- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 26, 2015

Republican presidential contenders blasted Hillary Rodham Clinton’s use of a private email server Sunday ahead of a possible showdown, saying revelations about classified material in some of the messages vindicates doubts about her trustworthiness.

The State Department’s inspector general concluded that some of Mrs. Clinton’s emails held classified information — though they weren’t specifically labeled classified at the time — and that at least one of those emails had been put out in public by the department.

The revelations, contained in 13 pages of memos released Friday by the State Department inspector general, could pose problems for Mrs. Clinton, who had insisted she never trafficked in classified information while using her own assigned email account and server, kept at her New York home, rather than an official, secure email account.

“I think it’s pretty damning that President Obama’s Justice Department has even brought this up — the fact that they are saying that they’re concerned that classified information was transferred,” Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican and presidential contender, told “Fox News Sunday.”

Businessman Donald Trump, the flamboyant presidential candidate who has been topping Republican primary polls, piled on with his trademark candor, saying Mrs. Clinton is effectively disqualified from the race.

“The fact is, what she’s done is criminal. I don’t see how she can run,” Mr. Trump told CNN.

Both the State Department and intelligence community inspectors general looked into Mrs. Clinton’s emails, and concluded information contained in them should be withheld from the public because it should be classified. Their memo urged the State Department to enact better controls to make sure the emails being put out in public weren’t divulging secrets.

Mrs. Clinton has said she set up the separate account on a private server largely out of convenience — though some of her specific reasons, such as not wanting to carry multiple phones, have proved dubious — and her office has said she did not send or receive classified information on the account.

But the revelation of the account has been a headache for Mrs. Clinton, who is fending off attacks from congressional Republicans investigating her actions in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, and a primary challenge from Sen. Bernard Sanders, a Vermont independent who is seeking the Democratic nomination and drawing huge crowds with his left-populist message.

Republican presidential contenders say the roadblocks in the early throes of her second White House run are the byproducts of her own decisions.

Mr. Trump said her handling of email “is far worse than what General [David H.] Petraeus did, and he’s gone down in disgrace,” referring to the decorated general who resigned as director of the CIA amid allegations he shared classified information during an affair with his biographer.

Until now, Mr. Trump had reserved his sharpest attacks for his fellow Republicans — criticizing the war record of Sen. John McCain, calling Sen. Lindsey Graham a lightweight who wouldn’t be able to find work in the private sector and tossing other barbs at former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Yet Mrs. Clinton would easily defeat Mr. Trump, by 56 percent to 40 percent, in a hypothetical general election, according to a new poll from CNN-ORC, while edging former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush by 5 percentage points and Mr. Walker by 9.

Mrs. Clinton’s supporters have accused congressional Republicans of trying to erode that edge by attacking her role in the wake of the Benghazi attacks and sensationalizing her email arrangement.

The fight spilled onto Capitol Hill over the weekend, as the House Select Committee investigating the Benghazi attacks split along partisan lines over the importance of the inspector general’s move.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican and the panel’s chairman, said committee members on both sides have been aware of concerns about classified emails within the “self-selected record” turned over by Mrs. Clinton. He reiterated his call for Mrs. Clinton to turn over her private server for an independent forensic evaluation.

“Regardless of whether the server is voluntarily relinquished or acquired by other lawful means,” he said, “there is clearly sufficient cause to examine the contents of said server for the presence of other classified information.”

The sides couldn’t even agree this week on whether Mrs. Clinton was set to testify before the committee. Her campaign said she was willing to testify Oct. 22, although the committee said it was still negotiating with her lawyer.

The New York Times, which first reported on the potential email problems, said the State Department and intelligence community inspectors general had referred the matter to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution. The paper printed a correction Friday, retracting the claim of a criminal referral and saying Mrs. Clinton wasn’t specifically targeted in the referral.

“Maybe the heat is getting to everybody,” Mrs. Clinton said at an event in New York City, adding “there have been a lot of inaccuracies.”

For his part, Mr. Trump said he preferred the first version of the Times story.

“It’s been amazing to me, how she’s been protected,” he said.

⦁ Stephen Dinan, David Sherfinski and Maggie Ybarra contributed to this report.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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