Does scandal involving Clinton e-mails warrant criminal investigation?

The Justice Department has not yet decided whether to open an investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a personal e-mail account and server during her time as secretary of State.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/File/AP
Then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the deadly September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, Jan. 23, 2014. Senior Obama administration officials, including the White House chief of staff, knew as early as 2009 that Hillary Rodham Clinton was using a private email address for her government correspondence, according to some 3,000 pages of correspondence released by the State Department late Tuesday night. But it's unclear whether the officials realized Clinton, now the leading Democratic presidential candidate, was running her email from a server located in her home in Chappaqua, N.Y., a potential security risk and violation of administration policy.

In a lesson about the permanence of online media, the e-mail scandal involving Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton simply won’t go away.

Two inspectors general have called for the Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation into whether Mrs. Clinton mishandled sensitive government communication while she was serving as secretary of State through her use of a private e-mail account and "home-brew" server, according to a report in The New York Times.  

The Justice Department has not formally decided whether to open an investigation, according to the Times.  

Reports emerged in March that Clinton used her private e-mail account – instead of a standard government e-mail – for official State Department business while she was serving as the nation’s top diplomat. While Clinton has claimed that she used the personal account out of convenience, her use of the private account had the added effect of shielding the communication from public records laws.

Clinton has responded to criticisms by saying she broke no laws and that she had not sent classified information through e-mail.  

Since she left her post at the State Department, the federal law regarding the use of private e-mail accounts for official government business has been updated. It now requires officials to forward or copy e-mails from a private account to their government e-mail address.

Congressional Republicans have repeatedly attacked Clinton’s and the State Department’s lack of transparency during hearings into the 2012 attacks on the American embassy in Benghazi, in which four people were killed including ambassador Christopher Stevens.

In order to allay suspicions, Clinton asked the State Department to review and release her e-mails publicly. On June 30, the department published 3,000 pages of e-mails, the first batch of an eventual 55,000 pages of correspondence coming from Clinton’s four-year tenure as secretary of State.

During the e-mail review, the State Department retroactively marked some of the e-mails as classified, but they were not classified when the e-mails were sent by Clinton.

The New York Times reported that the two inspectors general said Clinton’s private account contained hundreds of potentially classified e-mails and that at least one e-mail made public by the State Department contained classified information.

Clinton’s lead over her competitors for the Democratic presidential nomination has slipped since the announcement of her candidacy, but is still commanding.

She has also rated low on public opinion polls on issues such as trust and honesty. In addition to the e-mail flap, her campaign has dealt with controversy stemming from donations from foreign governments to the nonprofit Clinton family foundation while she served as secretary of State.

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