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Clinton trying to put likely presidential bid back on track

AP , Wednesday 11 Mar 2015
Former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a news conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York March 10, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)

Hillary Rodham Clinton tried to get the rollout of her likely presidential campaign back on track by admitting she should have used a government email address while serving as the top US diplomat, an admission that sought to quell a political furor that even some Democratic allies said she could no longer avoid.

The focus on Clinton's emails has jumbled what had been expected to be a smooth glide toward the kickoff of her presidential campaign next month. The former secretary of state has been considered the overwhelmingly favorite for the Democratic nomination, even though she has not officially entered the race.

Clinton had planned to spend March promoting her work on women's equality, a signature issue for someone who could become the first female US president. Instead, questions about her email habits have dominated her activities in the past week, following revelations that she used a personal email account at the State Department and did so via a private server kept at her home in suburban New York.

The practice has raised questions about whether she was complying with regulations requiring government officials to preserve written communications involving official business.

During a news conference Tuesday at the United Nations, after she had delivered a previously scheduled speech on women's rights, Clinton pledged that all her work-related email would be made public "for everyone to see." But she also acknowledged that she deleted tens of thousands of emails related to personal matters. She refused calls from Republicans to turn over the email server she kept at her home to an independent reviewer.

"The server contains personal communications from my husband and me, and I believe I have met all of my responsibilities, and the server will remain private," Clinton told reporters who crammed into a hallway to ask questions at her first news conference in more than two years.

While Democrats have dismissed the notion that Clinton's emails are something voters will care about come Election Day 2016, her silence — aside from a late-night tweet sent last week — had led several to Democratic senators to urge her to tell her side of the story.

For Republicans, the email controversy represents an opportunity to tarnish Clinton's image at a time polls show her leading all the likely Republican presidential contenders.

Not long after Clinton spoke, Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, the chairman of a House panel investigating the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, said he was "left with more questions than answers" and that he planned to call Clinton to appear before his committee at least twice.

Gowdy said one appearance from Clinton would be needed to "clear up" her role in using personal email, while the second would be to answer questions related to the Benghazi attacks that killed the US ambassador and three other Americans. Republicans have criticized the Obama administration's handling of the attacks and its aftermath, centering much of their complaints on Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time.

Clinton said Tuesday she had exchanged about 60,000 emails in her four years as President Barack Obama's top diplomat, about half of which were work-related. None contained classified information, she said, and her private email system did not suffer any security breaches.

But since the emails were sent to and from her personal server, there is no way to independently verify her assertion they were, as she said, "within the scope of my personal privacy and that particularly of other people."

Clinton does appear to have violated what the Obama White House has called "very specific guidance" that officials should use government email to conduct business. She said that in hindsight it would have been "smarter" to use a government account as well as her personal one.

Republicans needled Clinton for her explanation that she used the private email account out of "convenience" — a way to avoid carrying one device for work emails and a second for personal messages. They pointed to Clinton's appearance last month in California's Silicon Valley, when she said she uses multiple electronic devices.

"I have an iPad, a mini-iPad, an iPhone and a BlackBerry," Clinton said.

Clinton brushed off suggestions that the email controversy might hurt a presidential campaign.

"I trust the American people to make their decisions about political and public matters," she said.

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