentially exposed sensitive government information to outside security threats. Administration officials are allowed to use private email accounts on the job, but they have to forward all those messages to a government account, too. The Times reported that Clinton's camp didn't start reviewing and sending emails to State per the agency's request until two months ago. Clinton said Tuesday that she reviewed and sent emails to State "right away."

As for what State received, that was up to Clinton's own discretion. "For any government employee, it is that government employee's responsibility to determine what's personal and what's work related," she said.

Clinton said that her home server, which was set up for her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and contains the couple's personal correspondence, will remain private. Everything on it is safe, too, she said. "It had numerous safeguards," Clinton said. "It was on property guarded by the Secret Service, and there were no security breaches."

Clinton stayed quiet in the week after the news broke, save for one tweet saying she wants "the public to see my email." Her silence has left the rest of Washington to write the narrative surrounding the controversy, and even some Democrats to wonder whether anything Clinton could say now would make any meaningful impact.

The last time Clinton engaged the press like this was five months ago, during a political event in Iowa. The fact that she was holding a press conference at all to address the email controversy showed her (eventual) acceptance of the fact that the story was not going to go away on its own. Clinton's decision to take questions suggested a twofold strategy for handling the fallout: She could use the questions to further deny any wrongdoing, or point to them as examples of a scandal-hungry media that wanted to pin something the former secretary of State ahead of an exceedingly likely 2016 campaign.

Clinton also spoke out on the possible nuclear deal coming between Iran and the U.S., saying an open letter 47 Republican senators sent to Iran's leaders warning that a deal would not outlast Obama's presidency was "out of step with the best traditions of American leadership.

"And one has to ask: What was the purpose of this letter?" Clinton added. "There appear to be two logical answers: Either these senators were trying to be helpful to the Iranians or harmful to the commander in chief in the midst of high-stakes, international diplomacy."

The question-and-answer session with reporters began with a Turkish television reporter, who asked Clinton if she thought she would be receiving the same level of scrutiny over the emails if she were a man. Clinton didn't tackle that question, but said she "saw it as a matter of convenience" to use her personal email account to conduct both personal and work-related matters.

Clinton didn't seem fazed about the contents of her State emails reaching the public's eyes. "I feel like once the American public begins to see the emails, they will have an unprecedented insight into a high-government official's daily communications, which I think will be quite interesting," she said.

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