Contrite Clinton Pledges Email Explanations

Contrite Clinton Pledges Email Explanations
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“It certainly doesn’t make me feel very good,” Hillary Clinton conceded Friday on national TV, reacting to Americans’ descriptions of her as a “liar” and “untrustworthy” in a recent survey.

The fact that Clinton was willing to be interviewed by MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell about her private email server spoke volumes about her discomfort with the topic. It was the third national television appearance Clinton has made since announcing her bid for the presidency in April, this one leading into the Labor Day weekend. (Previously she sat down with CNN and Univision, as well as some local media outlets.)

Absent was Clinton’s impatient demeanor with the questions about her emails and private server, and gone were her repeated assertions that no voters or Democratic supporters mention emails to her as a topic of concern. 

“I’m going to answer these questions,” Clinton said as Mitchell launched into a list of queries about what the government expected a secretary of state to do with work emails, and what Clinton elected to do, and why. 

The candidate did not answer directly whether any aides or authorities advised her not to use a personal email account while conducting official business at the State Department. Conceding her email preference “wasn’t the best choice,” Clinton said she used a personal email account as a New York senator and continued communicating with a private email address at State because she was so busy in her new role in President Obama’s cabinet.

“I didn’t really stop and think,” she told Mitchell. 

That explanation will arise again when she testifies publicly before the House Select Committee on Benghazi Oct. 22. Records show her private communications system via clintonemail.com was registered as she prepared for her Senate confirmation hearing in January 2009.

Some House members believe Clinton gave her email system careful consideration when she left Capitol Hill and prepared to move inside the executive branch, where federal records are subject to Freedom of Information Act requests and other scrutiny. Senators own their records, for example, and Clinton sent hers to the Clinton Library in Little Rock, Ark., where they are stored by the National Archives and Records Administration, but remain under her sole control.

Clinton passed up an opportunity Friday to publicly apologize for her email habits, which she continued to defend as within the law and “fully above board” when it came to State Department requirements.

“At the end of the day, I’m sorry if this has been confusing to people,” she said. “It’s confusing and that’s why I’m trying to do a better job of explaining.” 

Some House and Senate lawmakers are also exploring the unusual employment arrangements afforded Clinton’s closest aide, Huma Abedin, while at State. Clinton said, “I was not directly involved with that,” when asked by Mitchell about Abedin’s overlapping work for the government while also being paid as a private consultant for a firm created by President Bill Clinton’s top aides at the Clinton Foundation. Clinton said Abedin’s employment arrangements were approved by the State Department. Her aide remains a top campaign adviser and travels with the candidate. 

Clinton and her campaign team have played defense during a roller coaster summer that upended conventional wisdom about a crowded Republican field in which Donald Trump now leads in polls, and as Democrats watched  Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders surge in popularity in New Hampshire and Iowa. 

When asked whether her second bid for her party’s nomination might be slipping away, as it did in 2008, Clinton replied, “I don’t feel that.”

Should Vice President Biden also seek the nomination this fall, Clinton’s calculus about the strength of her organization, her prodigious fundraising and her personal narrative would be tested, and her campaign advisers have not disputed that the competition is entering a new phase.

Clinton, who continues to lead the Democratic field nationally, is again tapping her biography and experience as a woman, plus endorsements from popular state and local politicians, to woo female voters. And she approved additional expenditures in Iowa for campaign advertising in September and October, the Des Moines Register reported. Sanders polls ahead of Clinton in New Hampshire.

The first Democratic candidate debate is scheduled Oct. 13 in Nevada, hosted by CNN.

Clinton eagerly blasted Trump as “an unfortunate development in American politics,” but she was gentle while speaking about “my friend Joe Biden.”

The vice president explained Thursday during an event in Atlanta that the key factor shaping his decision about entering the race is his family’s well being following the death of his son, Beau, from cancer in May. 

“If I can reach that conclusion and we can do it in a fashion that would still make it viable, I would not hesitate to do it,” Biden said while describing his gauge of their emotional strength. “But I have to be honest with you and everyone who’s come to me.  I can’t look you straight in the eye and say now I know I can do it.” 

Clinton said the vice president deserved the “space and respect” to weigh his decision on his own timetable, adding, “I just wish the best for he and his family.”

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com.  Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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