The controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton's use of private email accounts during her four years as secretary of state continues to spiral out of control — catching Democrats off guard and providing Republicans with strong fodder that could derail her presidential aspirations.
"I don't think there's any ill intent in this," California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, among many Democrats who have come to Clinton's defense, told The New York Times
. "I just don't know how the State Department functions with regard to this."
Many Democrats have also side-stepped questions about ethics and transparency, the Times reports.
"People have different ways of communicating," Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin said. "I have a granddaughter who does nothing but text.
"You'll never find a letter written with her," the senator added. "So everybody's different."
The debacle took a new twist Wednesday with reports that the server that transmitted emails from Clinton's account — email@example.com
— was traced to an Internet service registered to her family's home in Chappaqua, New York.
The homebrew server was registered under an apparent pseudonym, which was traced to a mysterious identity, Eric Hoteham. The name does not appear in public records databases, campaign contribution records or Internet background searches.
Hoteham was listed as the customer at Clinton's $1.7 million home on Old House Lane in Chappaqua in records registering the Internet address for her email server since August 2010.
In addition, the Hoteham personality is also associated with a separate email server, presidentclinton.com, and a non-functioning website, wjcoffice.com, all linked to the same residential Internet account as Hillary Clinton's email server.
The former president's full name is William Jefferson Clinton.
A Clinton spokesman did not respond to requests Wednesday seeking comment. Clinton ignored the issue during a speech Tuesday night at the 30th anniversary gala of EMILY's List, which works to elect Democrat women who support abortion rights.
Clinton has yet to explain why she took the unusual step of using her own server and eschewing a State Department email address. Numerous legal experts have questioned whether Clinton may have violated the Federal Records Act.
The Times first disclosed Clinton's use of the private account on Monday.
At the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday that he did not know whether the Obama administration knew that Clinton had her own server at home for her private email account.
Earnest was asked by a reporter at the White House briefing: "Specifically, did the White House know Secretary Clinton had her own server?"
"I don't know the answer to that," he responded.
"As I mentioned earlier, the extent of knowledge about Secretary Clinton's email was her email address," Earnest said. "She used that email address, as we all now know, was not state.gov, but that she was emailing White House officials."
He also avoided direct criticism of Clinton and made it clear that administration policy was for government emails to be used for official business.
"Very specific guidance has bee
n given to agencies all across the government, which is specifically that employees of the Obama administration should use their official email accounts when they're conducting official government business," Earnest said.
But Republicans slammed Clinton and cited the scandal as another blow to President Barack Obama's claims of transparency and accountability.
"President Obama frequently promised that his would be 'the most transparent administration in history,' " House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday
. "Perhaps he forgot to mention this commitment to his first secretary of state?"
Alabama Rep. Martha Roby accused Clinton of developing "a carefully calculated system to avoid using public, government-archived email."
The House Select Committee on Benghazi, chaired by South Carolina GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy, subpoenaed all of Clinton's emails late Wednesday, The Washington Post reports
The panel discovered her use of the personal account during its investigation into the 2012 attacks at the U.S. consulate in Libya that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens and two former Navy SEALs.
Gowdy said Tuesday that he might call Clinton to testify during its hearings on the attacks.
In addition, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told the Times that he is working with the Benghazi panel "to further explore Hillary Clinton's use of personal emails while at the State Department."
Chaffetz told the Post that his panel would investigate whether Clinton viewed classified or sensitive information on the account. Homebrew email servers are generally not as reliable, secure from hackers or protected from fires or floods as those in commercial data centers.
"Do you really believe that the secretary of state never reviewed classified information on her e-mail?" Chaffetz asked.
The controversy comes as Clinton weighs a run for the presidency in 2016. She is expected to announce her decision soon — and many top party members wonder if she or her staff anticipated the political fallout over her private email use while at the State Department and questioned their ability to handle any future embarrassments, the Times reports.
"Our nominee is not going to be named Barack Obama, and we better get prepared for that and do it fast," Bill Carrick, a longtime Democrat strategist, told the Times.
He said that part of the problem was that President Obama created a parallel political operation outside of the Democratic National Committee. Clinton has no such infrastructure.
"That's fine when you have a president in the White House to respond to things on a daily basis," Carrick said. "But that's not going to work in terms of the campaign coming up.
"And it has started — there's no way of getting around that," he added. "The Republicans are out there trash-talking her."
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who was chairman of the Democratic National Committee during the 2000 election, told the Times that Clinton needed a stronger political apparatus, even though she has not announced her candidacy.
"I assume when there's a campaign, there will be a better effort," Rendell said. "I assume this will get rectified."
Reuters reported late Wednesday night that Clinton finally broke her silence over the email controversy, saying she wanted the State Department to release them swiftly.
"I want the public to see my email," she said in a tweet. "I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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