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Do questions about Clinton’s email hurt trust for possible 2016 run?

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Today, for the first time, Hillary Clinton responded publicly to growing questions over why she used a private Internet server and personal e-mail address when she was secretary of state.

    A quick reminder of the events leading to this: In January of 2009, an aide to former President Clinton set up a private Internet server at or near the Clinton's New York home. Secretary Clinton used that server and a private e-mail address during her time at the State Department. This year, Clinton's staff has turned over to the department 55,000 pages of e-mails that they say are the only ones related to her government work.

    Today, Clinton insisted her use of a private account was above-board and only for convenience.

    HILLARY CLINTON, Former Secretary of State: When I got to work as secretary of state, I opted for convenience to use my personal e-mail account, which was allowed by the State Department, because I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal e-mails, instead of two.

    Looking back, it would have been better if I had simply used a second e-mail account and carried a second phone. But, at the time, this didn't seem like an issue.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Clinton took about a dozen questions from reporters. One asked if she deleted any government-related e-mails and how far she went to make sure that all work-related material survived.

  • HILLARY CLINTON:

    My direction to conduct the thorough investigation was to err on the side of providing anything that could be possibly viewed as work-related.

    And I think that we have more than met the request from the State Department. The server contains personal communications from my husband and me. And I believe I have met all of my responsibilities. And the server will remain private.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, for reaction to Secretary Clinton's press conference and a look at how this could affect a potential presidential campaign, we are joined now by two political strategists, Hilary Rosen. She's a Democratic consultant and managing director of the public relations firm SKDKnickerbocker. And Matthew Dowd, he's a Republican consultant who has worked on a number of political campaigns, including George W. Bush's reelection bid in 2004.

    And we welcome you both to the program.

  • HILARY ROSEN, Democratic Strategist:

    Thank you.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Matthew Dowd, I'm going to start with you.

    What did you make of Secretary Clinton's explanation that this was done out of convenience and that she feels confident that she's turned over more than — any e-mail that might have been interpreted as having to do with her government work?

  • MATTHEW DOWD, Republican Strategist:

    Well, Judy, I don't think — first of all, she answered some questions, but I don't think she put a lid on the controversy.

    I think this is only going to expand and grow based on the course of this. Part of the problem that she has is, it's not that the American public cares all about the e-mails, is that they have an unbelievable amount of need for trust in elected officials and trust in potential presidents of the United States.

    And so I think Hillary Clinton didn't resolve that to the satisfaction of most people out there, maybe to Democrats who are going to defend her regardless. But I think she still has some questions that are yet to be answered and have yet to be asked of her directly.

    I think convenience is never a good excuse. For an elected official to say, I did it out of convenience, that's never a good excuse for an elected official to say why they did a certain behavior.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Hilary Rosen, still a lot more questions to be answered?

  • HILARY ROSEN:

    You know, I think she had something to accomplish today, which was, she was never going to answer everybody's questions and she was never going to satisfy everybody, but could she achieve sort of a reasonable explanation that most people would be satisfied with?

    And I think she achieved that. It was, you know, if I had to do it over again, I would do it differently. You know, that is a big thing for somebody to say. And, secondly, the State Department really now has 30,000 e-mails to release to the public that we will see what's in those e-mails. I think the ball is kind of in their court.

    I don't think anybody in the American public actually believes that all of their e-mails should be, you know, open and accessible to everyone.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    What about that, Matthew Dowd, and Hillary Clinton's explanation that this personal server that she and President Clinton have is secure and that what she did was above board, even if she, in retrospect, thinks maybe she should have done it a different way?

  • MATTHEW DOWD:

    Well, the problem she has, which is there's a whole part of the public that comes in with a lack of trust, is she's basically saying, trust me, I did the right thing. Trust me, we did it in a secure manner. Trust me, we released all the e-mails that you need to actually see. Trust me on this.

    And so there's no evidence actually that anybody's seen that she had — the computer was housed and the server was housed in a secure manner. There's no evidence right now that we can trust the fact that here are the e-mails you can see, but here are the e-mails you can't see.

    I think, in the end, the problem she has in this — and it's part of the candidacy, the problem with her candidacy for president if she runs, is that, is this a throwback to the '90s? Are we going to back to the '90s, where we have — constantly have to ask and re-ask questions and are we getting the information that we're expected to get, or is this a campaign about the 21st century?

    That's the problem with this issue for her is, it makes voters feel like, we're going back again to the '90s at a time we really would rather leave behind.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, I'm actually seeing a report today that says Jeb Bush, when he was governor of Florida, used a personal server.

  • HILARY ROSEN:

    Did the same thing.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And he still has that personal server.

  • HILARY ROSEN:

    And he self-selected the e-mails which he released to the public.

    So I think when we talk about this in a campaign context, people are going to see this as politics. I think, for the most part, what Hillary Clinton needs to convince people of is that, as secretary of state, she did an enormous amount of good and that she is trustworthy. And I think Matthew is right to that degree.

    Having said that, I don't think anybody is going to expect to have a different standard for everybody who comes out of public life.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, let's listen to one other excerpt from Secretary Clinton. This was in answer to a question that, she said — how can the public trust, they ask, that she didn't delete e-mails that were professional but unflattering to her? Here's how she answered that.

