Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a press conference Tuesday to discuss the controversy over her use of a private email account for government business while in office.
Here’s a transcript of her remarks.
CLINTON: Good afternoon.
I want to thank the United Nations for hosting today’s events and putting the challenge of gender equality front and center on the international agenda. I’m especially pleased to have so many leaders here from the private sector standing shoulder to shoulder with advocates who have worked tirelessly for equality for decades.
Twenty years ago, this was a lonelier struggle. Today, we mark the progress that has been made in the two decades since the international community gathered in Beijing and declared with one voice that human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.
And because of advances in health, education, and legal protections, we can say that there has never been a better time in history to be born female. Yet as the comprehensive new report, published by the Clinton Foundation and the Gates Foundation this week makes clear, despite all this progress, when it comes to the full participation of women and girls, we’re just not there yet.
As I said today, this remains the great unfinished business of the 21st century. And my passion for this fight burns as brightly today as it did 20 years ago.
I want to comment on a matter in the news today regarding Iran. The president and his team are in the midst of intense negotiations. Their goal is a diplomatic solution that would close off Iran’s pathways to a nuclear bomb and give us unprecedented access and insight into Iran’s nuclear program.
Now, reasonable people can disagree about what exactly it will take to accomplish this objective, and we all must judge any final agreement on its merits.
But the recent letter from Republican senators was out of step with the best traditions of American leadership. And one has to ask, what was the purpose of this letter?
There appear to be two logical answers. Either these senators were trying to be helpful to the Iranians or harmful to the commander- in-chief in the midst of high-stakes international diplomacy. Either answer does discredit to the letters’ signatories.
Now, I would be pleased to talk more about this important matter, but I know there have been questions about my email, so I want to address that directly, and then I will take a few questions from you.
There are four things I want the public to know.
First, when I got to work as secretary of state, I opted for convenience to use my personal email account, which was allowed by the State Department, because I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two.
Looking back, it would’ve been better if I’d simply used a second email account and carried a second phone, but at the time, this didn’t seem like an issue.
Second, the vast majority of my work emails went to government employees at their government addresses, which meant they were captured and preserved immediately on the system at the State Department.
Third, after I left office, the State Department asked former secretaries of state for our assistance in providing copies of work- related emails from our personal accounts. I responded right away and provided all my emails that could possibly be work-related, which totalled roughly 55,000 printed pages, even though I knew that the State Department already had the vast majority of them. We went through a thorough process to identify all of my work- related emails and deliver them to the State Department. At the end, I chose not to keep my private personal emails — emails about planning Chelsea’s wedding or my mother’s funeral arrangements, condolence notes to friends as well as yoga routines, family vacations, the other things you typically find in inboxes.
No one wants their personal emails made public, and I think most people understand that and respect that privacy.
Fourth, I took the unprecedented step of asking that the State Department make all my work-related emails public for everyone to see.
I am very proud of the work that I and my colleagues and our public servants at the department did during my four years as secretary of state, and I look forward to people being able to see that for themselves.
Again, looking back, it would’ve been better for me to use two separate phones and two email accounts. I thought using one device would be simpler, and obviously, it hasn’t worked out that way.
Now I’m happy to take a few questions.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, can you…
CLINTON: Just a minute. Nick (ph) is calling on people.
Madam Secretary, Kahraman Haliscelik with Turkish Television. On behalf of the U.N. Correspondence Association, thank you very much for your remarks, and it’s wonderful to see you here again.
Madam Secretary, why did you opt out not using two devices at the time? Obviously, if this didn’t come out, you wouldn’t — probably wouldn’t become an issue.
QUESTION: And my — my second follow-up question is, if you were a man today, would all this fuss being made be made?
CLINTON: Well, I will — I will leave that to others to answer.
But as I — as I said, I saw it as a matter of convenience, and it was allowed. Others had done it. According to the State Department, which recently said Secretary Kerry was the first secretary of state to rely primarily on a state.gov e-mail account.
