Hillary Clinton On Her Emails: “I Am Sorry That This Has Been Confusing To People”

Clinton said her private system “wasn’t the best choice,” but denied charges of wrongdoing.

Hillary Clinton speaks to guests during a campaign event at Tabor Home Vineyards and Winery on Aug. 26 in Baldwin, Iowa.
Scott Olson AFP/Getty
Ben Geman
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Ben Geman
Sept. 4, 2015, 12:47 p.m.

Hil­lary Clin­ton ex­pressed re­gret Fri­day over the fal­lout from her use of a private email sys­tem as sec­ret­ary of State while deny­ing that she be­haved reck­lessly with clas­si­fied in­form­a­tion.

In a na­tion­ally tele­vised in­ter­view on MS­N­BC with An­drea Mitchell, Clin­ton sought to bal­ance open­ness about the top­ic that’s en­gulf­ing her White House cam­paign while also seek­ing to re­fo­cus at­ten­tion on her policy goals and mes­sage.

She is slated to testi­fy Oct. 22 be­fore the House Se­lect Com­mit­tee on Benghazi, which is fo­cus­ing heav­ily on her use of a private email serv­er and per­son­al email ad­dress.

“I am go­ing to an­swer these ques­tions and I am also go­ing to con­tin­ue to talk about what is im­port­ant to the people that I meet about this pres­id­en­tial cam­paign. Be­cause it really is crit­ic­al that we re­new the ba­sic bar­gain of Amer­ica, so that if you work hard you do your part, you can get ahead and pay for col­lege and have equal pay for equal work and all the oth­er im­port­ant is­sues that are on people’s minds,” Clin­ton said.

Later in the roughly 12-minute back-and-forth with Mitchell about the email is­sue, Clin­ton said: “At the end of the day, I am sorry that this has been con­fus­ing to people and has raised a lot of ques­tions.”

“But there are an­swers to all these ques­tions and I will con­tin­ue to provide those an­swers, and those an­swers have been con­firmed and af­firmed by the State De­part­ment and by oth­er gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, and even­tu­ally I will get to testi­fy in pub­lic, and I am sure it will be a long and gruel­ing time there, but all the ques­tions will be answered, and I take re­spons­ib­il­ity and it wasn’t the best choice,” Clin­ton ad­ded.

Still, while Clin­ton said she was sorry about the con­fu­sion that the ar­range­ment has caused people, that came after she twice de­flec­ted ques­tions from Mitchell about wheth­er she was “sorry” about us­ing a private email sys­tem, ini­tially say­ing that she now wished that she had made a dif­fer­ent choice, and the second time reply­ing: “It wasn’t the best choice, and I cer­tainly have said that.”

She re­it­er­ated her cam­paign’s mes­sage that none of the mes­sages that crossed her serv­er were marked as clas­si­fied when they were sent or re­ceived, and said that she was care­ful with the hand­ling of clas­si­fied in­form­a­tion while at State.

The on­go­ing fed­er­al re­view of the roughly 30,000 of her mes­sages un­der the Free­dom of In­form­a­tion Act has led of­fi­cials to re­dact in­form­a­tion now deemed clas­si­fied in 188 re­leased mes­sages so far.

Clin­ton has said she used her private email sys­tem for “con­veni­ence” be­cause it al­lowed her to avoid car­ry­ing one device for per­son­al emails and a second for work-re­lated cor­res­pond­ence.

On Fri­day she said she did not con­sider the top­ic care­fully when she be­came sec­ret­ary of State in 2009. Asked if any­one in her in­ner circle cau­tioned against the email ar­range­ment, Clin­ton replied:  “You know, I was not think­ing a lot when I got in. There was so much work to be done, we had so many prob­lems around the world. I didn’t really stop and think, what kind of email sys­tem will there be.”

Clin­ton last month agreed to have the serv­er turned over to the FBI, which is prob­ing the se­cur­ity of her private email setup.

Clin­ton’s com­ments ar­rive amid fresh polit­ic­al war­fare on the GOP-led House pan­el prob­ing her email ar­range­ment.

Rep. Adam Schiff, a Demo­crat­ic mem­ber of the House Benghazi pan­el, penned a New York Times op-ed that calls for the dis­sol­u­tion of the com­mit­tee, call­ing it a par­tis­an tool to at­tack Clin­ton’s White House can­did­acy.

“A com­mit­tee that can­not tell the Amer­ic­an people what it is look­ing for after 16 months should be shut down. Oth­er­wise, Benghazi will come to be re­membered not for the tragedy that claimed four Amer­ic­an lives, but for the ter­rible ab­use of pro­cess that now bears its name,” writes Schiff, who is the rank­ing Demo­crat on the House Per­man­ent Se­lect Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence.

That drew a lengthy, sharply worded re­buke from Jamal Ware, the com­mit­tee spokes­man for Trey Gowdy, the South Car­o­lina Re­pub­lic­an who leads the pan­el. Ware said Schiff’s call for dis­band­ing the com­mit­tee lacks cred­ib­il­ity.

“It is in­ter­est­ing he made this call con­sid­er­ing Mr. Schiff him­self has only at­ten­ded one of the more than 45 in­ter­views con­duc­ted to date by the Se­lect Com­mit­tee on Benghazi. In fact, save for vot­ing no to cre­ate the com­mit­tee and then at­tend­ing a press event on the now well-dis­proven Demo­crat talk­ing point that all has been ‘asked and answered,’ Mr. Schiff has largely been a mem­ber of the com­mit­tee in ab­sen­tia,” Ware said in an email to re­port­ers de­fend­ing the pan­el’s work.

This week, the com­mit­tee probe of the 2012 Benghazi at­tack and Clin­ton’s email ar­range­ment entered a new phase with closed-door in­ter­views of two mem­bers of Clin­ton’s in­ner­most circle.

On Thursday, pan­el mem­bers ques­tioned Cheryl Mills, a long­time Clin­ton con­fid­ante who was her State De­part­ment chief of staff, for roughly nine hours at the Cap­it­ol. And Fri­day they’re grilling Jake Sul­li­van, who was a top State De­part­ment aide and now a seni­or mem­ber of Clin­ton’s White House cam­paign.

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