Hillary Clinton said Friday that she is "sorry" that her email issues have been "confusing to people and have raised a lot of questions," while taking responsibility for the decision to use a private email server and a personal account while serving as secretary of state.
"At the end of the day, I am sorry that this has been confusing to people and has raised a lot of questions," the Democratic frontrunner told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell
in an exclusive half-hour interview on Mitchell's noon news show.
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"There are answers to all of these questions and I will continue to provide those answers... eventually I'll get to testify in public and I'm sure it will be a long and grueling time there. But all the questions will be answered, and I take responsibility and it wasn't the best choice."
She does regret making that choice, though, and she knows why the American people have questions.
"I want to make sure that I answer those questions, starting with the fact that my personal email use was fully above board," she told Mitchell. "It was allowed by the State Department as they have confirmed."
But in retrospect, Clinton told Mitchell, "it certainly would have been better. I take responsibility." She added that she knows now that she should have had two accounts – one for her personal communications and one for her official use.
"I have been as transparent as I could, asking that all 55,000 pages be released to the public, turning over my server, looking for opportunities to testify before Congress," said Clinton. "I've offered for nearly a year. Finally the committee will give me a chance to testify in public toward the end of October."
But meanwhile, she said she wants to talk about the issues important to the people she meets in the course of her presidential campaign, because it's important to "renew the basic bargain of America so that if you work hard, you do your part, you can get ahead and pay for college and have equal pay for equal work, and all the other important issues that are on people's minds."
It wasn't the best choice, though to use a personal email account, she said, "and I certainly have said that. I will continue to say that as I've also said many times it was allowed and it was fully above board."
People in the government knew she was using a personal account, Clinton continued, "but it would have been better if I had had two separate accounts to begin with."
Mitchell pointed out that since 1995, the State Department Foreign Affairs Manual says all emails and records must be preserved, but recent emails released indicated that the help desk at the State Department did not recognize what her email address was.
"Well, the people I was e-mailing to on the .gov system certainly knew and they would respond to me on my personal e-mail," Clinton responded. "But I do think it was a fair question. It was allowed. I chose to do it as others who had been in high official positions had as well."
Clinton noted that it turned out to be confirmed that the "vast majority of everything that I was sending to a .gov, the official government account, would be captured.
"I have gone the extra step and gone through all of the e-mails that I had, from those four years in the State Department, to make sure that anything, even being overly inclusive, that could possibly be work related was made available to the State Department."
A report in 2011 said that just 61,000 emails out of more than a billion were preserved, as the archival system was difficult to use, said Mitchell, and Clinton acknowledged that there is a "huge amount of information... the White House and every other agency is struggling to try to keep up with the onslaught of emails."
She admitted that it "certainly doesn't make me feel good" that Americans don't trust her on the email issue, including thinking of the word "liar" in connection with her.
"I am very confident that by the time this campaign has run its course people will know that what I've been saying is accurate and I will have a chance to do that in front of the entire world with the congressional committee hearing," said Clinton.
"They may disagree, as I now disagree, with the choice that I made, but the facts that I have put forth have remained the same. But more importantly, the American people will know that they can trust me when it comes to standing up for them and fighting for them."
She also addressed the decision to wipe the email server clean, and to also delete 30,000 or more emails.
"In the Fall, I think it was October of last year, the State Department sent a letter to previous secretaries of state asking for help with their record keeping, in part because of the technical problems that they knew they had to deal with. And they asked that we, all of us, go through our e-mails to determine what was work-related and to provide that for them. The letter came to my lawyers. I asked my lawyers to please do that. And it took weeks but they went through every single e-mail."
The lawyers went through "every single email," she said, and were "overly inclusive," and even the State Department has said it is returning 1,200 emails because they were personal.
"At the end of that process, again, following the request of the State Department, they had to print out all those e-mails that were work related," she said. "It ended up being 55,000 pages. Those were delivered to the State Department."
She told Mitchell that the personal server was kept for convenience, but she denied trying to keep reporters or investigative committees away from her communications.
"I had a personal e-mail when I was in the Senate, as the vast majority of senators do," Clinton said. "It was very convenient. I did all my business on my personal e-mail."
She also insisted that she has been very careful with classified information, and denied sending anything that was marked classified.
"We dealt with classified material on a totally different system," Clinton said. "I dealt with it in person. I dealt with it on secure phone lines. I had the traveling team, the technical team that went with me and they set up tents so that when I was traveling anything that was classified would be protected from prying eyes. I take classified material very, very seriously."
She said she didn't stop and think about her email system, as "I was not thinking a lot when I got in; there was so much work to be done. We had so many problems around the world."
But Clinton denied that the issue should raise questions about her personal judgment.
"I think the facts are pretty clear that we had a lot of hard work, hard choices to make in those four years," she said, "and I'm very proud of the work we did. I'm very proud of all the people that I worked with. I think we really served our country well. And now the State Department has everything that they could have."
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