And when I got there, I wanted to just use one device for both personal and work e-mails, instead of two. It was allowed. And as I said, it was for convenience. And it was my practice to communicate with State Department and other government officials on their .gov accounts so those e-mails would be automatically saved in the State Department system to meet recordkeeping requirements, and that, indeed, is what happened.
And I heard just a little while ago the State Department announced they would begin to post some of my e-mails, which I’m very glad to hear, because I want it all out there.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, can you…
CLINTON: Andrea? Andrea, thank you, Andrea.
QUESTION: Can you explain how you decided which of the personal e-mails to get rid of, how you got rid of them and when? And how you’ll respond to questions about you being the arbiter of what you release?
And, secondly, could you answer the questions that have been raised about foreign contributions from Middle Eastern countries, like Saudi Arabia, that abuse women or permit violence against women to the family foundation and whether that disturbs you as you are rightly celebrating 20 years of leadership on this issue?
CLINTON: Well, those are two very different questions. Let me see if I can take them in order. And I’ll give you some of the background.
In going through the e-mails, there were over 60,000 in total, sent and received. About half were work-related and went to the State Department and about half were personal that were not in any way related to my work. I had no reason to save them, but that was my decision because the federal guidelines are clear and the State Department request was clear.
For any government employee, it is that government employee’s responsibility to determine what’s personal and what’s work-related. I am very confident of the process that we conducted and the e-mails that were produced.
And I feel like once the American public begins to see the e- mails, they will have an unprecedented insight into a high government official’s daily communications, which I think will be quite interesting.
With respect to the foundation, I am very proud of the work the foundation does. I’m very proud of the hundreds of thousands of people who support the work of the foundation and the results that have been achieved for people here at home and around the world.
And I think that we are very clear about where we stand, certainly where I stand, on all of these issues. There can’t be any mistake about my passion concerning women’s rights here at home and around the world.
So I think that people who want to support the foundation know full well what it is we stand for and what we’re working on.
CLINTON: Hi, right here.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: She’s sort of squashed, so we’ve got to…
QUESTION: Hi, Secretary.
QUESTION: I was wondering if you think that you made a mistake either in exclusively using your private e-mail or in response to the controversy around it. And, if so, what have you learned from that?
CLINTON: Well, I have to tell you that, as I said in my remarks, looking back, it would have been probably, you know, smarter to have used two devices. But I have absolute confidence that everything that could be in any way connected to work is now in the possession of the State Department.
And I have to add, even if I had had two devices, which is obviously permitted — many people do that — you would still have to put the responsibility where it belongs, which is on the official. So I did it for convenience and I now, looking back, think that it might have been smarter to have those two devices from the very beginning.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: Yes? QUESTION: Did you or any of your aides delete any government- related e-mails from your personal account? And what lengths are you willing to go to to prove that you didn’t?
Some people, including supporters of yours, have suggested having an independent arbiter look at your server, for instance.
CLINTON: We did not. In fact, my direction to conduct the thorough investigation was to err on the side of providing anything that could be possibly viewed as work related.
That doesn’t mean they will be by the State Department once the State Department goes through them, but out of an abundance of caution and care, you know, we wanted to send that message unequivocally.
That is the responsibility of the individual and I have fulfilled that responsibility, and I have no doubt that we have done exactly what we should have done. When the search was conducted, we were asking that any email be identified and preserved that could potentially be federal records, and that’s exactly what we did.
And we went, as I said, beyond that. And the process produced over 30,000 you know, work emails, and I think that we have more than met the requests from the State Department. The server contains personal communications from my husband and me, and I believe I have met all of my responsibilities and the server will remain private and I think that the State Department will be able, over time, to release all of the records that were provided.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, can you…
CLINTON: Right there.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, two quick follow ups. You mentioned the server. That’s one of the distinctions here.
This wasn’t Gmail or Yahoo or something. This was a server that you owned. Is that appropriate? Is it — was there any precedent for it? Did you clear it with any State Department security officials? And do they have — did they have full access to it when you were secretary?
And then separately, will any of this have any bearing or effect on your timing or decision about whether or not you run for president? Thank you.
