Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is wrapping up her primary battle with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but there are lingering questions about her use of a private email server while serving in the Obama administration.
The issue has dogged Mrs. Clinton since last year when it was revealed that she used a home email server and account for government business. The government later concluded that many of the emails found in her inbox contain now-classified information.
Critics say that her decision put sensitive information at risk and shielded her work records from public scrutiny. Mrs. Clinton has maintained that she believed she was following the precedent of former secretaries of state and that the practice was not forbidden by law.
The controversy is unlikely to end anytime soon — even as Mrs. Clinton attempts to pivot to a looming general election with Donald Trump. Here’s the latest on the controversy, and a peek at what lies ahead:
What’s are the latest developments?
Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email account has prompted several investigations and lawsuits, all of which could cause further headaches for her bid for the White House. Most recently, an internal State Department report concluded that Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server was not allowed under Department policy.
Separately, a civil lawsuit against the State Department by the conservative group Judicial Watch seeking records from Mrs. Clinton’s time in office has forced several of Mrs. Clinton’s former aides to testify under oath about the email server. Last week, her senior aide Cheryl Mills declined to answer questions from private lawyers about the setup of the email server.
What is Mrs. Clinton’s explanation?
Mrs. Clinton has argued that her actions were permitted while acknowledging a mistake in judgment. She notes that there was no law forbidding government employees from using personal email and that she believed her emails to government employees were being automatically captured by State Department servers.
“It was still a mistake, and if I could go back I would do it differently,” Mrs. Clinton said on CNN Tuesday. “I understand people may have concerns about this, but I hope voters look at the full picture of everything I’ve done in my career and the full threat posed by a Donald Trump presidency.”
What does the State Department say?
The State Department inspector general’s office reported last week that Mrs. Clinton’s failure to keep proper records and give her work emails to the State Department upon leaving government may have contravened federal record-keeping laws, though those laws bear no criminal or civil penalties.
The inspector general found that her actions violated department policy: “Department employees must use agency-authorized information systems to conduct normal day-to-day operations because the use of nondepartmental systems creates significant security risks.”
It found federal law did not explicitly forbid employees from using personal email, though it did require that those emails be preserved.
The inspector general’s office also noted that former Secretary of State Colin Powell occasionally used a personal email account for government business. It said internal email and cybersecurity rules had grown “considerably more detailed and more sophisticated” by the time Mrs. Clinton came into office. “Secretary Clinton’s cybersecurity practices accordingly must be evaluated in light of these more comprehensive directives,” he wrote.
How has Mrs. Clinton reacted to these and other findings?
In a defiant press conference in early 2015, Mrs. Clinton flatly said her use of a private email “was allowed by the State Department.” She vowed that her server “will remain private.” And she added that “there is no classified material” in her inbox.
She acknowledged that it was a “mistake” last fall. After government investigators determined more than 2,000 emails contained classified information, she emphasized that none of that information was “marked classified.”
And in the aftermath of the critical inspector general report, Mrs. Clinton has backed off the unambiguous claim that it was “allowed.”
“I thought it was allowed. I knew past secretaries of state used personal email,” she told CNN last week.
What does Donald Trump say?
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee has taken to calling Mrs. Clinton “Crooked Hillary” and has already sought to bludgeon her with the results of the inspector general report.
What is coming up next?
Dozens of lawsuits against the State Department are pending, including one in which the plaintiffs have asked a judge to force Mrs. Clinton herself to testify about how and why Mrs. Clinton came to use a home email server for all her government work.