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Questions keep coming for Clinton about emails and money

The wrangling over Hillary Clinton's emails as secretary of state has continued for months. After addressing the issue in March, Clinton hasn't discussed the matter or taken substantive questions until today. Gwen Ifill talks to Matea Gold of The Washington Post and Peter Nicholas of The Wall Street Journal about persistent questions Clinton faces over her emails and other issues.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Now to Hillary Clinton's e-mails.

    The former secretary of state, and Democratic presidential candidate, took questions today for the first time in months.

    HILLARY CLINTON, Former Secretary of State: I want those e-mails out. Nobody has a bigger interest in getting them released than I do.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Candidate Clinton was campaigning in Cedar Falls, Iowa, as a federal judge in Washington ordered the State Department to speed up its plan to release 55,000 pages of her e-mails.

  • HILLARY CLINTON:

    I respect the State Department. They have their process that they do for everybody, not just for me. But anything that they might do to expedite that process, I heartily support.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The wrangling over Clinton's e-mails, private and public, official and personal, has continued for months. In early March, Clinton revealed she used a private nongovernment account for official correspondence during her four years as secretary. Days later came news that she'd also used a private server, separate from the State Department account, since 2009, shortly before she took office as secretary of state.

    Clinton then announced she had turned over 30,000 work-related e-mails to State and deleted another 31,000 she deemed personal. That announcement came at a March news conference. Since then, Clinton had not addressed the issue again or taken substantive questions from reporters, until today.

  • HILLARY CLINTON:

    I think it will show how hard we worked and what we did for our country during the time that I was secretary of state, where I worked extremely hard on behalf of our values and our interests and our security. And the e-mails are a part of that. So, I have said publicly — I'm repeating it here in front of all of you today — I want them out as soon as they can get out.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The State Department received the e-mails in paper form and wanted much more time to go through them. But the judge has now ordered a quicker rolling release.

    Department spokesman Jeff Rathke:

  • JEFF RATHKE, State Department Spokesman:

    We have a large volume of records that cover the entire span of Secretary Clinton's time at the department. So, I'm sure you can imagine this would cover pretty much any topic. So, there was a desire to do them at once, so that they would — so that they would be available in their entirety. Again, we have got a court order, an order that instructs us differently, so we're going to comply with it.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    A separate order involves 300 e-mails on Benghazi, the fatal 2012 attack on U.S. diplomats in Libya. The State Department has until next week to provide a schedule for releasing those.

    In the meantime, questions continue about speaking fees the Clintons have earned, $25 million just since January of 2014, and potential conflicts of interest. Still, polling suggests the lingering questions have not yet dented Hillary Clinton's popularity among Democrats.

    Joining us to discuss what these questions mean for the campaign, Matea Gold of The Washington Post, and, just outside Des Moines, Peter Nicholas of The Wall Street Journal.

    Peter Nicholas, you were at that news conference, that impromptu news — rare news conference that Hillary Clinton gave today in Iowa. Why the delay, as you understand it, originally in the release of all these e-mails?

  • PETER NICHOLAS, The Wall Street Journal:

    Well, the State Department has said it takes time to go just through all these e-mails.

    They have 55,000 pages of documents to go through. It requires a lot of vetting. Input has to come in from other agencies. There has to be an understanding reached about what needs to be redacted, what might be classified or sensitive. So, State says, all this takes time.

    The department had wanted to release all this in January. The judge ordered that it be done on a rolling basis. That could begin as early as July. And this can't be seen as good news for the Hillary Clinton campaign, in the sense that whatever message she's trying to put out on a given day about the middle class, about raising wages, about job growth is going to be trumped to some degree by the content of these e-mails. Reporters are going to be scouring them, opposition researchers, other candidates.

    These e-mail releases are going to be a big story every time they're released.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    How did the federal court get involved in this at all?

  • PETER NICHOLAS:

    Well, there was a lawsuit that was filed. There's been multiple lawsuits, Freedom of Information Act request lawsuits, public record requests lawsuits, filed against the State Department for these e-mails.

    So, VICE News I believe in this particular case had filed suit asking for these e-mails. And that gave rise to the judge's ruling.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    If Hillary Clinton says, as she did today, that she would like to see these e-mails made public, why can't she just release them?

  • PETER NICHOLAS:

    Well, she says that she has given these e-mails to the State Department. They're now in the custody of the State Department. The State Department has to do its review. She can't order or demand the State Department to do that. They have to do it according to their own procedures and processes. And as a private citizen now, she can't influence the department, as she once could as secretary of state.

    So, she's urging them on, saying she wants this to happen, but she's saying it's now a State Department-controlled process.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Matea Gold, the other cloud hanging over this campaign that never seems to go away is the money, how the Clintons earned their money and in some cases how they spent it, but mostly how they have earned it, $30 million in speeches in eight months or something like that. So, where is the money coming from?

  • MATEA GOLD, The Washington Post:

    So, Friday night, we got our first look at how Hillary Clinton has been earning her money in the 15-month run-up to her announcing her presidential campaign, mostly through speeches.

