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In Retrospect, Clinton Says She Should Have Used Separate Emails


And in the first major press conference she's given in two years, Hillary Clinton said she used her personal email account exclusively while she was secretary of state, out of convenience. She said, in retrospect, she should have used two devices, one for official email and one for personal matters. Mrs. Clinton held that press conference at the United Nations yesterday, where she was giving a speech about women and girls. NPR's national political correspondent, Mara Liasson, reports.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: For a former secretary of state about to launch a virtually unopposed bid for her party's presidential nomination, the press conference had an awfully thrown-together feel about it. Her advisers say that in an effort to put the email controversy behind her, Mrs. Clinton herself decided to face a scrum of reporters rather than hold a more controlled one-on-one interview. She began by laying out, quote, "four things I want the public to know." The first was a statement of regret.


HILLARY CLINTON: Looking back, it would have been better if I'd simply used a second email account and carried a second phone. But at the time, this didn't seem like an issue.

LIASSON: Mrs. Clinton added, I thought it would be simpler, but it didn't work out that way. She said the majority of her work emails went to other government officials and therefore were automatically captured and stored by the State Department, as required by law. She tried to address one of the biggest issues, that she herself decided which emails on her private server to turn over and which to keep. She said that at the time, there was no prohibition against private email accounts and that State Department rules give the individual official the responsibility to decide which emails on a private account should be turned over for archiving.


CLINTON: At the end, I chose not to keep my private personal emails - emails about planning Chelsea's wedding or my mother's funeral arrangements, condolence notes to friends, as well as yoga routines, family vacations, the other things you typically find in inboxes. No one wants their personal emails made public. And I think most people understand that and respect that privacy.

LIASSON: She said she never emailed any classified information. Officials say those kinds of communications would have been handled through the State Department's secure cable system. Mrs. Clinton also offered her version of why she turned over her emails only after she left office.


CLINTON: The State Department sent a letter to former secretaries of state - not just to me - asking for some assistance in providing any work-related emails that might be on the personal email.

LIASSON: But Republicans pointed out that it was the House committee investigating Benghazi that asked for her emails, prompting the State Department to reach out to her. The chairman of the committee, South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy, said in a statement that without access to her personal server, there's no way for the State Department to know if it has all the relevant emails. He called on Clinton to turn over the server to a neutral third party, but Mrs. Clinton said that was not going to happen.


CLINTON: I believe I have met all of my responsibilities, and the server will remain private. And I think that the State Department will be able, over time, to release all of the records that were provided.

LIASSON: Democrats who'd been worried about the damage to her campaign said yesterday that while she didn't put the issue behind her, she did take some of the wind out of its sails. And if this controversy was Mrs. Clinton's first test of presidential character, several Democrats said they were relieved she didn't come across as defensive or dismiss the questions as politically motivated. Still, this was the time Clinton had hoped to use to lay the table for her campaign, with a series of speeches on women and girls in Silicon Valley, Washington and then yesterday at the U.N. But that rollout has been overwhelmed by the email controversy - all the more reason, Democrats say, for Clinton to get going and hire a staff that can help her weather this and future problems. Mara Liasson, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson
Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.