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Mar 11, 2015 11:46 AM

Questions swirl over Clinton emails as she prepares for 2016

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) Questions about Hillary Rodham Clinton's email practices in government haven't gone away with her press conference on the subject, even as she seeks to get her preparations for a presidential campaign back on track.

Her mea culpa Tuesday, acknowledging she should have used a government email address while secretary of state, satisfied some campaign-focused Democrats while others fretted that she had yet to put the issue to rest. Among Republicans in Congress, plans were discussed to call her before a House committee to face questions about her use of a private email account and how that might play into the enduring debate over the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

On Wednesday, The Associated Press filed a lawsuit against the State Department to force the release of email correspondence and government documents from her tenure as secretary of state.

The lawsuit, which follows Freedom of Information Act requests that went unfulfilled, seeks materials related to her public and private calendars, correspondence involving longtime aides likely to be prominent in her expected campaign, and Clinton-related emails about the Osama bin Laden raid and National Security Agency surveillance practices.

The focus on Clinton's emails has jumbled what had been expected to be a smooth glide toward the kickoff of her presidential campaign next month. The former secretary of state had planned to spend March promoting her work on women's equality, a top issue for someone who could become the nation's first female president.

Instead, questions about Clinton's email habits have dominated her activities in the past week, following revelations that she used a personal email account at the State Department and did so via a private server, altogether a striking departure from the norm for high officials.

While Democrats have dismissed the notion that Clinton's emails are something voters will care about come Election Day 2016, her silence aside from a late-night tweet sent last week had led several of her former colleagues in the Senate to urge her to tell her side of the story.

During a news conference Tuesday, Clinton pledged that all her work-related email would be made public "for everyone to see." But she also acknowledged that she deleted messages related to personal matters. She refused calls from Republicans to turn over the email server to an independent reviewer.

Some Democrats said the news conference did not mean the end of the matter.

"This is something that is going to be discussed until the State Department releases the emails," said Boyd Brown, a Democratic National Committee member from South Carolina.

"Then House Republicans will have a study committee to look at them, and then that will turn into an investigatory committee," Brown said. "Folks are going to be Clinton weary, and that's the point of this from the Republican standpoint, to make people tired of hearing about Hillary Clinton."

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., chairman of a House panel investigating the Benghazi attacks, said he was "left with more questions than answers" and that he planned to call her to appear before his committee at least twice.

Gowdy said one appearance from Clinton would be needed to "clear up" her role in using personal email, while the second would be to answer questions related to the Benghazi attacks that killed a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. Those appearances are likely to come after Clinton returns to politics as a presidential candidate, creating an unwelcome distraction for the leading contender for her party's nomination.

Clinton said Tuesday she had exchanged about 60,000 emails in her four years as President Barack Obama's top diplomat, about half of which were work-related. None contained classified information, she said, and her private email system did not suffer any security breaches.

But since the emails were sent to and from her personal server, there is no way to independently verify her assertion they were, as she said, "within the scope of my personal privacy and that particularly of other people."

Clinton insisted she did not break any rules, but she does appear to have violated what the Obama White House has called "very specific guidance" that officials should use government email to conduct business.

Karen Kaiser, AP's general counsel, said of the lawsuit: "After careful deliberation and exhausting our other options, The Associated Press is taking the necessary legal steps to gain access to these important documents, which will shed light on actions by the State Department and former Secretary Clinton, a presumptive 2016 presidential candidate, during some of the most significant issues of our time."


Follow Ken Thomas and Julie Pace on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KThomasDC and http://twitter.com/JPaceDC


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