Hillary Clinton could confront email controversy this week
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Hillary Clinton plans to address the controversy surrounding her use of a personal email on a private server while serving as America’s top diplomat “as soon as within 48 hours,” sources close to the former secretary of state say.
A Democrat familiar with Hillary Clinton’s communications plan said Clinton is poised to address the email controversy in the coming days — a press conference is the most likely way, though no final decision have been made.
Clinton sources have also told CNN that a sit-down interview is another option on the table as a potential venue to respond to the questions swirling around her.
The Democratic frontrunner for the 2016 presidential nomination is facing mounting pressure to explain herself, with members of her own party saying they don’t expect the controversy to die down. The White House even appeared to fan the flames on Monday, when President Barack Obama’s spokesman said the President had exchanged emails with Clinton on her personal address.
Experts have said it doesn’t appear Clinton violated federal laws, but that hasn’t stemmed the issue that has become more about bad optics and politics than any actual wrongdoing.
The controversy threatens to consume Clinton for a second straight week, and has already stepped on what Clinton aides and foundation officials hoped would be a few days focused on Clinton’s “No Ceilings Initiative” aimed at leveling the playing field for women and girls.
That hasn’t happened, though. Media attention around Monday’s event was more heightened than usual, but the focus was on the emails.
Outside the event, reporters lined up in vain to shout questions at both Hillary and Bill Clinton. Neither responded to repeated inquiries about the email controversy.
But Clinton is preparing to do so this week, sources close to her told CNN.
The explanation Clinton will offer will show that her email use was “completely innocent” — and that she never handled classified information through her private address, the sources said.
That’s in part because the State Department has two separate email systems, with one designated specifically for classified information — and she couldn’t access it over her BlackBerry, the sources said.
Clinton’s plan appears to involve laying blame at the feet of the State Department for its response to questions about its email systems and policies, given the spin coming from those close to her.
The need for Clinton to directly address the email story arose when it became clear that people at State had “botched” their attempts to explain it, one of the sources close to Clinton said.
The State Department did not respond to CNN requests for comment on the matter.
Clinton has turned over 55,000 pages of emails to the department, and tweeted last week that she’s asked to have those released. But the former secretary of state hasn’t addressed key questions about transparency: If she and her staff are refereeing their own determinations on what to turn over and what to keep private, how can it be verified that she’s turned over every email related to her official duties?
The State Department, meanwhile, says Clinton did not personally use its classified email system and that classified information was relayed to her through means other than email — such as her staff bringing it to her.
Congressional Republicans are pushing for access to Clinton’s emails. A House panel led by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, has already subpoenaed her emails in its search for documents related to the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi.
Clinton spoke Monday at a “No Ceilings” event that was a joint effort by the Gates Foundation and the Clinton Foundation promoting opportunities and representation for girls. She joined Chelsea Clinton, Melinda Gates, Malala Yousafzai to roll out a year-long report about women’s participation.
Clinton’s team considered addressing the controversy there, but they decided against it because it was a joint event and discussing the emails there would have distracted from its purpose, Clinton sources said.
Clinton’s only other event of the week is a speech at a United Nations women’s event on Tuesday, though that might also be a problematic place to talk about the emails, multiple sources tell CNN.