Clinton Plays More Defense on Emails

The former secretary of State acknowledged Sunday that the steady “drip, drip, drip” of bad headlines isn’t good for her campaign, but she denies she was trying to hide anything.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a community forum on substance abuse Laconia, New Hampshire, September 17, 2015.
Darren McCollester AFP/Getty
Sept. 27, 2015, 9:39 a.m.

Hillary Clinton again defended her use of a private email server in an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday morning, acknowledging the slow “drip, drip, drip” of bad headlines is affecting her standing in the race and saying it’s up to voters whether they will be swayed by them.

“I have tried, to the best of my ability, to be able to respond,” Clinton told NBC’s Chuck Todd. “And if people are uncertain, if they have concerns about these questions around the emails, it is their choice to say, ‘That’s going to influence how I think about the election.’”

Clinton said she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, had faced similar investigations and accusations during his tenure in the White House—but that the voters of New York “overlooked” them and still elected her to the Senate in 2000.

“Now I have, as you’re rightly pointing, been involved from the receiving side in a lot of these accusations. In fact, as you might remember during the ‘90s, there were a bunch of them,” Clinton said. “And when I ran for the Senate, the voters of New York, they overlooked all of that, and they looked at my record, and they looked at what I would do for them, and I was elected senator after going through years of this kind of back and forth.”

The Sunday show appearance—her first time on Meet the Press as a candidate, and her second Sunday show appearance this month—came after a week of particularly tough headlines for Clinton, in which the time line of her private email account use came into question. Clinton and her team have long said she began using the account in March 2009, but a cache of emails with Gen. David Petraeus show she was sending emails from it as early as January 28 of that year. Meanwhile, Clinton’s favorability ratings and poll numbers have dropped significantly since she announced her campaign in the spring.

Responding to a question about the time-line issue, Clinton said there was a “transition period” to the private account. “You know, I wasn’t that focused on my email account,” she said.

When Todd followed up, asking how she already had a private server ready if she wasn’t “focused” on her email account, Clinton said the server she used is the same one her husband’s personal office had already been using.

“It was already there, it had been there for years,” she said. “It was sitting there in the basement. It was not any trouble at all.”

Asked whether she had used the private server to avoid congressional scrutiny and Freedom of Information Act requests, Clinton said that idea is “totally ridiculous.”

“That never crossed my mind,” she said. “And in fact, since more than 90 percent of my work-related emails were on the system, they are subject to FOIA or any other request.”

Clinton’s frustration with the storyline has been apparent at several points. At a press conference in Las Vegas last month, Clinton responded to repeated questions about whether she had wiped her email server by quipping: “What, like with a cloth or something?”

“Now, I was a little sarcastic in one exchange with reporters—for which I’m sorry, guys,” she told Todd on Sunday.

And when Todd asked her a question about “another explanation” for why she opted to use the private server, Clinton replied: “Another conspiracy theory?”

Todd also asked Clinton about her shifting positions on issues such as the Keystone XL pipeline—which she announced last week that she opposes—and same-sex marriage.

“I can just tell you that I am not someone who stakes out a position and holds it regardless of the evidence or regardless of the way I perceive what’s happening around me,” Clinton said.

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