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Hillary says ‘personal’ messages were deleted from email account

The political storm over Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account intensified Tuesday as she revealed that more than 30,000 “personal” messages have been erased from the server in her home.

Holding her first press conference in nearly two years, the likely presidential candidate defended the account, saying it was chosen only for the “convenience” of not having to use two personal devices while serving as secretary of State.

“Looking back, it would’ve been better if I’d simply used a second email account and carried a second phone, but at the time, this didn’t seem like an issue,” she said.

Clinton two weeks ago said she now uses both an iPhone and a Blackberry.

{mosads}She insisted that she followed all federal rules and regulations, and said every email message related to official business was preserved and turned over to the government.

“I have absolute confidence that everything that could be in any way connected to work is now in the possession of the State Department.”

According to a nine-page document provided by Clinton aides, the personal account once contained 62,320 emails that were sent and received between March 2009 and February 2013, when she left President Obama’s Cabinet.

Of those emails, Clinton’s team determined that 30,490 were work-related, in part by searching for the names of top officials and for emails ending in “.gov.” Those records were provided to the State Department two months ago; the other 31,830 were apparently deleted.

“Secretary Clinton chose not to keep her private, personal emails that were not federal records,” the document states.

Clinton defended the process as thorough and fair, and suggested that she has the same right to privacy as everyone else.

“At the end, I chose not to keep my private, personal emails — emails about planning Chelsea’s wedding or my mother’s funeral arrangements, condolences, notes to friends, as well as yoga routines, family vacations, the other things you’d typically find in inboxes.

“I didn’t see any reason to keep them,” she later added.

While Clinton allies hoped the press conference at the United Nations would help her turn the page, it instead seemed to guarantee that the controversy will persist as she prepares to launch an expected run for the White House this spring.

Republicans said Clinton’s remarks raised more questions than answers, and vowed to thoroughly investigate whether she and her aides flouted records laws to shield their emails from public scrutiny.

“There is no way to accept State’s or Secretary Clinton’s certification she has turned over all documents that rightfully belong to the American people,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who is leading a special House investigation into the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

“Secretary Clinton alone created this predicament, but she alone does not get to determine its outcome.”

The email flap is also reverberating on the left, with a trio of liberal groups — Democracy for America, and Ready for Warren — seizing on Clinton’s comments to try to draft Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) into the 2016 race.

“A contested nomination will strengthen the Democratic Party by holding candidates accountable,” said Erica Sagrans, campaign manager for Ready for Warren.

While Senate Democrats had pressured Clinton to speak out about the emails, several told The Hill before the press conference that they think the issue will fade.

“I think when it’s all settled out, the American people realize this is a very anxious Republican Party,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who became the first senator to endorse Clinton for 2016 after angering the family in 2008 with comments about how she wouldn’t want Bill Clinton near her daughter.

 “She’s going to take a lot of incoming over the next 18 months. But she’s strong enough and tough enough to handle it,” McCaskill said.

Clinton’s press conference at the United Nations came eight days after The New York Times reported she relied solely on a personal email account as secretary of State, effectively preventing the documents from being released to the public for nearly two years.

Subsequent reports found Clinton was using a personal email domain routed through a server in her Chappaqua, N.Y., home, which she appeared to confirm on Tuesday by saying the system had been guarded by the Secret Service.

“The system we used was set up for President Clinton’s office. And it had numerous safeguards. … There were no security breaches,” she said.

While security experts had warned the personal server might have been vulnerable to foreign spies, Clinton said she took pains to never send classified information through the account.

“I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email,” she said.

Clinton also said, “the server contains personal communications from my husband and me.”

However, The Wall Street Journal reported that Bill Clinton doesn’t use email, having only sent two emails in his life. Both were sent when he was president.

The unusual, 20-minute press conference at the United Nations offered Clinton a chance to try and shift the spotlight to her work at State. Earlier in the day she made remarks at a conference on women’s rights, and before taking questions from reporters, she took a swipe at Senate Republicans for their open letter to the leaders of Iran.

But it was the email controversy that took center stage as Clinton faced a throng of reporters just a few steps away from a print of Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica,” an emotionally desolate painting on the tragedies of war.

While Clinton kept a calm demeanor throughout the press conference, she appeared defiant on one point. No outside parties, she declared, will be allowed to examine her personal server or look for the deleted emails.

 “I went above and beyond what I was requested to do.”

Cristina Marcos contribued.

Last updated at 8:14 p.m.

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