Obama says Hillary Clinton was careless with emails but didn’t jeopardize national security

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Oct. 22, 2015.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Oct. 22, 2015.

(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

Wading into a campaign controversy, President Obama said Sunday that Hillary Clinton was careless but did not harm national security by using a nonsecure email system when she served as secretary of State.

“I continue to believe that she has not jeopardized America’s national security,” Obama said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”

“What I’ve also said is that -- and she has acknowledged -- that there’s a carelessness, in terms of managing emails, that she ... recognizes,” he added. He added that she did an “outstanding job” as America’s top diplomat.

The FBI is investigating whether Clinton or her aides mishandled classified information when they used a private email server for some work-related communications during her four years as secretary of State.

The issue has dogged Clinton’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. Obama’s comments may serve to reassure Clinton supporters as she heads into a crucial final round of primaries against rival Bernie Sanders.


The State Department has said 22 emails on a server her aides had set up in the basement of her home in Chappaqua, N.Y., contained top secret information, the highest level of classification.

Obama suggested that any secret information in Clinton’s emails was not highly sensitive.

“There’s classified, and then there’s classified,” Obama said. “There’s stuff that is really top-secret, top-secret, and there’s stuff that is being presented to the president or the secretary of State, that you might not want on the transom, or going out over the wire, but is basically stuff that you could get” from unclassified sources.

Clinton has denied using the email account to send or receive materials marked classified.

Though some emails have since been deemed to be too sensitive to release publicly, Clinton’s campaign has attributed that to overzealous intelligence officials and “over-classification run amok.”

The FBI has taken the server and is investigating the case with U.S. Justice Department attorneys.

Many legal experts believe that Clinton faces little risk of being prosecuted for using the private email system to conduct official business.

Using a private email system was not banned at the time, and others in government had used personal email to transact official business.

Obama repeatedly guaranteed the White House would not seek to influence a decision by the Justice Department or FBI about whether to prosecute Clinton if they find evidence of wrongdoing.

“I do not talk to the attorney general about pending investigations,” Obama said. “I do not talk to FBI directors about pending investigations. We have a strict line, and always have maintained it.”

He added, “I guarantee that there is no political influence in any investigation conducted by the Justice Department, or the FBI, not just in this case, but in any case.”

The interview was the Obama’s first on Fox News since February 2014.

Obama also said he would not withdraw his nomination of Judge Merrick Garland for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court before the end of his presidency.

Republican leaders in the Senate have refused to hold a hearing or allow a vote on the nomination, arguing that the seat should be filled after the November election.

Obama noted that several Republican senators have met with Garland, which he portrayed as progress.

“Originally, the Republicans said they wouldn’t meet with him at all,” Obama said. “Now a number of them have already had meetings. And the questioning that they’re having privately with Judge Garland, is something that should be done publicly, through a hearings process, so the American people can make their own assessment.”