Despite being thoroughly rebuked by fact-checkers and the FBI, Hillary Clinton continues to give her critics fresh ammunition by claiming she never sent or received any information marked classified in her private email account, keeping alive a controversy that’s dogged her throughout her presidential bid.
Mrs. Clinton again defended her email server during a press conference Friday, directly contradicting FBI Director James B. Comey in saying no messages bearing “classified” markings passed through her account during her four years as secretary of state.
The former first lady, who has apologized for her email habits but simultaneously has maintained she did nothing wrong, also admitted that she may have “short-circuited” when she claimed last week that Mr. Comey agreed that she’d fully told the truth to the American people.
Mr. Comey, however, did no such thing, and in congressional testimony earlier this year, he explicitly said Mrs. Clinton was wrong when she said she’d never sent or received any classified material in her private account.
The ongoing email scandal, along with the Democratic presidential nominee’s admission that her brain briefly “short-circuited,” has given the GOP an opening to launch a new line of attack against her. Top Republicans say Mrs. Clinton merely has found a new way to avoid admitting that she’s lied repeatedly to the public.
“She now has a fundamental way of saying to people, ‘It wasn’t that I lied to you. I just didn’t quite remember what it is I was going to say,’” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told “Fox News Sunday.”
By appearing to stretch the truth, at best, Mrs. Clinton also is fueling the notion that the Justice Department may have decided not to press charges against her solely for political reasons. The FBI conducted a lengthy investigation but ultimately recommended against filing charges, saying there had been no intent of wrongdoing.
But GOP critics say that decision was deeply flawed.
“Many reasonable prosecutors have come to the conclusion that they would have brought such a case. I would have brought such a case. I would have won such a case,” former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor, told ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday. “I’ve prosecuted cases like that in my years at the Justice Department. Hillary Clinton skated because she’s running for president. She clearly violated the law.”
Mr. Giuliani called Mrs. Clinton’s claim of short-circuiting a “euphemism for lying.”
She made the comments during a question-and-answer session at a joint conference of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
While she apologized for her private email account, she doubled down on her central defense.
“What we have here is pretty much what I have been saying throughout this whole year, and that is that I never sent or received anything that was marked classified,” she said. “If, in retrospect, some different agency said it should have been [classified] that’s what this debate is about. But Director Comey said there was absolutely no intention on my part to either ignore or in any way dismiss the importance of those documents.”
In congressional testimony last month, Mr. Comey said more than 100 emails sent or received through Mrs. Clinton’s private account contained classified information, though the majority of them were not clearly marked.
Mr. Comey said three of the messages included markings indicating that they were classified, though he added that Mrs. Clinton may not have been “sophisticated” enough to understand those markings.
Meanwhile, GOP White House hopeful Donald Trump has opened a fresh line of attack on Mrs. Clinton. Over the weekend, he seized on the “short-circuited” defense and painted his opponent as “unhinged” and “unstable.”
“She’s a liar. She is a horrible, horrible human being,” he told a crowd in New Hampshire. “She’s incompetent, and I don’t think that you can even think of allowing this woman to become president of the United States.”