  • HILLARY CLINTON:

    You would have to ask that question to every single federal employee, because, the way the system works, the federal employee, the individual, whether they have one device, two devices, three devices, how many addresses, they make the decision.

    So, even if you have a work-related device with a work-related .gov account, you choose what goes on that. That's the way our system works. And so we trust and count on the judgment of thousands, maybe millions of people to make those decisions.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Matthew Dowd, what about that?

  • MATTHEW DOWD:

    Well, I think she's right, in that federal employees have to be held to a certain standard on how they conduct personal on that, but thousands of employees aren't the heir apparent for the Democratic Party to be the nominee as president, and aren't ahead to be the likely president.

    If the election were held today, Hillary Clinton would be elected president of the United States. So, I'm hoping that sees herself as holding herself to a higher standard in the midst of this in the course of what office she's potentially trying to seek, first. And, secondly, the idea that we can point fingers and say, well, if I did what everybody else does, Jeb Bush, thousands of federal employees, I'm just doing what everybody else does, I am hoping the standard that we hold to a leader that we are going to elect to the president of the United States is a much higher standard than just the bare-bones, just the basic thing, I did what everybody else did.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But does that mean that all presidential candidates should be expected, Hilary Rosen, to release all of their e-mails? Is that the point that we have reached?

  • HILARY ROSEN:

    I don't know.

    And I think the point that Matthew is making is a good one, in that we want our elected officials to be above reproach. But now we have a situation where we can't undo the past. And so the only thing that will satisfy some people — and it won't satisfy everybody — is if her server were released, if all of her personal e-mails were released.

    But you know what? Then everybody the Republicans would stall. The Republicans would start saying, oh, I'm sure, well, she deleted a bunch of them before she released all of her — public. So, this will never end.

    And I think really what we need to do is hear — see what the State Department releases. The onus is on them. There will be an enormous amount of information about her term as secretary of state. And then, when the campaign starts, let's listen to Hillary Clinton and her sense of accountability to the public on a broad range of things, as well as other candidates.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Does Hilary Rosen have a point, Matthew Dowd, that no matter what she releases, no matter what the State Department puts out, 30,000, 50,000 e-mails, there are still going to be questions — questions of Secretary Clinton?

  • MATTHEW DOWD:

    Well, I think that she — yes, that is true to a degree, but she's also put herself in this box to a degree. She's created this problem.

    Part of the reason why she's in this situation where people have a hair-trigger reaction to stuff like this is because there has been a tendency on the part of the Clintons to not always be transparent, to not always be open, to not always answer directly the questions, to not always reveal the information that people are asking for.

    So part of this is self-created. And I would think from an elected official that understands the baggage that she comes to the office with, and the potential office with, she understands that and she would over — she would over-regulate or be overtransparent.

    The problem I think people have is, it doesn't — transparency and openness doesn't feel that it's an authentic part of Hillary Clinton's DNA.

  • HILARY ROSEN:

    Yes, I think that most people don't feel that way. I think most people see a woman who is working her heart out, who for the last week, when everybody was talking about e-mails, she was talking about the plight of women and girls around the world and whether we have made enough progress and what else needs to be done, including in this country.

    And I think that what we really have is a fairly serious kind of policy wonk in some respects, who sees a lot of this as just extra noise. And I think that that is going to be somewhat of a challenge for her going forward in a campaign. Can she separate real legitimate questions from reporters or from the public from what is clearly going to continue to be a Republican witch-hunt for her.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Just very quickly, Matthew Dowd, one other thing that came up today was a question about money that the Clinton Foundation has taken from foreign countries that have treated women badly, in some cases abused women, countries like Saudi Arabia.

    Secretary Clinton answered by saying, she, the foundation have been very open about what they do. Where do you see that issue?

  • MATTHEW DOWD:

    Well, to clarify, I actually think that issue, Judy, that you're bringing up now is actually a bigger issue than the e-mail issue, as, one, I'm an independent, so this isn't a Republican witch-hunt, first.

    Secondly, The New York Times, no Republican newspaper, was the one that broke this story about this whole process about the whole e-mails. But this idea that she walks around the world and claims that she says I'm all for women's empowerment, I want women's rights, and I'm doing that — and I shouldn't say just claims — she is doing a lot — but simultaneously, the countries with the worst records on women's rights are giving large contributions to a foundation that she and her husband are a part of is a huge problem.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Hilary Rosen, final comment.

  • HILARY ROSEN:

    One quick thing.

    First of all, the only reason we can even judge these countries is because of the total transparency of the Clinton Foundation, unlike other foundations. They have listed all of their donors.

    Secondly, Saudi Arabia is a good example. When Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, she issued the most scathing report on Saudi Arabia's treatment of women that had ever been issued by the United States government, ever, and Saudi Arabia was a contributor to the Clinton Foundation.

    What she said today was, they know where I stand. It's not going to change me. It never has. It never will. If they want to give money to save people's lives in Africa or in Haiti, that's OK with me.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Hilary Rosen, Matthew Dowd, we thank you both.

  • HILARY ROSEN:

    Thanks.

  • MATTHEW DOWD:

    Thank you.

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