Hillary Clinton reiterates email use was a ‘mistake’ as State Department reopens probe
WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the State Department reopens its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state, Clinton reiterated on Friday that her use of personal email was a “mistake” that she would “certainly not do again.”
In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Clinton expressed “relief” that a Justice Department investigation did not result in criminal charges, and also suggested that she expects the State Department to take into consideration the Justice Department’s conclusions.
“It was a mistake for me to use personal email. And I regret that. I am certainly relieved and glad that the investigation has concluded but I also know how important it is to make sure everybody understands that I would certainly not do that again,” Clinton said.
Clinton noted on the State Department probe: “I assume they will pursue whatever process they think is appropriate and I also assume that they will pay very close attention to what the findings were of the Justice Department investigation.”
Clinton, who has in the past stated that she “never sent or received” classified materials on her personal email server, appeared to soften that language on Friday. “I certainty did not believe that I received or sent any material that was classified,” she told Blitzer.
The Republican National Committee quickly jumped on Clinton for the remark.
“Even now, Hillary Clinton is unwilling to tell the American people the truth about her illicit email server that broke the rules and put national security at risk,” RNC spokesman Michael Short said in a statement. “The only thing Hillary Clinton seems to be clarifying is that she is determined to continue misleading voters and obfuscating the facts about her reckless conduct as secretary of state.”
The State Department’s announcement on Thursday was expected, as the department had suspended its probe while it was waiting for the Justice Department to complete its criminal investigation. But the State Department’s announcement serves as a reminder that the email issue will continue to dog Clinton’s campaign.
The State Department will now focus on whether current employees involved in handling or sending and receiving Clinton’s emails should get disciplinary action, which could range from a reprimand to losing their security clearance. Former employees found to be mishandling classified information could also have notes put in their file that could also have consequences if they seek future employment with the government and need security clearance.
Several senior State Department officials told CNN the investigation is a review of how various emails were handled. Investigators will determine the degree to which email traffic was classified at the time it was sent, and any determination about action against an individual would only come after a consideration about the emails themselves.
“Given the Department of Justice has now made its announcement, the State Department intends to conduct its internal review,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. “I cannot provide specific information about the department’s review, including what information we are evaluating. We will aim to be as expeditious as possible, but we will not put artificial deadlines on the process. Our goal will be to be as transparent as possible about our results, while complying with our various legal obligations. I’m not able to make commitments today one way or the other about what we will be able to disclose.”
State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said in April it was “standard practice” for the department to pause on its review during the law enforcement investigation.
Earlier this week, FBI Director James Comey recommended that no criminal charges be brought in the case, a finding that the Justice Department accepted on Wednesday. Comey was the subject of a lengthy grilling on Capitol Hill Thursday as he fielded questions from Republicans about the investigation, with House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz saying he would ask the FBI to probe whether Clinton lied to Congress about her email arrangements.
Republicans are trying other avenues to keep alive the email controversy that has clouded her presidential campaign for months.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, for instance, asked the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to block access to classified briefings for Clinton for the rest of the campaign.
The State Department’s inspector general in May blasted Clinton’s email use, saying that she failed to follow the rules or inform key department staff regarding her use of a private email server.