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Clinton defends herself on email; says she won’t hand over server

Clinton, at Tuesday's press conference.
Clinton, at Tuesday's press conference.
Don Emmert / AFP / Getty
Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

  1. In a press conference Tuesday, Hillary Clinton explained for the first time why she used a personal email account for State Department business. It was, she said, "for convenience," and because she "thought it would be easier to carry one device."
  2. Clinton said she would not hand over her email server to a third party to verify whether all her work-related emails were properly disclosed. "The server contains personal communications from my husband and me," she said, adding that it would "remain private."
  3. She added that her team's review found that about half of the 60,000 emails sent and received while she was Secretary were work-related. The other half were personal, and she said she "chose not to keep" them.
  4. Clinton argued that her use of personal email fully complied with the existing laws and regulations, and that she "went above and beyond" when it came to disclosure.
  5. On the issue of security, Clinton said the email system — which was set up for her husband — had "numerous safeguards" and that "there were no security breaches." She added that she didn't email "any classified material to anyone."

The controversy will likely continue for now

Clinton's press conference — her first one in years — felt like a return to the 1990s. Clinton stood, defending herself against another news cycle–driven scandal, and her attitude toward a prying press was clear.

She was adamant that she had done nothing wrong. She argued that she "fully complied with every rule that I was governed by," and said the public would soon be able to see all her work-related emails, when they're posted by the State Department.

As for the emails Clinton didn't hand over? No, she said, she has no intention of handing over her server that contains personal and private emails with her husband and close friends, thank you very much.

This doesn't imply that there was, necessarily, anything nefarious that Clinton has chosen not to disclose in this case. All politicians and federal officials have personal email accounts and use them for personal (and political) things. Gov. Jeb Bush also chose exactly which of his emails from a personal account were work-related and which ones he didn't feel like handing over to the state of Florida.

Additionally, as Ezra Klein writes, most government email accounts usually end up being used for "routine business and anodyne communication," with more sensitive topics instead discussed on the phone or in person.

Yet Clinton's argument that she used her personal email purely for convenience rather than a desire to avoid disclosure is difficult to believe. She has a long history of wanting to hold paperwork close — during her husband's presidency, she repeatedly argued internally against releasing various documents. And when she first took office as secretary of state, there had just been a high-profile scandal in which Bush administration officials used personal email for public business, as Max Fisher recounts.

Overall, it doesn't seem that Clinton's statement will do much to quiet down the controversy in the near term — the press was, generally, unsatisfied with her answers and unconvinced by her rationale. But for the scandal to have serious staying power in a way that might influence voters, some more specific indication of wrongdoing will likely have to come out.