WASHINGTON • The Clinton campaign has released a 203-word statement largely dismissing the criticisms in the inspector- general's report on the e-mail practices of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
Released on Wednesday, it reprised many of the arguments that Mrs Clinton has made throughout the 14-month drama over her use of a personal e-mail and server.
The starkly critical 79-page report by the State Department's inspector-general found that she had not sought permission to conduct official business on her personal account. Had she asked, she would not have been allowed to carry out government work on her homemade set-up, for fear that state secrets could be hacked, it said.
Mrs Clinton's camp pushed back hard, insisting it had found she had acted as previous secretaries of state had done before her.
"Hillary Clinton's use of personal e-mail was not unique," campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said. "And she took steps that went much further than others to appropriately preserve and release her records."
The inspector-general's report did indeed note that Mrs Clinton's Republican predecessor, Mr Colin Powell, also used a private e-mail account. But it made it clear that when Mrs Clinton joined the State Department in 2009, the rules had been updated and that she should have known about them. "Secretary Clinton's cybersecurity practices accordingly must be evaluated in light of these more comprehensive directives," it said.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said current Secretary of State John Kerry "primarily" uses a government account and "the e-mails on his state.gov account are automatically archived".
When Mrs Clinton took office, the department's Foreign Affairs Manual said day-to-day operations should be conducted on an authorised system. Yet the report "found no evidence that the secretary requested or obtained guidance or approval to conduct official business via a personal e-mail account". The FBI is conducting a separate probe into whether state secrets were stolen or put at risk.
The scandal continues to tarnish Mrs Clinton's main selling points - experience and competence - as she prepares to take on Republican firebrand Donald Trump.
Mr Trump has taken to calling Mrs Clinton "crooked" in tweets to his supporters, and Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus issued a strongly worded statement. "The stakes are too high in this election to entrust the White House to someone with as much poor judgment and reckless disregard for the law," he said.
Mrs Clinton and rival Bernie Sanders are locked in a tight race in California, a state that until recently seemed strongly in her corner, a new statewide poll has found. The poll, released on Wednesday night by the Public Policy Institute of California, showed Mrs Clinton leading Senator Sanders by 46 per cent to 44 per cent.
However, even with a loss in the primary, Mrs Clinton would almost certainly win enough delegates to capture her party's nomination.
NEW YORK TIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE