Hillary Clinton Email Scandal

Questions and Answers About the Clinton Email Controversy

Hillary Clinton
Former First Lady Hillary Clinton found herself amid a controversy over her use of a personal email address as she geared up for a run for president. Yana Paskova/Getty Images News

The Hillary Clinton email scandal broke in early 2015 as the former secretary of State and onetime U.S. senator was believed to be building up for a run for president in the 2016 election. The controversy centered on her use of a personal email address instead of a government account during her tenure in President Barack Obama's administration.

So what is the Hillary Clinton email scandal all about? And is it really a big deal? Or is it just political as usual, an attempt by Republicans to undermine the former First Lady's presumptive run and status as frontrunner for the White House?

Here are some questions and answers about the Hillary Clinton email scandal.

How Did the Scandal Begin?

Clinton's exclusive use of a personal email account to conduct official, government business during her four years as secretary of the Department of State was first disclosed by The New York Times, which reported on the matter March 2, 2015. 

What's the Big Deal?

Her behavior appears to be in violation of the Federal Records Act, a 1950 law that mandates the preservation of most records related to conducting government business. The records are important for Congress, historians and the public. Federal records are kept by the National Archives and Records Administration.

The office requires federal agencies to keep records that pertain to their activity under the Code of Federal Regulations.

So There's No Trace of Clinton's Emails?

Yes, actually there is. Clinton advisers turned over 55,000 pages of emails to the government from her tenure as secretary of State, from 2009 to 2013. 

Then Why is This a Scandal?

While Clinton turned over 30,490 emails on 55,000 pages of records, she sent more than twice that many emails as secretary of State - more than 62,000 in all. And we don't know why Clinton didn't turn over the remainder of the other email, other than her explanation that they were personal in nature, having to do with family matters.

Also: Those personal emails have been deleted and will never be retrieved. The other curious detail about this controversy is that Clinton's email account was running on her own personal server, meaning that she had complete control over the material. 

And if she had nothing to hide, why did she delete the emails?

"No one wants their personal e-mails made public and I think most people understand that and respect that privacy," Clinton said at a March 2015 news conference.

What Does Clinton Have to Say About This?

She said she used a private account for "convenience," and that in hindsight she should have used two separate accounts including an official @state.gov address.

Clinton also said: "I fully complied with every rule I was governed by," though that remains to be determined.

What Do Clinton's Critics Say?

Lots. They believe Clinton is hiding something. And that there's some connection to Benghazi. The Select Committee on Benghazi sought to obtain Clinton's personal email server so it could attempt to review both the personal and governmental emails she sent and received.

​The chairman of that committee, Republican U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, wrote: “Though Secretary Clinton alone is responsible for causing this issue, she alone does not get to determine its outcome. That is why in the interest of transparency for the American people, I am formally requesting she turn the server over to the State Department’s inspector general or a mutually agreeable third party.”

Now What? 

As with everything else in Washington, this controversy has very little to do with policy or preserving history and everything to do with electoral politics. Republicans who see Clinton as their biggest obstacle to the White House in 2016 made the most of Clinton's apparent lack of transparency. Democrats who were concerned about another Clinton controversy began to wonder whether she would be too polarizing a figure to hand the party a second consecutive president.

If anything, Clinton's behavior perpetuated the notion that Clinton, and the Clintons in general, play by their own set of rules. "For more than 20 years, the Clintons have flouted the law to serve their political ambitions. Today, an unknown number of emails remain hidden from public view, the contents known only to Hillary’s political advisors," wrote the Republican National Committee.