Clinton behind political eight ball with e-mail furore

2015-03-12 05:00
(Seth Wenig, AP)

(Seth Wenig, AP)

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Washington - She was supposed to be preparing a gilded rollout of her presidential campaign.

Instead, Hillary Clinton is at the centre of a political firestorm about her use of a private e-mail account while serving as secretary of state, and her attempt to douse the flames left many questions unanswered.

In her first comments on the uproar since it was revealed 2 March that she did not use government e-mail for her entire time as secretary of state, Clinton said on Tuesday she used a private account as "a matter of convenience".

She insisted the private computer server that hosted her 60 000-plus e-mails during her tenure - half of which she deemed to be official government business - would not be handed over to the state department or an independent body for review.

And with the other 30 000 e-mails described by Clinton as private and personal - and apparently deleted - the controversy is unlikely to fade away any time soon.

"I think it's going to make it very difficult for her" in a likely campaign, Republican Senator Rand Paul, himself a potential 2016 presidential candidate, told AFP on Wednesday.

"I think the trust factor is going to be difficult for her, because if we didn't trust her the first time, how are we going to trust her the second time?"

Republican lawmakers united in their harsh critique of Clinton - despite her poised press conference appearance.

Many including Paul and Senator John McCain demanded an independent probe of Clinton's e-mails.

"I think everybody agrees - even the Democrats - that this is serious," McCain said.

A steel ring of support closed around the former US senator and first lady, with American Bridge, a liberal political action committee, slamming Republicans for sensationalising the Clinton e-mail saga and her team insisting she abided by the law.

But some Democrats quietly worry that the so-called "e-mailgate" could haunt her campaign-in-waiting, at the very moment the party should be discussing more substantive issues like growing the economy or confronting Islamic jihadists.

"I think they could have handled this more swiftly and cleanly over the past couple of weeks," a source long-acquainted with the Clinton camp told AFP.

A veteran Democratic aide, Jim Manley, warned Clinton was not even remotely in the clear.

"I think she handled everything as well as can be expected, but if you are asking me whether she can put all of this behind her after one 21-minute press conference, the answer is no," Manley told the National Journal.

'Deja vu'

US media also sharpened the knives, with editorials bashing Clinton's decision to contravene state department policy and to delete more than 30 000 e-mails.

"Clinton will long confront questions, politically motivated or not, about whether the disappeared content contained more than chatter about [daughter] Chelsea's wedding plans, condolence notes, yoga routines," according to the New York Daily News.

"She will also be shadowed by the deja vu sense that too often the Clinton way can entail evading the spirit of the law, along with carefully manufactured explanations and unanswered questions."

The Clintons were dogged by controversy during the 1990s, when husband Bill Clinton was president.

The Washington Post, decrying on Wednesday that "the circus is back in town", recalled that time - a time marked by scandals with names like Whitewater, Filegate and Travelgate.

Even former Clinton White House advisor David Gergen said on CNN that Clinton's image had been "badly damaged" by the e-mail controversy because it reminded voters of "some of the worst aspects of the 1990s".

The Associated Press filed a lawsuit against the state department on Wednesday, demanding the release of Clinton's e-mails.

AP said it took the legal action after repeated requests under the Freedom of Information Act, one made five years ago, went unanswered.

The hurdles come as Clinton reportedly prepares to announce her candidacy as early as April.

Read more on:    hillary clinton  |  us  |  us elections 2016

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