- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday she has deleted all of her personal emails but vowed she’s turned over anything related to her government business, as she tried addressed the growing controversy for the first time.

Mrs. Clinton, speaking after a speech at the U.N., said she’s “taken unprecedented steps” to release 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department and said it’s up to them to decide what to do with them at this point. But she said she will not turn over her server, and said Americans should trust her judgment as she decided what emails to turn over and what to delete.

She also described her decision to only use a private email account as a matter of convenience.

“I wanted to use just one device for both personal and work emails, instead of two,” she said, adding that emails she sent to other department employees were already stored.

But her explanation rang hollow for Rep. Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican leading the congressional probe into the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, which happened at the end of Mrs. Clinton’s term at the State Department. Mrs. Clinton’s emails have become a focus of that probe.

Mr. Gowdy said both Mrs. Clinton and the State Department have forfeited their right to be considered trustworthy arbiters, since they hid her private account from view for so long.

“That is why I see no choice but for Secretary Clinton to turn her server over to a neutral, detached third-party arbiter who can determine which documents should be public and which should remain private,” said Mr. Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor. “Secretary Clinton alone created this predicament, but she alone does not get to determine its outcome.”

Mrs. Clinton said the law allowed her to maintain a private email account, and she said she believed most of her emails were already captured in official systems because the recipients of her official emails were usually on government accounts.

“I fully complied with every rule,” she said in a 20-minute press conference, belatedly scheduled to follow her speech at the U.N. Conference on Women.

Mrs. Clinton is pondering a bid for Democrats’ 2016 presidential nomination and the email scandal is the latest hiccup she’s faced as she tries to clear hurdles.

In her remarks to the press she also took aim at Republican senators who signed a letter this week addressed to Iran, informing that nation’s leaders that Congress would likely reject a nuclear deal if it isn’t stringent enough. Mrs. Clinton called that either an attempt “to be helpful to the Iranians or harmful to the commander in chief in the midst of high-stakes international diplomacy.” Either way, she said, it was a “discredit” to the Republicans.

But almost all of the questions aimed at Mrs. Clinton related to her personal emails, which came to light in a New York Times report last week.

After seeming to defend Mrs. Clinton last week, the Obama White House this week has put distance between the president and his former opponent and then top foreign policy adviser, saying it was up to her to explain her decisions.

Mrs. Clinton did email Mr. Obama from her private account, but the White House said Mr. Obama wasn’t in charge of policing that.

Previous secretaries of state also used private email addresses, and the State Department last year asked them all to turn over their work-related messages so the department could comply with federal records laws, which require official government business to be stored.

Mrs. Clinton said that’s when she went through her account and picked out the emails she believed could in any way be considered work-related, and then deleted her personal messages.

“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,” she said.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the Benghazi probe, said Mrs. Clinton’s press conference Tuesday should put some of the controversy to rest.

“I hope the Benghazi Select Committee will return to its purpose of investigating the attacks in Benghazi instead of attempting to impact the 2016 presidential election,” he said. “If Republicans still want additional assurances that all official government records have been produced, they can follow standard practice and ask this secretary — and previous secretaries — to sign certifications under oath.”

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