STYLE

Clinton ignores email controversy at forum as calls intensify for her to address it

03/09/2015 05:46 EDT | Updated 05/09/2015 05:59 EDT
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Hillary Rodham Clinton's silence on the email controversy swirling around her is getting louder by the day.

On Monday, the potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate ignored the issue at a forum while a second Democratic senator urged her to speak out — and predicted she will — about her decision to conduct business while secretary of state in a private email account. Republicans are ramping up their attention on the issue.

At the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama indeed knew she was using a nongovernment account during her tenure. Obama had indicated earlier that he only learned of that from recent news reports.

Earnest said the president actually learned from those news reports of Clinton's privately run email server, but was familiar with her private account earlier because the two had exchanged emails when she was in office. Obama did not know at the time that she was using private email exclusively, Earnest said.

Clinton spoke at a carefully choreographed two-hour event involving her No Ceilings project at the Clinton Foundation, highlighting economic and educational opportunities for women and girls. She took no questions. When she sat down to lead more informal conversations with invited speakers, participants appeared to be reading from teleprompters.

The Republican National Committee used the vacuum Monday to keep the pressure on Clinton, noting a State Department policy requiring all outgoing employees to turn over job-related materials before leaving. The policy required such employees to sign a "separation statement" declaring they had "surrendered to responsible officials all unclassified documents" related to official business during their employment.

Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement the "fact that Hillary Clinton did not abide by the same rules her State Department employees had to comply with is just the latest example of how the Clintons think the rules don't apply to them." Clinton left the State Department in early 2013. It was not immediately clear if Clinton signed the agreement or if the secretary of state was required to. She did not immediately comment.

In the past week, the State Department has faced a torrent of questions about Clinton's email practices, increasingly referring them to Clinton and her team. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, at her daily briefing Monday, repeatedly directed reporters' questions about the topic to Clinton's team.

Clinton is under scrutiny over whether she fully complied with federal laws requiring government officials to preserve written communications involving official business. Democrats have defended her, but Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California made waves Sunday when she urged Clinton to offer a detailed explanation. "From this point on, the silence is going to hurt her," Feinstein said.

On Monday, Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said Clinton will probably address the matter — and should. "I think that you're going to hear something from Secretary Clinton this week," she said on MSNBC. "I'm fairly certain it will be soon. I think that's very important."

Last week, Clinton said in a Twitter message that she wanted her emails released by the State Department as soon as possible — but did not address why she does not put them out herself immediately. Clinton's spokesmen and the State Department have said she never received or transmitted classified information on her private email account, in which case there would be no concerns that disclosure of her messages could compromise national security.

The State Department is reviewing 55,000 pages of emails that she has turned over and Republicans in Congress have said they plan to review her email practices.

Clinton is approaching a public decision on a 2016 presidential campaign and remains the leading prospect for the Democratic nomination if she seeks the White House again.

In New York, Clinton joined with philanthropist Melinda Gates and daughter Chelsea Clinton at an event to present highlights from a report tracking the progress of women and girls during the last two decades.

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Thomas reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Steve Peoples in Washington contributed to this report.

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