Clinton answers reporters' questions on emails, cyber hacking, in rare exchange

Will it make any difference? Republican strategist Cathy Lynn Taylor and Democratic strategist Chuck Rocha weigh in


Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on Monday held a question-and-answer session with reporters, defending her handling of confidential material as secretary of state and answering several other pressing questions, amid criticism she has largely avoided the news media during her campaign.

Among the questions was why Clinton said roughly three dozen times that she couldn’t recall specific information or events when the FBI interviewed her last month about her use of a private computer server while secretary of state, according to recently released FBI notes.

“The fact that I couldn’t remember certain meetings doesn’t affect the commitment I had to the treatment of classified material,” Clinton said.

Reporters had the opportunity to ask several tough questions that Clinton answered directly without appearing to break major news.

Clinton, a former first lady and New York senator, also responded to a question related to how she could not recalling the specifics of State Department briefings about the handling of classified material.

“I went into the State Department understanding classification,” she said. “I take classification seriously.”

And she said she was unaware that aides had erased 23 days of emails, after revelations about the private server became public. 

Clinton conducted the largely informal session -- frequently referred to as a “gaggle” -- in a campaign airplane she used Monday for the first time.

She briefly spoke with reporters on a trip from an airport near her home in upstate New York to Cleveland. The gaggle occurred on a later Ohio-to-Illinois flight.

Clinton also said she was “really concerned” about recent reports and other indications that the Russian government might be trying to interfere with the White House race.

And she said that the hacking of Democrat Party groups soon after Donald Trump accepted the Republican Party’s presidential nomination was “quite intriguing.”

Clinton pointed out that Trump vowed, if elected, to “pull out of NATO “and furthermore has praised (Russian President Vladimir) Putin.”

The news media, Clinton critics and others have argued that Clinton has not held a full-fledged press conference in roughly 275 days.

Her campaign disagrees, pointing to an exchange last month with reporters at the conclusion of a National Association of Black Journalists conference in Washington, D.C.

Whether Monday’s exchange with reporters was an attempt to end the criticism, and whether such criticism will end, remains unclear.

The campaign plane is a Boeing 737 with about 100 seats for passengers and crew.