CLINTON: Well, the system we used was set up for President Clinton’s office. And it had numerous safeguards. It was on property guarded by the Secret Service. And there were no security breaches.
So, I think that the — the use of that server, which started with my husband, certainly proved to be effective and secure. Now, with respect to any sort of future — future issues, look, I trust the American people to make their decisions about political and public matters. And I feel that I’ve taken unprecedented steps to provide these work-related emails. They’re going to be in the public domain. And I think that Americans will find that you know, interesting, and I look forward to having a discussion about that.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary?
QUESTION: How could the public be assured that when you deleted emails that were personal in nature, that you didn’t also delete emails that were professional, but possibly unflattering?
And what do you think about this Republican idea of having an independent third party come in an examine your emails?
CLINTON: Well first of all, you have to ask that question to every single federal employee, because the way the system works, the federal employee, the individual, whether they have one device, two devices, three devices, how many addresses, they make the decision.
So, even if you have a work-related device with a work-related .gov account, you choose what goes on that. That is the way our system works. And so we trust and count on the judgment of thousands, maybe millions of people to make those decisions.
And I feel that I did that and even more, that I went above and beyond what I was requested to do. And again, those will be out in the public domain, and people will be able to judge for themselves.
QUESTION: Okay, Madam.
Madam Secretary, excuse me.
Madam Secretary, State Department rules at the time you were secretary were perfectly clear that if a State Department employee was going to be using private email, that employee needed to turn those emails over to the State Department to be preserved on government computers.
Why did you not do that? Why did you not go along with State Department rules until nearly two years after you left office?
QUESTION: And also, the president of the United States said that he was unaware that you had this unusual email arrangement. The White House counsel’s office says that you never approved this arrangement through them.
Why did you not do that? Why did you — why have you apparently caught the White House by surprise?
And then just one last political question, if I — I might. Does all of this make — affect your decision in any way on whether or not to run for president?
CLINTON: Well, let me try to unpack your multiple questions.
First, the laws and regulations in effect when I was secretary of state allowed me to use my email for work. That is undisputed.
Secondly, under the Federal Records Act, records are defined as reported information, regardless of its form or characteristics, and in meeting the record keeping obligations, it was my practice to email government officials on their state or other .gov accounts so that the emails were immediately captured and preserved.
Now, there are different rules governing the White House than there are governing the rest of the executive branch, and in order to address the requirements I was under, I did exactly what I have said. I emailed two people, and I not only knew, I expected that then to be captured in the State Department or any other government agency that I was emailing to at a .gov account.
What happened in — sorry, I guess late summer, early — early fall, is that the State Department sent a letter to former secretaries of state, not just to me, asking for some assistance in providing any work-related emails that might be on the personal email.
And what I did was to direct, you know, my counsel to conduct a thorough investigation and to err on the side of providing anything that could be connected to work. They did that, and that was my obligation. I fully fulfilled it, and then I took the unprecedented step of saying, “Go ahead and release them, and let people see them.”
QUESTION: Why did you wait two months? Why — why did you wait two months to turn those emails over? The rules say you have to turn them over…
(CROSSTALK) CLINTON: I don’t think — I’d be happy to have somebody talk to you about the rules. I fully complied with every rule that I was governed by.
QUESTION: Were you ever — were you ever specifically briefed on the security implications of using — using your own email server and using your personal address to email with the president?
CLINTON: I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material.
So I’m certainly well-aware of the classification requirements and did not send classified material.
CLINTON: Because they were personal and private about matters that I believed were within the scope of my personal privacy and that particularly of other people. They have nothing to do with work, but I didn’t see any reason to keep them.
QUESTION: At the end of the process.
QUESTION: … who was forced to resign two years ago because of his personal use of emails?
By the way, David Shuster from Al Jazeera America.
CLINTON: Yeah. Right…
QUESTION: What about Ambassador Scott (inaudible) being forced to resign?
CLINTON: David, I think you should go online and read the entire I.G. report. That is not an accurate representation of what happened.
CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you all.