Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Friday lashed out against “inaccuracies” in reports about her use of a private email address during her time as secretary of state, as the Justice Department weighed whether to open an investigation.
“I want to say a word about what is in the news today, and it is because there have been a lot of inaccuracies,” Clinton said during her opening remarks at an event in Manhattan.
“Maybe the heat is getting to everybody. We all have a responsibility to get this right. I have released 55,000 pages of emails. I have said repeatedly that I will answer questions before the House committee. We are all accountable to the American people to get the facts right. And I will do my part.”
The Justice Department said on Friday it is weighing a request by two government inspectors to look into the possible mishandling of classified information in Clinton’s private email account from when she was secretary of state.
The department said it “has received a referral related to the potential compromise of classified information.”
A Justice Department official said the “referral” is not a request for a criminal investigation into Clinton’s emails, thousands of which she handed over to the State Department after resigning in 2013. The New York Times reported Thursday night that the inspectors general had asked for a criminal investigation. But the Justice Department told Reuters and other outlets that the referral was not of a criminal nature.
Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon tweeted that the Times should correct its story, which was altered overnight without explanation to suggest she personally was not the focus of a criminal referral. The Times did issue a correction Friday afternoon.
“An earlier version of this article and an earlier headline, using information from senior government officials, misstated the nature of the referral to the Justice Department regarding Hillary Clinton’s personal email account while she was secretary of state,” the correction read. “The referral addressed the potential compromise of classified information in connection with that personal email account. It did not specifically request an investigation into Mrs. Clinton.”
Clinton’s use of a private email account for her work as America’s top diplomat came to light in March and brought criticism from political opponents that she had sidestepped transparency and record-keeping laws.
Clinton, the front-runner to represent the Democratic Party in the November 2016 presidential election, has repeatedly said she broke no laws or rules by eschewing a standard government email account for her State Department work in favour of her private account. She also said she sent no classified information by email.
Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said in a statement she “followed appropriate practices in dealing with classified materials.”
The former first lady said she handed to the State Department last year all the work-related emails she had, amounting to some 55,000 printed pages covering her four-year tenure, although her staff have recently acknowledged there are gaps in the records she retained.
But the inspector general of the intelligence community, in a letter to Congress, said a limited sampling of Clinton’s emails in question found at least four that contained classified information and should have been considered secret.
Reports on Friday about a possible investigation into the emails caused confusion.
The Justice Department had also said the inspectors general had requested a criminal investigation into the emails, before backtracking and saying that there was a request for a probe but not a criminal one.
Republicans have seized on the email scandal in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail. The Republican National Committee, in a statement Friday, urged the Justice Department to investigate, saying a full investigation was “not just needed, but required.”
Broader questions about Clinton’s private email server have at times drawn attention away from the Democratic front-runner’s presidential campaign. The latest disclosure comes days after polls in three key swing states showed that a majority of voters did not consider her “honest and trustworthy.”
She also trailed three strong Republican contenders — former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida (R), Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), and US Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) — in theoretical general-election matchups in those states.
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