    So, she personally earned $11.7 million on the lecture circuit, an enormous sum of money by any stretch. And we looked at sort of the top sectors who are giving her money, and technology companies really were seeking her to come as a speaker for their company events. And they were really the prime industry that hired her.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Were these technology companies who had business before the State Department when she was secretary of state?

  • MATEA GOLD:

    These are technology companies that are some of the biggest players in Silicon Valley and in global Internet commerce and software. So we're talking about Xerox and Cisco and eBay, companies that have myriad of policy concerns and issues.

    And what's really interesting is, they have connections. Many of their top executives or senior leadership are also early and avid supporters of her presidential campaign.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So they're raising money for her in two kinds of ways. They're paying her personally one on one for these speeches, but also raising money for her campaign?

  • MATEA GOLD:

    And what's really unique is you — we clearly have seen former presidents go out on the speaking circuit and earn high fees, but it's really rare to see someone directly in the run-up to a presidential campaign speaking before industry groups and commanding such large amounts of money.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Also rare for a first lady to be running for president.

    In these speeches, what does she talk about? Does she talk about things which often become themes in her campaign, or do we even know?

  • MATEA GOLD:

    Many of these speeches were closed. But there are some — a few were open and some details have come out.

    She definitely was testing some themes for her campaign. We saw her talk about income inequality in several speeches. And when she went to Silicon Valley, she was speaking specifically about issues of concern to the tech sector, so talking about issues about government surveillance, which is a really hot-button issue in that industry, talking about issues of immigration, talking about issues of tax repatriation.

    These are clearly things that the next president's going to have in his or her portfolio.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    As far as we know, at this stage, is any of what she's done, any the money she's accepted even borderline illegal?

  • MATEA GOLD:

    There's nothing illegal about her accepting these fees, but I think it raises a lot of questions about potential conflicts of interest, as she's also raising money for her campaign and then what would happen once she's president, and these industries that had paid her personally a lot of money have interests in what the White House does.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Let's go back to Peter Nicholas in Des Moines and talk.

    And just in general, I want to ask you both about the clouds that never seems to go away over the Clinton campaign. In this case, at the root of these e-mails is this Benghazi investigation, which also never goes away.

  • PETER NICHOLAS:

    Right.

    So, the Benghazi investigation is being led by Trey Gowdy, a Republican House member from South Carolina. And he's determined to have Hillary Clinton come testify before his committee, talk about the e-mail issue, her unusual use of unusual e-mail practices, where she didn't have a state.gov account. She used exclusively a private account and a private server, as you mentioned in your earlier report.

    He wants to talk to her about this and wants to also talk to her about the Benghazi investigation he's looking into, what role she played, what decisions she made, and this is going to be a difficult moment potentially for her. She's going to be testifying before a committee led by Republicans who are not friendly to her and don't want to see her in the White House. So, this could be problematic.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    As we have mentioned before on this program, Peter, she has not given a lot of answers to reporters and lots of — answered many questions. So, today, was it a surprise when she decided to? And does it betray any kind of nervousness about these questions?

  • PETER NICHOLAS:

    It was really an interesting moment, Gwen.

    I was there at the event. And I wasn't expecting her to take questions. One of our colleagues in the middle of this roundtable event above this small business called out, Mrs. Clinton, will you take some questions from the press? And she was a little bit coy and said, maybe I will.

    And then, towards the end of the event, she said, well, I will do it if I can learn something. And then she came over. She spoke for five minutes, more than five minutes. She took a total of six questions, which brings to 19 the total number of questions she has answered from the press corps since she announced her candidacy on April 12.

    So, this is very different from what we're seeing on the Republican side, but, then again, she is Hillary Clinton. She has 100 percent name recognition. She has minimal competition for the Democratic nomination as yet. And she feels and I think her campaign feels that she doesn't have to answer a barrage of questions from the press. She wants to run this campaign on her own terms.

    That's not always possible. As we saw in the whole e-mail controversy in March, she had to do a press conference to answer some of these questions and to appease some donors and some Democrats who were nervous about her prospects at that point.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And, Matea, we haven't really seen any effect in the polls so much, that people have said, oh, she's rich and she's out of touch or that she's keeping secrets. That isn't yet showing up in any early opinion polling.

  • MATEA GOLD:

    Not so much. It's sort of causing Republicans to tear their hair out. They're not quite sure why this isn't damaging her approval rating.

    I think one thing Peter mentioned is so true. She's such a known quantity that many people have formed their opinions about her and have very strongly held views. And I think it will take a lot to dislodge that. But I think both the money and the e-mails speak to her real competition in this primary, which isn't a huge ream of candidates, as there is on the GOP side. But really she's shadowboxing with herself.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And we will be watching her do that.

    Matea Gold of The Washington Post, Peter Nicholas at The Wall Street Journal, thank you both very much.

  • MATEA GOLD:

    Thank you.

  • PETER NICHOLAS:

    Thank you, Gwen.

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