Clinton admits should have used official email, says used personal account for 'convenience'

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Hillary Clinton, in her first public comments on the controversy over her use of personal email as secretary of state, acknowledged Tuesday that it "would have been better" to have used an official government account -- but said she used the personal one as a "matter of convenience."

The former secretary of state, and likely 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, addressed the controversy in New York, following an event on women's empowerment at the United Nations headquarters.

She also briefly addressed her use of a private email server, but said it contains personal communications between her and her husband.

"The server will remain private," Clinton said.

Clinton fielded several questions about the implications raised by her unusual use of a personal email and private server after more than a week of critical news reports about her computer practices, including whether they were secure and whether she complied with records rules.

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    Explaining her original decision, Clinton told reporters she "opted for convenience" to use her personal email, on one device, when she became secretary of state. She said she thought it "would be simpler" to do so.

    'The server will remain private'

    — Hillary Clinton

    "Obviously it hasn't worked out this way," Clinton said. She admitted it would have been better to use "two separate phones and two email accounts."

    But she said federal laws and rules allowed her to do so, and that she is fully complying with the State Department's request for her emails. She also said her server, set up for President Bill Clinton's office, contained "numerous safeguards," was protected by the Secret Service and experienced "no security breaches."

    Clinton said she has "absolute confidence" that anything "in any way connected to work" is now in the possession of the State Department. She also made clear what she described as personal emails were not turned over.

    Whether Clinton's answers will calm the furor remains to be seen.

    A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said the press conference "raised more questions than it answered."

    Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., head of the House Benghazi committee seeking her emails, said the same.

    And he said: "Without access to Secretary Clinton's personal server, there is no way for the State Department to know it has acquired all documents that should be made public, and given State's delay in disclosing the fact Secretary Clinton exclusively used personal email to conduct State business, there is no way to accept State's or Secretary Clinton's certification she has turned over all documents that rightfully belong to the American people."

    Despite Clinton's statement, Gowdy said he sees "no choice" but for Clinton to "turn her server over to a neutral, detached third-party arbiter who can determine which documents."

    He said the committee plans to call her to appear "at least twice," first to clear up questions about her personal email use and again to answer questions about Benghazi.

    Clinton spoke after facing mounting calls, from both sides of the aisle, to publicly address the controversy.

    Until now, the only public response Clinton had was to send out a late-night tweet last week saying she's asked the State Department to make public her emails. In the absence of any other Clinton response, the White House had been left to defend her email practices, reportedly creating tension between the Obama administration and her camp.

    Senior Democrats in recent days urged her to speak up.

    "Step up and come out and state exactly what the situation is," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told NBC on Sunday. "She is the leading candidate, whether it be Republican or Democrat, for the next president. ... From this point on, the silence is going to hurt her."

    The controversy indeed has hung over her expected entry into the 2016 presidential race, though her representatives insist she cooperated with the State Department and handed over thousands of emails when she was asked.

    Earlier Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said they are reviewing the emails Clinton turned over, and plan to post them on a "publicly available website."

    She said the review will likely take "several months."

    Before addressing the email matter on Tuesday, Clinton began her statement by weighing in on a recent open letter written by Republican senators to Iran's leaders on the ongoing nuclear talks with Iran. That letter challenged President Obama's ability to strike a lasting deal without congressional approval. Clinton, joining other Democrats, called that letter "out of step with the best traditions of American leadership."

    The first question she took on the emails, from a Turkish correspondent and official of the U.N. Correspondents Association, was about whether she thinks she would have faced such a controversy if she were a man. She did not address that directly.