In an effort to clarify her most recent statements about her use of a private email server as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton on Friday only further muddled a controversy that has dogged her presidential candidacy from the start.
Clinton acknowledged that she had misspoken in two recent media interviews when she claimed that FBI Director James B. Comey had characterized as "truthful" all of her public statements about her use of a private email server.
She explained that Comey was referring only to her interviews with the FBI — but she also insisted that all of her other public statements on the matter have been consistent with those interviews.
“I may have short-circuited, and I will try to clarify,” Clinton told reporters Friday at a convention of black and Hispanic journalists in Washington.
Clinton also made a reference to Comey's testimony on the existence of about 100 emails containing classified information at the time they were sent or received — but she continued to suggest they were not marked classified at the time and were retroactively classified.
Clinton said explicitly that her public statements and the statements that she made to the FBI are the same. She went on to say that, because Comey testified that her comments to the FBI were "truthful," it is also an indication that her public statements were truthful.
“I was pointing out in both of those instances that Director Comey had said that my answers in my FBI interview were truthful, that’s really the bottom line here,” Clinton said. “I have said during the interview — and on many other occasions during the past months — that what I told the FBI, which he said was truthful, is consistent with what I said publicly.”
Additionally, Clinton said: “I have acknowledged repeatedly that using two email accounts was a mistake,” but in fact Clinton used only one email account as secretary of state — the private one. A campaign aide later clarified that Clinton misspoke and intended to say that it was a mistake to use only one account.
The comments came in the form of a convoluted answer to a question about inconsistencies between her claim that she “never sent or received classified information” on her private email server and Comey’s testimony before Congress upon the conclusion of the agency’s investigation.
The questions began to arise after an interview with Fox News's Chris Wallace that aired Sunday.
“Director Comey said my answers were truthful, and what I’ve said is consistent with what I have told the American people, that there were decisions discussed and made to classify retroactively certain of the emails,” Clinton said in the interview.
Several fact checkers, including The Washington Post, have pointed out that Comey said only that her statements in a closed-door FBI interview were truthful. He also said he was not qualified to weigh in on her public statements, but several of his findings contradicted her public statements. In response to questions from lawmakers, Comey indicated that Clinton or another government official in her position “should have known that an unclassified system was no place" for a classified conversation.
Trump on Friday called Clinton a "dangerous liar” during a campaign event in Des Moines, pointing to Clinton's earlier characterization of Comey's comments.
"He came out and said, ‘She lied — lied, lied, lied," he said. "And then on Sunday she said, 'He never said that.'"
On Friday morning, Clinton reiterated that she never sent or received emails that were classified at the time, which Comey testified to Congress was a statement that was “not true.”
Clinton also noted that the three emails that Comey said were marked classified were improperly marked.
“It was therefore reasonable to conclude that anyone, including myself, would have not suspected that they were classified,” Clinton said told the journalists.
Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Jose DelReal contributed to this report.