Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she will turn her email server over to federal investigators, as a key watchdog confirmed Tuesday that her emails did contain “top secret” material that was even more sensitive than previously disclosed.
Nick Merrill, a spokesman for the former senator and first lady, said she directed her team to give investigators both her server, which she used exclusively for emails during her tenure in the State Department, and a flash drive that her lawyer has, and which also has copies of the messages.
“She pledged to cooperate with the government’s security inquiry, and if there are more questions, we will continue to address them,” Mr. Merrill said.
The decision was announced just hours after I. Charles McCullough III, the inspector general for the intelligence community, said he has concluded two of Mrs. Clinton’s emails met the standard of “top secret/SCI level,” while other messages are still being scrutinized to see how secret they should have been.
Mrs. Clinton had initially said no classified information was sent or received on her server, though she has more recently clarified that only means no material that was officially marked as classified at the time.
Mr. McCullough, in memos to Congress, said that while the information wasn’t marked, it should have been, and should have been protected better.
The inspector general’s latest memo Tuesday was released publicly by Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, who has been begging federal investigators to get a handle on Mrs. Clinton’s emails.
“This information revealed by the inspector general makes it even more important that the FBI and the State Department secure these documents,” Mr. Grassley said. “To date, the two agencies most critical to securing this information have failed to assure the American people that they are taking the necessary steps to protect America’s national security interests.”
Denver media reported Tuesday that the FBI last week visited the Colorado company that helped set up the server Mrs. Clinton used.
The news reports said the FBI is not conducting a formal investigation, but is gathering information — including trying to figure out if the company, Platte River Networks, might have backup tapes with the emails.
Until Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton had rejected requests to turn her server over to an independent party, specifically refusing such a call from Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican and chairman of the Benghazi investigation, who for months had proposed she give the server to the State Department inspector general or to a federal judge.
“It’s about time,” House Speaker John A. Boehner, who had taken the lead in pushing Mrs. Clinton to do more on her emails, said after Mrs. Clinton’s decision. “Secretary Clinton’s previous statements that she possessed no classified information were patently untrue. Her mishandling of classified information must be fully investigated.”
In an interview with Spanish-language network Univision on Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton blamed much of the controversy over her emails on “partisans” who she said the American people would ignore — in particular Judicial Watch, which is one of a number of groups who have been demanding a look at Mrs. Clinton’s emails for years.
“From my perspective the facts are very clear,” she said. “This has all been done in accordance with the rules and the regulations in effect and, you know, I just trust the American people to sort through all of that stuff.”
Mrs. Clinton has previously said she wiped the server clean after going through and deciding which emails were public records she was required to turn back over to the government, so it’s unclear what information may be retrievable.
Meanwhile, the State Department inspector general, who has been working with Mr. McCullough, revealed his investigation has expanded to include whether Mrs. Clinton’s top aides also used private accounts, shielding information from open-records searches and the public.
Mrs. Clinton issued herself an email account on her own server, kept at her home in New York, rather than using a State Department address and regular government servers.
Nearly two years after leaving office, and under pressure from the congressional committee investigating the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack, she returned about 30,000 public records to the State Department, and said she deleted another 32,000 emails from that time that she deemed personal.
The intelligence inspector general has culled through a small sample of the emails and concluded some of them contained information that, while not specifically marked classified, was secret and should not have been handled on an email system without security.
“In response to the above references congressional notification, my office received multiple congressional requests for copies of former Secretary Clinton’s emails containing classified intelligence community (IC) information. These emails, attached hereto, have been properly marked by IC classification officials, and include information classified up to ‘TOP SECRET//SI/TK//NOFORN,’” Mr. McCullough said in his memo to Congress.
Top secret information is deemed to be so sensitive that its release could cause major damage to national security. NOFORN is a designation saying the information is not to be shared with foreign nationals. The other designations denote the type of information contained.
The classified information in Mrs. Clinton’s emails has become a nightmare for the Obama administration, which is under a court order to release her messages, but is struggling to review them and strip out the secret information first — while also keeping to the judge’s schedule.
The State Department missed its July deadline by more than 1,700 pages, and blamed the secret information for the problem.
Trying to get a handle on the situation, the State Department now says it is sharing questionable emails with five different intelligence agencies, giving them a chance to weigh in on what kinds of things should be withheld.
John F. Hackett, the State Department’s top open-records official, told the federal court late last week that they have added the extra step at the behest of Mr. McCullough.
The revelations pose a political problem for Mrs. Clinton, who had said her email arrangement was secure.
Her personal lawyer, David E. Kendall, does have a flash drive with the information, which is stored at his office, and which Mrs. Clinton’s spokesman said will also be turned over to federal investigators.
The State Department had said its people have visited Mr. Kendall’s office and have determined the flash drive is kept in a secure manner.