Voters may have concerns about her use of a private email system as secretary of state but will consider “the full picture of what I have to offer” as she runs for president, Hillary Clinton said Thursday.
The Democratic presidential front-runner spoke one day after a State Department report concluded that she had gone around department procedures in setting up and using a private email system that operated outside government security and record-keeping controls.
In a short television interview in Las Vegas, Clinton repeated her long-standing explanation that previous secretaries of state also had used private accounts.
“This report makes clear that personal email use was the practice for other secretaries of state. And I know that because it is well known, it’s pointed out in the report. But it was still a mistake,” Clinton said. “And as I’ve said many times, if I could go back, I would do it differently. I know people have concerns about this.”
The interview with ABC News was arranged to respond to the highly critical report, which presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump is already using against Clinton. She sought to shift discussion of State Department fault-finding to the question of whose qualifications — hers or Trump’s — would better serve the country.
“I think voters are going to be looking at the full picture of what I have to offer, my life, and my service, and the full threat that Donald Trump offers our country,” Clinton said. “I have confidence that they’re going to be making the right decision.”
She did not directly answer questions about whether she still believes that she broke no State Department rules or whether her decision to set up an independent email system was an “error of judgment.”
“It was allowed. And the rules have been clarified, since I left, about the practice,” Clinton said. “Having said that, I have said many times it was a mistake. And, if I could go back, I would do it differently.”
She also did not directly say why she declined to be interviewed by the State Department inspector general. She noted that she had discussed the email issue extensively elsewhere and testified for 11 hours before a House panel whose investigation of the 2012 Benghazi, Libya, attacks indirectly led to the revelation about the email system.
The State Department’s independent watchdog issued a highly critical analysis of Clinton’s email practices while running the department from 2009 to early 2013. The report released Wednesday concluded that Clinton failed to seek legal approval for her use of a private server and that agency staff members would not have given their blessing if they knew, because of the “security risks” that might have been triggered by the unorthodox system.
The email issue has clouded what had been a bright spot in Clinton's political record. She enjoyed the highest public regard of her career when she served as President Obama's first-term secretary of state. She claims that the national security credentials and practical experience she gained as the top U.S. diplomat are chief among her qualifications to be president.
The report by the inspector general’s office concludes that Clinton handled email in a way that was “not an appropriate method” for preserving public records and that her practices failed to comply with department policy. The review found that Clinton, who has said her system was secure, also never provided security details to agency officials responsible for safeguarding sensitive government information.
Clinton has previously said that she never knowingly sent or received classified information or compromised any government secrets.
The 83-page report reviewed email practices under the past five secretaries of state and found persistent problems with ensuring that records are preserved in accordance with federal law. But the review was sparked by the controversy over Clinton’s email setup, and the report is particularly critical of her practices.
The FBI is also investigating Clinton’s email system for potential security breaches. Clinton said she has not been interviewed by the FBI but is willing to sit down for questioning.
“I have offered since last August, and I am looking forward to seeing this matter wrapped up,” Clinton said.
She said it will be up to the Justice Department to decide how swiftly the investigation moves and whether it is concluded before the election in November.
Republicans and some other critics have said the email issue suggests Clinton plays by different rules.
"With her story crumbling and the FBI continuing to investigate, Democrats must be wondering if it was such a good idea to stack the nominating process in her favor,” Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said.