Clinton Laughs About Emails: 'It Was Allowed...One of My Predecessors Did the Same Thing'

By Susan Jones | October 19, 2015 | 7:48am EDT
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the information she sent from her personal email account, using a personal server, was not marked classified at the time. (AP File Photo)

( - Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, asked about sending and receiving work emails -- some containing sensitive information -- on her own personal server, laughed it off on Sunday, then defended her decision by saying the rules at the time allowed it -- and a former secretary of state did the same thing.

"It was allowed under the rules of the State Department," Clinton told CNN's "State of the Union" with Jake Tapper.

"So nobody signed off on it?" Tapper asked her.

"No, no. It was allowed," she said. "You know, one of my predecessors did the same thing. Others in our government have done the same thing at very high levels, because the rules did change after I left the State Department. But at the time and in prior years, the rules allowed it."

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said earlier this year that he sent work emails from his personal account, but those emails went into the State Department system because they were addressed to employees at State. Unlike Clinton, he did not use a personal server, which allowed Clinton to bypass the State Department system.

When Tapper first raised the subject of her emails on Sunday, Clinton laughed:

"Well," she chortled.

Tapper, serious, noted that FBI officials are examining whether national security was comprised because Clinton used a personal server to commuicate with other government employees.

"This is something else that is very confusing to me," Tapper said. "With all your experience, why wouldn't you anticipate that over the course of four years -- handling very sensitive diplomatic negotiations, overseeing military interventions and surveillance -- why wouldn't you anticipate that something classified whether about North Korea, or Iran, or drones or an informant for the CIA that it -- that it wouldn't be e- mailed to you? And why wouldn't you consider that having it on your personal account with some server in Colorado might be a potential risk?" Tapper asked Clinton.

"Well, first of all, nothing -- and I will underscore nothing -- that I was sent or that I sent was marked classified," Clinton replied.

She explained that decisions about what is marked classified are made "in real time," and she said the State Department dealt with classified information on a completely different system.

"Nobody had access to that from an unclassified device."

Clinton said the problems arise in hindsight: "This happens every time there is a Freedom of Information Act request. If something is going to be made public that was not classified at the time, maybe something has happened years later that there's a case, and so now it's sensitive information.

"That's what's going on here. Different agencies are weighing in and saying, yes, it wasn't classified but we think that there is something in it that now we're going to say is sensitive.

"You know, at the time there was nothing marked classified."

Tapper noted that the inspector general of the intelligence community said some of the emails contained classified information when they were generated, even though they were not marked classified.

"Well, that is just a very strong differnce of opinion," Clinton responded. "The State Department does not agree with that. And it is almost an impossible standard because we had two separate systems.

"We had the unclassified systems, so anybody who was on the unclassified system with the State Department would only be able to tell if something were classified if it were marked classified."

As previously reported, an August 11 memorandum from Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough stated that two of the forty emails his office had been allowed to review from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server contained information that was classified at the Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information level.

Moreover, in a July 23 memo to intelligence officials, McCullough said four of those 40 State Department emails contained classified information which should have been marked and handled at the SECRET level,” the IG said at that time.

As for her upcoming appearance before the House Benghazi committee, Clinton said, "I really don't know what to expect. I think it's pretty clear that whatever they might have thought they were doing, they ended up becoming a partisan arm of the Republican National Committee with an overwhelming focus on trying to -- as they admitted, drive down my poll numbers.

"I already testified about Benghazi. I testified to the best of my ability before the Senate and the House. I don't know if that I have very much to add. This is after all, the eighth investigation. Other committees of the Congress, standing committees with very experienced members and staff have all looked into this and basically just rejected the conspiracy theories that are still floating out there in some circles.

"So I really don't know. I will do my best to answer their questions, but I don't really know what their objective is right now."

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