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Former Attorney General Questions Clinton's Email Comments


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: Obviously, in retrospect, given all of the, you know, concerns that have been raised, it would have been probably smarter not to. But I never sent nor received any classified email, nothing marked classified. And I think this will all sort itself out.

SIMON: Hillary Clinton speaking to Iowa Public Radio this week, but the concerns and controversies over her use of a private email server while she was conducting business as U.S. Secretary of State have continued. Justice Department and FBI inquiries are under way, which may not provide the kind of publicity a candidate likes during a political campaign. Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey wrote a piece in The Wall Street Journal recently arguing that Secretary Clinton may have defied federal law and good sense by keeping her official mail on a private server. He joins us from East Hampton, N.Y. Mr. Mukasey, thanks very much for being with us.

MICHAEL MUKASEY: Good to be with you.

SIMON: What are some of the laws you think Secretary Clinton might have violated?

MUKASEY: Well, there's one, of course, which is the same one that General Petraeus was charged with, involving keeping classified information or sensitive information in an unauthorized place. That's a misdemeanor. And then there are a couple of felonies involving destruction of documents that are either official records or just records destroyed in anticipation of a proceeding or records destroyed involving national security information or defense information. All those are more serious.

SIMON: Secretary Clinton has said, you heard it in that clip, that none of the emails she received or sent at the time were marked classified.

MUKASEY: First of all, I seriously doubt that. But secondly, it's irrelevant because the classification relates to the information not just the marking on a document. The question is was she getting information that was classified? And it's inconceivable to me that, as secretary of state, she wasn't both getting and giving information that was highly sensitive and therefore classified.

SIMON: The laws you cited against destroying evidence, Secretary Clinton has said a number of times that, you know - and this might be true of a lot of people in their 60s - she doesn't even know how to do that. She doesn't know how to wipe a server clean. Do you find that plausible?

MUKASEY: Oh, I - of course I find it plausible. I don't know how to wipe a server clean. I do however know how to tell somebody else to wipe a server clean, and that's the question that's at stake there, whether she directed or explicitly authorized the wiping of the server.

SIMON: I think there might be some people sitting at home who could think, look, the U.S. secretary of state ought to be able to tell an important foreign leader, here is my private email; contact me any time.

MUKASEY: That may be what people feel, but I think if it's a private email, it ought to be a private government email that is accessible only to a few people. She can tell that foreign leader, here's my direct dial telephone in the office. You can get from my secretary to me directly. Call any time, day or night. But email is something quite different.

SIMON: Just at a human level, can you understand why someone who has been in the public eye as long as Hillary Clinton has, and sometimes in the most personal way, would want a private email server, even to conduct official business?

MUKASEY: Candidly, and you want a one word answer to that? No.


MUKASEY: She was more than in the public eye. She was in a public office, and you're free not to hold that office. But once you hold it, anything you do is public business and public property. The column mentioned it, an instance in which I was sitting at my first briefing in a secure facility. And I started to take notes, my personal notes. My chief of staff leaned over and wrote at the top of the pad that I was writing on, in big block letters, TS/SCI, meaning top-secret, secure compartmentalized information. And they were my notes in one sense but not in another. And that, I guess, symbolically made the point.

SIMON: Michael Mukasey, he's a former federal judge who served as attorney general under President George W. Bush and is now an attorney in New York. Mr. Mukasey, thanks very much for being with us.

MUKASEY: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.