The impact of Hillary Clinton email controversy on possible campaign

WASHINGTON -- When Hillary Clinton traveled more than a million miles as Secretary of State, she famously carried her Blackberry with her.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Tuesday that Clinton's use of a personal email account --rather than a government account -- to conduct business was not illegal.

In this Oct. 18, 2011, file photo, then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton checks her Blackberry from a desk inside a C-17 military plane upon her departure from Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea, bound for Tripoli, Libya.
AP Photo/Kevin Lamarque, Pool, File

"There was no prohibition on using a non account for official business, as long as it is preserved," Harf said.

But Clinton aides did not submit those emails to government archives, as required by a 2009 law. They claim nine out ten emails she sent were to State Department colleagues and therefore in the department's computer system.

Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said there was "every expectation they would be retained."

Last year the State Department sent a written request for the emails. Clinton's aides then turned over 55,000 pages of communications.

The emails were revealed after the department sent 300 Clinton messages to a House committee investigating the Benghazi attacks.

Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, the committee's chair, said it's a matter of whether Clinton can be trusted.

"It's a failure to comply with the law that the secretary had to know about, her aides had to know about, and it's a pattern of deception that began from before she became secretary until her last day," Issa said.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said he had a personal email account. Condoleeza Rice said she didn't use hers for official communications.

All of this comes as Clinton is widely expected to make a run for the White House.

CBS News Political Director John Dickerson said Republicans, thinking Clinton will eventually be the Democratic presidential nominee, have jumped on the controversy.

"There are a lot of legitimate questions about whether Clinton's use of this private email account went beyond the previous practices of other Secretaries of State," Dickerson said. "And it also raises the question, when she turned over the emails, did she turn over everything?"

As Dickerson pointed out, Clinton's spokesperson says yes, but congressional investigators looking into the Benghazi attacks are skeptical.

"A protracted tug-of-war over these emails could reanimate concerns that the Clintons are secretive, which puts pressure on Hillary Clinton, once she does announce, to have a campaign message that can withstand frequent interruptions."

Now that the messages have been handed over, Clinton's emails are part of her permanent record at the State Department.

  • Margaret Brennan

    Margaret Brennan is moderator of CBS News' "Face The Nation" and CBS News' senior foreign affairs correspondent based in Washington, D.C.