FBI finds Hillary Clinton’s deleted 'personal' emails: What now?

Presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's previously deleted emails are now in the hands of FBI agents. 

Chris Usher/CBS News/Reuters
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks on 'Face the Nation' with John Dickerson, in Washington, D.C., Sept. 20, 2015.

Deleted emails from Hillary Clinton’s private server have been recovered by the FBI, reports Bloomberg.

The FBI is probing the server to find if any classified material was mishandled. A source told Bloomberg the investigation could last several more months.

While secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton used the server as she conducted personal and work-related business. The agency is concerned that classified information could have been transmitted using the server, exposing it to potential hackers.  

After she left office, Clinton’s aides deleted about 33,000 emails deemed “personal” and turned the rest over to the State Department. 

“We’ve cooperated to date and will continue to do so, including answering any questions about this that anyone including the public may have,” Clinton spokesperson Nick Merrill told Bloomberg.

The email saga has dogged Clinton’s campaign for months, fanning the flames of conspiracy and contributing to a narrative of secrecy.

After treating the controversy as a non-issue and even making light of it, this month Clinton officially apologized for her use of a private email server.

“As I look back at it now, even though it was allowed, I should have used two accounts. That was a mistake. I’m sorry about that. I take responsibility,” Clinton said on Sept. 8.

But as The Christian Science Monitor’s Husna Haq wrote, this was a calculated decision:

According to reports, Clinton's donors and supporters starting complaining about the campaign's mishandling of the e-mail issue and Clinton's less-than-sincere responses to questions about it. Hence Clinton's mea culpa Tuesday night, during a sometimes emotional interview with ABC's David Muir. Clinton also talked about her mother and her struggles with the challenges of 24-7 campaigning, perhaps part of an effort to humanize Hillary.

Clinton's decision to use a private email, which she has described as a matter of "convenience," has now led to federal inquiries, subpoenas, and congressional hearings. Some critics allege that her private server was part of a deliberate strategy to avoid FOIA requests.

Now that the FBI has obtained the deleted emails considered personal by Clinton, they are susceptible to subpoenas, but as Bloomberg’s Del Quentin Wilber notes, Clinton may not need to worry:

The FBI isn’t likely to hand over any such messages until its investigation has been completed. Even then, public records laws provide exceptions protecting personal information.

The recovered emails might help Clinton's presidential campaign by providing new transparency to the candidate who has struggled with her perceived trustworthiness. After months of losing ground, a new CNN/ORC poll released Monday shows Clinton regaining momentum.

As of Monday, Clinton was supported by 42 percent of Democratic primary voters nationally, while 24 percent support Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and 22 percent say they are for Vice President Biden, who has not announced his candidacy.  

A Sept. 10 CNN/ORC poll had showed Clinton leading Sanders by just 10 points. 

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