Obama: Clinton Emails Didn't Breach National Security

Obama: Clinton Emails Didn't Breach National Security
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Hillary Clinton’s private email server and her decision to communicate about State Department business outside the federal government’s email system posed no national security threat, but were “a mistake,” President Obama said during a CBS “60 Minutes” interview broadcast Sunday night.

Although Clinton’s emails are the subject of ongoing inquiries within three branches of government, and despite the intelligence community’s determination that classified information appeared in communications Clinton received and sent during Obama’s first term, the president concluded that “this is not a situation in which America’s national security was endangered.”

Without citing evidence for his conclusions in advance of any public determinations from the FBI or other authorities making the inquiries, Obama said, “We don’t get the impression that, here, there was purposely efforts to hide something or to squirrel away information.”

The president did not identify the “we” arriving at such an impression.

He directed additional questions to the candidate.

Clinton’s email communications deemed work-related and devoid of classified information are being released publicly in whole or in part by the State Department on a rolling basis to comply with a federal judge’s order. The FBI is examining emails from 2009 to Clinton’s departure as secretary of state in 2013, as well as the private email system she maintained with help from IT specialists while she was in Obama’s cabinet. The FBI’s focus is on the security of the information and its circulation via the Internet.

The president’s relaxed defense boosted Clinton’s arguments that she did not run afoul of the law, even if her disclosures of information were slow, as the president said they were. His remarks erected a valuable shield around the national frontrunner ahead of the first Democratic Party presidential candidate debate on Oct. 13, and just 11 days before she steps away from the campaign trail to testify about her emails and other matters to members of the Republican-led House Select Committee on Benghazi.

Clinton continues to face unfavorable voter assessments and growing complaints among registered voters that she is a politician who shaves the truth, according to a CBS News poll conducted Oct. 4-8 and released Sunday. A record 53 percent of registered voters have an unfavorable view of the former secretary, and 61 percent said she is not honest and trustworthy, the CBS poll found.

Obama said some of Clinton’s detractors “ginned up” for political gain her use of a private email server, about which he was unaware at the time, he repeated. The president commended the former New York senator for admitting, albeit slowly, her mistake. He said her evident reluctance to be transparent as the controversy escalated this spring served to complicate her bid for the White House, a fact she now concedes.

Obama said it is “important for her to answer these questions.”

Asked about Vice President Joe Biden’s pending decision whether to challenge Clinton and the rest of the Democratic field for the 2016 nomination, the president repeated his praise for Biden’s “great work,” and said his former running mate should be allowed to make an important personal decision.

Obama said historians will regard Biden as “one of the most consequential” vice presidents, but he conceded any influential vice president thinks about holding the top job.

“I don’t think there’s any politician at the national level who has not thought about being the president,” Obama said, “and if you’re sitting right next to the president in every meeting, and you know, wrestling with these issues, then I’m sure he’s saying to himself, `I could do a really good job.’”

Asked if he believes he could win re-election if he could run for a third term, Obama said without hesitation, “Yes, I do.”

Asked about GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, the president called the real estate mogul “the classic reality-TV character” and “a great publicity seeker.”

“I don’t think he’ll end up being president of the United States,” Obama predicted, nevertheless conceding that Trump “tapped into something that’s real” in the Republican Party, including “anti-immigrant sentiment.”

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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