PRESIDENTIAL hopeful Hillary Clinton has relented to months of demands that she relinquish the personal e-mail server she used while US Secretary of State, directing the device be given to the US justice department.
The decision announced on Tuesday advances the investigation into the Democratic presidential front-runner’s use of a private e-mail account as America’s top diplomat, and whether classified information was improperly sent via and stored on the home-brew e-mail server she ran from her house in suburban New York City.
Clinton campaign spokesman Nick Merrill said she has “pledged to co-operate with the security inquiry, and if there are more questions, we will continue to address them”.
It’s not clear if the device will yield any information – Mrs Clinton’s attorney said in March that no e-mails from the main personal address she used while in office still “reside on the server or on back-up systems associated with the server”.
Mrs Clinton had refused demands from Republican critics to turn over the server to a third party, with attorney David Kendall telling the House committee investigating the deadly 2012 attacks that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, that “there is no basis to support the proposed third-party review”.
The e-mail controversy has proved a distraction to Mrs Clinton’s presidential campaign. Polls show her with a commanding lead over her Democratic rivals, but the controversy over her use of a personal e-mail server has eroded her ratings by rekindling questions about whether she is trustworthy. Republican presidential contenders hope it will weaken her as a potential candidate in the November 2016 election.
Republicans jumped on her decision to change course, as well as the additional disclosure that two e-mails that traversed her personal system were subsequently given one of the highest classification ratings.
“All this means is that Hillary Clinton, in the face of FBI scrutiny, has decided she has run out of options,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said. “She knows she did something wrong and has run out of ways to cover it up.”
Federal investigators have begun looking into the security of her e-mail setup amid concerns from the inspector general for the intelligence community that classified information may have passed through the system.
There is no evidence she used encryption to shield e-mails or her personal server from foreign intelligence services or others. Mr Kendall has said previously that she is “actively co-operating” with the FBI inquiry.
In March, Mrs Clinton said she exchanged about 60,000 e-mails in her four years in Barack Obama’s administration, about half of which were personal and were discarded. She turned over the other half to the State Department last December.
The department is reviewing those e-mails and has begun the process of releasing them to the public.