Hillary Clinton told MSNBC on Friday that she regretted not using a traditional government email account when she was secretary of state, but she maintained that she did nothing wrong. “I certainly wish that I had made a different choice, and I know why the American people have questions about it,” Clinton said. But she asserted that her use of a personal email address was “fully aboveboard” and “allowed by the State Department.”
Since March, the Democratic presidential front-runner’s campaign has been dogged by questions over her use of a private email server based in her house. The questions have centered on whether she complied with the government’s policies on handling classified information and answering public records requests, specifically in light of the disclosure that the server’s data has been deleted.
In the interview Friday, Clinton said that “people in the government knew I was using a personal account,” and claimed that “others who had been in high official positions had as well.” Still, Clinton said she should have used a government email account for State Department business and a private one for personal matters.
"At the end of the day, I am sorry that this has been confusing to people and has raised a lot of questions, but there are answers to all these questions," she said. “And I take responsibility, and it wasn’t the best choice.”
Until recently, Clinton’s campaign sought to dismiss any concerns about her email usage. Two weeks ago, when a reporter asked her about the email server being wiped clean, Clinton responded: "What, like with a cloth or something?" She then walked away shrugging.
That performance generated a stinging rebuke from many of her allies, who criticized the campaign’s response to the email controversy in interviews with the New York Times.
On Monday, the State Department released 7,000 pages of emails from Clinton’s tenure there, including 150 messages that were redacted to conceal information deemed classified. Clinton’s campaign has argued it was not inappropriate to send those messages through her email system, because the details considered classified had not yet been categorized that way.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner would not say Monday whether Clinton followed protocols for handling classified information, telling reporters: “'I'm just not going to answer that question.”
In her interview with MSNBC on Friday, Clinton stated definitively: “I did not send or receive any material marked 'classified.' ”
This week, one of her top aides testified about Clinton’s handling of emails at the State Department in a closed-door hearing held by the House Select Committee on Benghazi, Libya, which is probing the deadly Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Embassy there. At the same time, it was reported that a staffer who helped set up the email server had declined to answer questions before the committee, asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
The disclosures this week appear to have rattled major Democratic donors. The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the campaign has shifted into “damage control mode” and is working to assure donors that Clinton will move past the controversy unscathed.