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Why the House is trying to get a hold of Hillary’s inbox

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    She's not officially in the presidential race yet, but Hillary Clinton is under tough new scrutiny this week, after revelations that she relied exclusively on a private, not government, e-mail account, operated from a personal server, when she was — we when she served as secretary of state.

    Today, a House oversight committee subpoenaed those e-mails for an ongoing Benghazi investigation.

    The Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler has been covering the story.

    Laura, how unusual is it that anybody, any secretary of state would be using a personal e-mail account exclusively?

  • LAURA MECKLER, The Wall Street Journal:

    Well, it wasn't that unusual, frankly, because there haven't been that many secretaries of state since e-mail became sort of the normal way to communicate in business.

    Secretary Colin Powell used a personal account, his staff confirmed this week. Secretary Rice, who followed him, evidently didn't use e-mail, and then we had Secretary Clinton. Secretary Kerry uses a regular State Department e-mail address himself.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    But exclusively, without any other .gov address involved?

  • LAURA MECKLER:

    Yes. Secretary Kerry — well, Secretary Clinton, of course, just used — as you said, just used her personal e-mail address. Secretary Powell did in fact do that, just use a personal e-mail as well, yes.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And to have your own personal server, they call it home brew, which is connected to her home in Chappaqua, actually, how unusual — I guess it's unusual for most people, but how unusual is that?

    I guess the question is, how much does this keep public business private?

  • LAURA MECKLER:

    Well, I think that's the real question here. I think you put the finger on it.

    And that is, the question is, why does she have her own — not only her own e-mail address, and not just get the one that is assigned you at work, like the rest of us do, but why does she take the additional step to set up her own network?

    Now, Jeb Bush also used a personal e-mail address and he also had his own — owned his own servers as well. But in his case, he was regularly turning them over to the state, so there was a difference. In the case of Hillary Clinton, she didn't turn any of these over for public examination until after she left office and received a request.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Well, that's one of the questions. She's been under, with this Benghazi investigation, pretty constant investigation for a while. Why are we just hearing now about the existence of this private account?

  • LAURA MECKLER:

    Well, I don't think people really knew that it was only the case.

    It came out through the committee's investigation as they requested those e-mails. Now, we should say that the State Department did request those e-mails themselves as part of what they say is a routine effort to comply with federal records-keeping requirements.

    And so they asked for all of her e-mails, and then subsequently turned some of those to the House committee. So there is — some of this is sort of being done in the quasi-normal course of events, but it does raise questions on why it took so long after she left office to turn these over.

    These of course is the public business, and all sorts of people have interest, not just the House, but in knowing, both for historical purposes and for everyday purposes, and sort of what she was doing and how she was conducting her job.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And part of the defense from the State Department is that she was in the communications — when she was in communication with State Department employees, she assumed it would be archived on their accounts.

    So I wonder, what were the rules exactly? Where is the bright line?

  • LAURA MECKLER:

    Well, really, that doesn't really seem to cover it, because of course all of us e-mail people both at our organization and outside of our organization, so, yes, that's true, but that's only really a small part of the e-mails that she would send on any given day, presumably.

    So, the rules that were in place when she was secretary are a little different than the rules that are in place now. What they said then was, you can essentially have a personal e-mail account, but they have to be preserved.

    There weren't specifications about when they should be preserved, how they should be preserved. They have gotten a lot more detailed about that now. But we're told by other people who worked in the Obama administration that it was made clear right from the beginning that this wasn't the right way to do things, they really should be using official government e-mail for official government work.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Combined with last week's revelations about the foreign donors who gave money to the Clinton Foundation, and now this, is she under new and more intense scrutiny, as people are waiting for her to announce that she's running for president?

  • LAURA MECKLER:

    I think that she is.

    I think both of these questions sort of feed into a longtime storyline about the Clintons, both Bill and Hillary, about maybe being a little bit too secretive, little bit playing against the rules a little bit too much, or maybe skirting the rules is a better way to put it, just right alongside it, barely, barely legal.

    I don't know if that's technically true in either of these cases, but in both cases, it does raise questions. And it's — we're sort of in an interesting situation, where she's not officially a candidate. In fact, she hasn't even said for sure that she's running, so she doesn't have a campaign up there responding to this.

    A lot of Democrats are frustrated. They feel like they don't have the information to defend her. Some of them don't really feel like defending some of these things. So, it's tough.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Right.

    Well, we will be watching as it continues to unfold. There's always more.

    Laura Meckler of The Wall Street Journal, thank you.

  • LAURA MECKLER:

    Thank you.

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