Hillary Clinton: It would have been better to use 2 email accounts

WASHINGTON -- For the first time, Hillary Clinton explained Tuesday why she used private e-mail to conduct official business as Secretary of State.

Routing communications through a server at her home prevented some of the emails from being automatically archived at the State Department, and allowed Clinton to decide later which records to make public and which to delete.

The former secretary and likely future Democratic presidential candidate emerged from a speech at the United Nations to face a crowd of hundreds of journalists and issued this mea culpa.

"Looking back, it would have been better for me to use two separate phones and two email accounts," Clinton said. "I thought using one device would be simpler, and obviously it hasn't worked out that way."

Clinton claimed that the private server she shared with her husband at their home in upstate New York was secure, and was never hacked. And that she never emailed classified material.

"The laws and regulations in effect when I was Secretary of State allowed me to use my email for work," she said. "That is undisputed."

Federal regulations from 2009 required that "federal records sent or received" on private email accounts must be "preserved in the appropriate agency recordkeeping system."

But Clinton didn't turn over her emails until this past December, nearly two years after she left the administration -- and only after the State Department asked for them.

"In going through the emails, there were over 60,000 in total, sent and received," Clinton said. "About half were work-related and went to the State Department."

The rest, she says, were personal -- so she deleted them permanently.

"Emails about planning Chelsea's wedding or my mother's funeral arrangements, condolence notes to friends as well as yoga routines, family vacations, the other things you typically find in inboxes," she said.

"How can the public be assured that when you deleted emails that were personal in nature that you also didn't delete those that were professional but possibly unflattering?" I asked at the news conference.

"Well, first of all, you have to ask that question to every single federal employee," Clinton responded, "because the way the system works, the federal employee, the individual, whether they have one device, two devices, three devices, how many addresses they have, they make the decision."

But Republicans aren't satisfied. Congressman Trey Gowdy, who is leading an investigation of the 2012 Benghazi attacks, said Clinton should "turn over her server to a neutral, detached third-party observer."

Clinton said her private server will remain just that -- private.

CBS News Political Director John Dickerson said it's too early to know whether the email controversy will make any difference Clinton's possible campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

"Part of that answer will come from whether we're still talking about this closer to election time, and that depends on when and how this issue comes up again -- either when the State Department releases the emails or congressional investigators do," Dickerson said.

Dickerson said Clinton essentially asked voters to trust her, and that the central issue is whether they do.

"That question applies not just to the way she handled these emails, but do they trust her in general when they see her explain her actions," Dickerson said. "These kinds of situation give candidates a chance to forge new connections with voters -- or a candidate can raise new doubts in the moment they're trying to explain themselves."

While some voters may be making those judgments now, Dickerson pointed out that there are still more than ten months before the first presidential primaries.

"Between now and Election Day, we can be sure there will be other moments where the same instincts Clinton displayed today will be tested again."

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    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.