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Hillary Defends Email Judgment, Calls Scandal 'Very Much Like Benghazi'

Hillary Clinton, accompanied by former President Bill Clinton and their daughter Chelsea, arrives to speak at a rally at Washington High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Jan. 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Hillary Clinton told ABC this morning that her email scandal “is very much like Benghazi… the Republicans are going to continue to use it, beat up on me.”

“I understand that. That’s the way they are,” she said.

Clinton’s Sunday show appearance came after 22 emails the State Department originally planned to release with Friday’s batch were withheld because of top-secret classification.

The State Department’s Diplomatic Security and Intelligence and Research bureaus will investigate whether information in the censored emails was classified at the time they were sent. Clinton has maintained any classified information sent in emails using her private server received the classification later.

Very soon after the story broke — just a few days away from the first votes to be cast in the 2016 presidential primaries — Hillary for America press secretary Brian Fallon called the withholding “over-classification run amok.”

This morning, Clinton called it “a continuation of the story that has been playing out for months.”

“There is no classified marked information on those emails sent or received by me,” she told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, who’s had a chance to review them, has said that this email chain did not originate with me and that there were no classification markings.”

“So I do want them released and of course I can’t be clear about exactly what the reasons might be for some in the government, as part of this interagency dispute, to make this request not to make them public.”

Feinstein came to Clinton’s defense in a press release Friday, stating “the 22 emails the State Department has labeled classified are part of seven separate back-and-forth email chains, and none of those email chains originated with Secretary Clinton.”

“It has never made sense to me that Secretary Clinton can be held responsible for email exchanges that originated with someone else,” the California senator said.  “And second, none of the emails sent to Secretary Clinton have the mandatory markings that are required when classified information is transmitted.”

“The only reason to hold Secretary Clinton responsible for emails that didn’t originate with her is for political points, and that’s what we’ve seen over the past several months.”

But Stephanopoulos noted that the non-disclosure agreement Cliknton signed as secretary of State makes the argument about classification markings “not that relevant.”

“It says classified information is marked or unmarked classified and that all of your training to treat all of that sensitively and should know the difference,” said the ABC host.

“Well, of course. And that’s exactly what I did. I take classified information very seriously. You know, you can’t get information off the classified system in the State Department to put onto an unclassified system, no matter what that system is,” Clinton responded.

“We were very specific about that and you — when you receive information, of course, there has to be some markings, some indication that someone down the chain had thought that this was classified and that was not the case,” she said.

Clinton stressed again that “clearly the best answer to all of this is release and disclose these materials is that what I’m told is that this chain of emails very well included a published newspaper report.”

“That seems a little hard to understand, that we would be retroactively over classifying a public newspaper article,” she said. “So let’s just get it out. Let’s see what it is and let the American people draw their own conclusions.”

Stephanopoulos noted that a few months ago Clinton told ABC it was a mistake to set up her home private server, but now she’s saying there were no judgment errors made.

“As I’ve said many times, it was permitted. My predecessors had engaged in a similar practice. It was not the best choice. I wouldn’t be here talking to you about it,” she said. “I’d be talking about what people in Iowa are talking to me about, about affordable health care and jobs and rising wages and all of the concerns that are on their minds.”

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said that “with no plausible defense for putting highly classified information at risk on her unsecure email server, Hillary Clinton continues to mislead voters on the eve of the Iowa caucuses.”

“Not only did Hillary Clinton violate multiple federal rules, she signed a legal document obligating her to protect classified information regardless of whether it was marked or not,” Priebus said. “Hillary Clinton’s reckless disregard for national security and her refusal to tell voters the truth shows she can’t be trusted in the White House.”