On the eve of the first Democratic presidential debate, President Obama is downplaying Hillary Rodham Clinton’s use of a private email server to conduct government business, saying she made a “mistake” but didn’t endanger national security.
“I think she’d be the first to acknowledge that maybe she could have handled the original decision better and the disclosures more quickly,” Mr. Obama said in an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes” broadcast Sunday night. “I don’t think it posed a national security problem. It was a mistake that she has acknowledged.”
When interviewer Steve Kroft pointed out that the administration has prosecuted people for having classified material on their private computers, the president said he didn’t think there was an intent to “hide something or to squirrel away information” on Mrs. Clinton’s server when she was secretary of state. He said criticism of Mrs. Clinton’s actions is being “ginned up” because of the 2016 presidential campaign.
The president wouldn’t say whether he agreed with the Clintons’ characterization that the whole email server scandal is “not a big deal.”
“What I think is that it is important for her to answer these questions to the satisfaction of the American public,” Mr. Obama said.
Senate investigators have learned that Mrs. Clinton’s private server was subjected to hacking attempts in 2013 from China, South Korea and Germany. The FBI is still examining her system to learn whether any sensitive government data was stolen.
Mrs. Clinton will take part in the first Democratic presidential debate Tuesday night. Ahead of the debate, the Republican National Committee is airing an ad on cable TV and online titled, “Not Telling Us The Truth … Again,” highlighting the email scandal.
“Hillary Clinton’s growing scandals and the multiple investigations into the potential mishandling of classified info is a mess of her own creation,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said. “As Democrats debate in [Las] Vegas, the RNC will continue to remind voters, including Democrats, why the vast majority of Americans find Clinton to be dishonest and untrustworthy.”
The president wouldn’t say whether he wants Vice President Joseph R. Biden to enter the race, but he said he doesn’t think Republican front-runner Donald Trump will win the presidency next year. He called Mr. Trump a “great publicity-seeker.”
“He is tapped into something that exists in the Republican Party that’s real,” Mr. Obama said. “I think there is genuine anti-immigrant sentiment in the large portion of at least Republican primary voters. I don’t think it’s uniform.”
He added, “I don’t think he’ll end up being president of the United States.”