Why Everyone Is Talking About Hillary Clinton's Emails Right Now

Photo: Kevin Lamarque/AP Images.
Update: TL;DR: Hillary Clinton’s email problems aren’t going away anytime soon.

A new batch of emails from the presidential candidate’s time as secretary of state includes correspondence showing a top aide fielding requests from donors to the Clinton Foundation. The asks, often sent through other intermediaries, include a prince seeking a meeting with the then-secretary of state and Bono looking for help “broadcasting a live link to the International Space Station during concerts,” The Washington Post reports.

The exchanges from the inbox of Huma Abedin, which run 725 pages, had not previously been released. They were disclosed as part of a lawsuit filed by the conservative group Judicial Watch.

The State Department said there was “no clear sign” that donors ended up getting special access, and a Clinton campaign spokesperson accused Judicial Watch of “distorting facts to make utterly false attacks.”

“No matter how this group tries to mischaracterize these documents, the fact remains that Hillary Clinton never took action as secretary of state because of donations to the Clinton Foundation,” Josh Schwerin said in a statement to The Post.

While there’s no evidence that any of the requests came to fruition, the disclosures put a renewed focus on both Clinton’s email controversy and the work of the family’s charity.

And these latest emails likely won’t be the last to draw scrutiny.

The State Department confirmed Monday that the FBI’s investigation into the presidential candidate’s use of a private server as secretary of state turned up an additional 15,000 previously undisclosed messages.

That correspondence is now expected to be released as soon as October — just weeks before the election, The New York Times reports.

Ahead, we break down the ongoing controversy surrounding the White House hopeful's past email use.

The following story was originally published on July 11, 2016.

You've been hearing about Hillary Clinton's emails since before she even announced her run for the White House — but why?

This saga has been ongoing since 2014, and between State Department investigations, FBI interviews, and a WikiLeaks hack, this story has more twists and turns than an episode of House of Cards.

So if you've gotten a little lost over the past two years, it's no wonder. But we're here to help. We've put together a refresher of the timeline of events and the most important things to know about what's happened so far. Where it goes next, no one can say.

The Backstory — What Clinton Used For Email
Soon after becoming secretary of state in 2009, Hillary Clinton started using a personal email account — hdr22@clintonemail.com — for work-related correspondence. The account was hosted on a private server set up in her home. We now know that by the end of her four years in office, she had sent or received more than 30,000 work emails on the private account, which were eventually turned over to the State Department for review. Non-work messages, which she said covered personal correspondence on matters such as yoga classes and her daughter's wedding, were deleted by her staff.

The revelation that Clinton was using the private account wasn't publicly disclosed until after she left office, when investigators reviewing the 2012 attack on an American diplomatic area in Benghazi, Libya, came across some of the messages, as The New York Times explains in its comprehensive timeline. This discovery led the State Department to formally request all of Clinton's professional correspondence from her time in office.
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By the end of her four years in office, Clinton had sent or received more than 30,000 work emails on the private account.

When the story first came out in 2015, Clinton said the setup was a matter of "convenience," and that she was trying to avoid juggling multiple devices for checking email. "Looking back, it would have been better for me to use two separate phones and two separate email accounts," she said at the time. "I thought using one device would be simpler." Obviously, it hasn't worked out that way." She also said at the time that she "did not email any classified material to anyone on my email." That claim has now been undermined by the FBI.

Clinton's campaign has pushed back, pointing to later comments from Comey clarifying that the emails in question carried only "partial" markings about their classified status.

The Controversy — Why It Matters
There are a few reasons. First, it's illegal to intentionally distribute or "mishandle" classified information in a "grossly negligent way" and remove it from authorized facilities or storage spaces. And, as secretary of state, Clinton was privy to all sorts of classified information and communications.

Using a private email account to handle such correspondence creates security concerns — mainly, how did Clinton ensure the information wasn't at risk of being hacked or improperly accessed? A federal audit released in May found that Clinton and her aides failed to follow guidelines for protecting sensitive information from cyber attacks. There has been no evidence to date that the server was at any time hacked.

Another issue surrounds public records and archiving. Critics of Clinton's handling of the situation say it wasn't right for her attorneys and staff to decide which emails were professional and subject to federal archiving laws, and which were personal. Some speculated that the move to a personal server and email was deliberately aimed at avoiding transparency, so Clinton could potentially avoid Freedom of Information Act requests and subpoenas.

Clinton's campaign says that she was following the rules in place at the time — noting that she's not the first or only public official to use a personal account — and that she ensured all emails would be properly archived by including ".gov" email addresses on all work-related chains.
Photo: Kevin Lamarque/AP Images.

The Investigation — What The FBI Found
The FBI began investigating Clinton's email use in the summer of 2015, following a referral from the intelligence community's inspector general. The investigation "looked at whether there is evidence classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on that personal system, in violation of a federal statute making it a felony to mishandle classified information either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way, or a second statute making it a misdemeanor to knowingly remove classified information from appropriate systems or storage facilities," according to FBI Director James Comey. The FBI also sought to determine whether the account had been subject to hacks by foreign governments, or other individuals or groups.

The FBI read all 30,000 emails turned over by the Clinton staff — plus more that were recovered and determined to be related to work. Of those, 110 emails were found to contain classified information, though "only a very small number" were designated as such.

Investigators concluded that "[Clinton and her staff] were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information." The FBI did not believe that Clinton's lawyers intentionally deleted or sought to conceal the additional work-related emails that surfaced as part of the investigation.

The FBI did not uncover sufficient evidence to recommend criminal charges in the case.

"Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case," Comey said in a statement to reporters last week.

Clinton's campaign said it was “pleased that the career officials handling this have determined that no further action by the Department is appropriate.”

“As the secretary has long said, it was a mistake to use her personal email and she would not do it again. We are glad that this matter is now resolved,” the statement read.

As the secretary has long said, it was a mistake to use her personal email and she would not do it again. We are glad that this matter is now resolved.

Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign

The Future — What's Next & What It Means For The Campaign
While Clinton won't face federal criminal charges, she's far from cleared in the minds of many voters. The issue has haunted the presumptive Democratic candidate since it erupted, and presumably has had an impact on her approval ratings. A Gallup poll in February revealed that one in five Americans thought the former first lady was "dishonest" or a "liar."

An atmosphere of distrust is certainly something the GOP would like to shroud Clinton with ahead of the November election, and Republicans have maintained a media offensive to ensure the email debacle remains in the headlines.

Last week, presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump described Clinton as a "dirty rotten liar" when reacting to the news that the FBI recommended no criminal charges over her handling of classified information and use of a private email address.

And House Speaker Paul Ryan asked the director of national intelligence to keep Clinton out of the loop on any security briefings until the election because denying her access to classified information would "reassure the public our nation's secrets are secure."

The public scrutiny into the set up also hasn't ended. The State Department confirmed that it plans to reopen its own inquiry into the handling of classified information by Clinton and her aides.
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