QuickTake Q&A: Hillary Clinton’s Use of a Private E-Mail System

Hillary Clinton, the almost-certain Democratic nominee for president, continues to face fallout from her use of a private e-mail account and server in her last job, as U.S. secretary of state. She used personal e-mail to send or receive about 60,000 messages from 2009 to 2013, roughly half of them work-related. The FBI is investigating whether, among other questions, any laws were broken when classified information was included in some of the e-mail traffic. A separate investigation, by the State Department’s auditing office, was delivered to Congress on Wednesday.

1. What’s the latest?

The State Department’s inspector general found Clinton’s use of private e-mail violated departmental rules. It also says "longstanding" problems with the department’s electronic communications began before Clinton took office.

2. How did we get here?

Clinton’s account came to light during the probes into the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. In March 2015, a New York Times report raised questions about whether her use of it violated federal rules governing retention of and access to official records. Some of the e-mails were deemed classified after Clinton left office. In October 2015, Clinton testified during an 11-hour hearing before a House committee. “I don’t think anything inappropriate was done,” Clinton said of her e-mail practices in an April 3 interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

3. What’s next?

The FBI has begun conducting interviews with Clinton’s aides to learn how the e-mail system was used and whether anyone broke the law. Though Clinton has said that the FBI hasn’t yet asked to question her, she is expected to talk to agents at some point. It is unclear whether the FBI will complete its investigation before the Democratic National Convention begins July 25.

4. What are experts and polls saying?

There’s little chance that Clinton will be indicted over the e-mail investigation, according to national security experts and former prosecutors. But the continuing probes keep the story in the news and provide easy attack lines for Clinton’s opponents, who are using it question her judgment. Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has taken to calling her “crooked Hillary.” In a Bloomberg Politics national poll in March, 64 percent of Democratic primary voters said Clinton’s opponent, Bernie Sanders, is the most honest and trustworthy candidate. Only a quarter of voters said that of Clinton.

5. Are there potential surprises?

The e-mail investigation also revealed that Clinton’s closest aide, Huma Abedin, worked for a consulting firm with ties to the Clinton family while employed by the State Department. This has raised questions ranging from possible conflict of interest to improper pay. The State Department and Senate Judiciary Committee are investigating.

The Reference Shelf

  • A Bloomberg story on 22 e-mails withheld from release because they included top-secret information.
  • A Bloomberg QuickTake on the Benghazi affair.
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