Published December 20, 2015
Hillary Clinton said late Wednesday that she had asked the State Department to make thousands of her emails available to the public, her first public response to a furor that followed the revelation that she used a private email account for her correspondence while secretary of state.
State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf released a statement early Thursday saying, "The State Department will review for public release the emails provided by Secretary Clinton to the Department, using a normal process that guides such releases. We will undertake this review as quickly as possible; given the sheer volume of the document set, this review will take some time to complete."
Clinton's message came hours after the House select committee investigating the 2012 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya subpoenaed her personal emails. The committee also also sent letters to Internet companies informing them of "their legal obligation to protect all relevant documents."
The controversy began Monday after The New York Times reported that Clinton had never had an official government email account for conducting official business. The practice is a potential violation of federal law, and has also raised questions of why Clinton went to such lengths to keep her messages off government servers.
The Times reported that members of the Benghazi committee initially discovered that Clinton had used a private e-mail account during her tenure at Foggy Bottom. The paper also said that Clinton had turned over 55,000 messages that had been selected by her advisers to the State Department in response to a records request. Clinton's Twitter post appeared to refer to those messages, about 300 of which are related to the Benghazi attack.
On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that the server Clinton used to store her emails had been traced to an Internet service registered to the Clintons' home address in Chappaqua, N.Y. That maneuver would have given additional legal opportunities to block government or private subpoenas in criminal, administrative or civil cases because her lawyers could object in court before being forced to turn over any emails.
Meanwhile, the AP said it was considering legal action under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act against the State Department for failing to turn over some emails covering Clinton's tenure as the nation's top diplomat after waiting more than one year. The department has never suggested that it doesn't possess all Clinton's emails.
The controversy has also raised new questions about Clinton's credibility as a presidential candidate. Though she has not formally declared her intention to run, Clinton is widely considered to be the clear front-runner for the Democratic nomination.
Clinton still has not described her motivation for using a private email account -- hdr22(at)clintonemail.com, which traced back to her own private email server registered under an apparent pseudonym -- for official State Department business. However, a Clinton aide told Fox News she was not bucking the system, and in fact was keeping with what former secretaries of state had done, including Colin Powell. The aide stressed that Clinton quickly responded to the request from the department for her emails, following updated guidance from the government's central records office.
The White House has deferred the question of whether any laws were broken to the State Department. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday it was "clear that Secretary Clinton's team has gone to great lengths" to collect and turn over emails and said Clinton's actions seemed consistent with the Federal Records Act.
But he also reiterated that the administration gave "very specific guidance" that employees should use official accounts when conducting government business, which Clinton did not do. Earnest later clarified that "when there are situations where personal email accounts are used, it is important for those records to be preserved, consistent with the Federal Records Act."
Fox News' Chad Pergram, Doug McKelway, Mike Emanuel, James Rosen and The Associated Press contributed to this report.