Clinton Apologizes as Email Controversy Deepens

Clinton Apologizes as Email Controversy Deepens
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Hillary Clinton said, “I’m sorry” Tuesday during questioning about her controversial email preferences.

Her campaign hopes her about-face can help halt a precipitous slide in her poll numbers and quiet nervous Democrats who see the email storyline dogging the party’s assumed front-runner into the fall.

Since March, the email drama has competed with Clinton’s favored campaign messages and whittled away her once-commanding lead over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in Iowa and New Hampshire, according to numerous polls. Significant percentages of respondents say Clinton is not trustworthy or is not telling the truth.

But her contrition – Clinton also told ABC News she made a “mistake” and took “responsibility” for her actions – came one day after she told the Associated Press she did nothing illegal or improper with her emails as secretary of state and did not need to apologize. She repeated that argument Tuesday, noting the State Department and the intelligence agencies disagree about assessments of classified information in emails she sent or received that were not marked classified at the time.

The Republican National Committee accused Clinton of insincerity.

“The only thing Hillary Clinton regrets is that she got caught and is dropping in the polls, not the fact her secret email server left classified information exposed to the Russians and Chinese,” said spokeswoman Allison Moore, adding the former secretary “cannot be trusted in the White House.”

Clinton has said in a series of interviews, including with MSNBC Friday, that she wants to be “as transparent” as possible while answering questions she describes as perplexing and confusing to the uninitiated.

“I’m sorry that it has raised all these questions,” she repeated Tuesday in a voice that was raspy from over-use.

She will appear on NBC’s Ellen DeGeneres program Thursday, and on Wednesday, Clinton will discuss the Iran nuclear agreement during a Brookings Institution event.

On Oct. 22, Clinton will testify publicly before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, where lawmakers intend to question her about her communications and the private server system she established for what she has said was “convenience.”

Her campaign theme Tuesday was intended to be a policy push to restore integrity and trust to the campaign finance system, but that agenda was not central to the ABC News interview. Her policy prescriptions, from debt-free college to combatting substance abuse and mental health challenges across the country, have been overshadowed by her emails in recent national media coverage.

Clinton’s communications practices and whether she sent or received classified information – plus Sanders’ rising poll numbers and Vice President Biden’s musing about seeking the nomination – have collided into what her campaign advisers call “headwinds.”

As Clinton touted her determination to be transparent, her successor, Secretary of State John Kerry, on Tuesday announced the creation of a position to handle the surge of Freedom of Information requests and court-ordered demands for the former secretary’s 55,000 pages of work emails. Kerry named retired State Department consular affairs assistant secretary Janice Jacobs as a new “transparency coordinator,” but her appointment attracted immediate criticism from Republicans because she donated $2,700 to the Hillary Clinton campaign in June.

A department spokesman said it was unclear whether Kerry knew about the donation when he named Jacobs. The former senior foreign service officer told AP she contributed to Clinton’s campaign before she knew she would be asked to return to government service. 

Asked by ABC News if she can “survive” the pushback and criticism buffeting her second bid for the presidency, Clinton replied, “Yes, of course I can.” She grew emotional speaking about her late mother, Dorothy Rodham, and said campaigning for the White House “really is hard” and demands much physically, spiritually and emotionally, “24/7.”

She repeated her reason for running. “I cherish and love this country,” she said. “I’ve had a perfectly fine life not being president.” 

Without mentioning President Obama or the GOP field, Clinton said the downtrodden and marginalized in America “need a leader who cares about them again.”

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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