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In New Responses, Hillary Clinton Insists Email Setup A Matter Of 'Convenience'

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton spoke to supporters at the Civic Center Auditorium in San Francisco Thursday.
Brendan Smialowski
AFP/Getty Images
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton spoke to supporters at the Civic Center Auditorium in San Francisco Thursday.

Hillary Clinton said she decided to employ a private email server "for the purpose of convenience" in early 2009 and doesn't remember "specific consultations" about using that account to conduct State Department business, the Democratic presidential nominee told lawyers in material related to a Freedom of Information Act case released Thursday.

In written responses to 25 questions from the conservative group Judicial Watch, Clinton largely hewed to her prior statements about the email controversy, often saying she did not recall details about the arrangement. Clinton signed the court filing "under penalty of perjury" on October 10, one day after her debate with Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have tangled with Judicial Watch for more than 20 years.

Some of that friction showed in her answers over 20-odd pages, littered with objections. At times, the candidate accused the conservative nonprofit of misstating her earlier remarks.

On occasion, she declined to answer questions about the vulnerability of her emails to hacking on the ground that it exceeded the boundaries of what a judge ordered earlier this year. And she cited attorney-client privilege in refusing to answer a question about her 11-hour testimony to a congressional panel in October 2015 that 90 to 95 percent of her emails "were in the State's system."

Among her responses:

  • Clinton said she told the CBS television program 60 Minutes that using personal email would be "convenient" because "former Secretary of State Colin Powell advised her in 2009 about his use of a personal email account to conduct official State Department business."
  • She said she did not recall "being advised, cautioned, or warned" that using a personal account would break federal record keeping laws. Instead, she said she thought her email would be captured because it was sent to other government employees on their "state.gov" accounts. She added that she "does not recall" being warned about hacking of her email during her tenure at the State Department.
  • Clinton said a November 2010 exchange with her close aide Huma Abedin about getting a separate address or device "was triggered by a problem with the State Department's telephone system." She said after the correspondence, officials at State changed the way they notified her about telephone calls from family and friends, presumably resolving the issue.
  • She said she did not recall a June 28, 2011, cable to State Department workers that instructed them to secure personal email accounts and advised against using personal accounts for official business. "The presence of Secretary Clinton's name at the end of the cable was a formality and it did not mean that she sent, authored or reviewed the cable," she wrote.
  • Clinton also "does not recall" destroying business emails "or instructing anyone else to do so after she left office and before her attorneys reviewed" messages in her account. Clinton said she doesn't have "personal knowledge" of the process her lawyers used to review messages and send them onto the State Department.
  • The Justice Department closed an investigation into Clinton's email practices with no charges against her or any of her aides. FBI Director James Comey found she had been "extremely careless" but concluded "no reasonable prosecutor" would have sought criminal charges. But that decision remains deeply unpopular among Republicans in Congress and with Trump, who is vying with Clinton to become president.

    In the course of the investigation, the FBI recovered thousands of Clinton's emails during her tenure at the State Department. Many of those messages will be released in batches over the next month.

    Clinton has said using one email account was a "mistake" she will not repeat. But it is also one she is unlikely to shake for the time being, if conservative watchdogs get their way.

    "We're pleased that we now have a little bit more information about Hillary Clinton's email practices," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said. "Our lawyers will be reviewing the responses closely. Mrs. Clinton's refusal to answer many of the questions in a clear and straightforward manner further reflects disdain for the rule of law."

    Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.