WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — Two independent government investigators have asked the Justice Department to look into whether sensitive government information was transmitted through Hillary Rodham Clinton’s personal email server while she was secretary of state, federal officials said Friday.
A Justice Department official confirmed that the department had received a referral from the inspectors general of the State Department, where Clinton served for four years, and of the federal intelligence agencies. Another U.S. official said it was unclear whether classified information was mishandled and that the referral doesn’t necessarily suggest wrongdoing by Clinton herself.
“The Department has received a referral related to the potential compromise of classified information,” a Justice Department official said. “It is not a criminal referral.”
The referral was first reported by The New York Times, which later issued a correction to its own story.
The inspector general told FBI officials that sensitive emails “exist on at least one private server and thumb drive,” according to a spokeswoman for the inspector general.
In a rather unusual move for her Friday, Clinton departed from a scheduled speech in Manhattan on changing Wall Street to talking briefly about “what’s in the news today,” CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
“There have been a lot of inaccuracies,” Clinton said. “Maybe the heat is getting to everybody.”
She didn’t have a lot to say about reports that the two government watchdogs had alerted the Justice Department of the “potential compromise of classified of information.”
“We are all accountable to the American people to get the facts right, and I will do my part, but I will also stay focused on the issues,” the former first lady and New York senator said.
Clinton in March acknowledged her use of a personal email account from a server in her Chappaqua home, which she said she had done as a matter of convenience and to limit the number of electronic devices she used.
She said then that she had never used the email account to sent classified information. The Clinton campaign said Friday that she “followed appropriate practices in dealing with classified materials.”
“Any released emails deemed classified by the administration have been done so after the fact, and not at the time they were transmitted,” campaign spokesman Nick Merrill said in a statement. Clinton “followed appropriate practices in dealing with classified materials,” he added.
Iona College Professor Jeanne Zaino said the issue reinforces polls showing Clinton has a believability gap.
“People simply do not trust her, and that is a big problem for the Clinton campaign to combat,” Zaino said.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll of swing states showed just how important the issue of trustworthiness could be.
When asked if Hillary Clinton is honest or trustworthy:
• In Iowa, 59 percent said no; 33 percent said yes
• In Colorado, 62 percent said no; 34 percent said yes
• In Virginia, 55 percent said no; 39 percent said yes.
“If you look again at the polls, one of the most shocking things that has happened in this race this summer are the negatives involving Hillary Clinton,” Zaino said. “Two to one in Iowa, two to one negatives in Virginia and Colorado — those are must-win states for her, and again, she’s losing to Republicans in the head to head.”
It was not immediately clear whether the Justice Department would investigate the matter. The department receives many referrals that it decides not to take up, and decisions about what to pursue often take some time.
The referral does seem to guarantee that Clinton’s opponents — both Democrats and Republicans — will continue to raise the issue, and it could even draw others, such as Vice President Joe Biden, into the race.
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