POLITICS

Hillary Clinton's Democratic Rivals Continue To Hold Back On Email Controversy

03/10/2015 11:31 am ET | Updated Mar 10, 2015

WASHINGTON -- For the first time on Tuesday -- save a random tweet -- former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will address reports that she used private emails exclusively during her tenure at Foggy Bottom.

The revelation about the emails has raised questions about Clinton’s commitment to transparency, her adherence to disclosure laws and, on a meta level, her ability to handle a highly aggressive, balkanized modern media environment, where stories like these can consume a presidential campaign.

Undoubtedly, the entire episode has hurt her politically. But just how much is not yet clear. A lot of that will be answered Tuesday, when Clinton plans to take questions from the press after a United Nations event. But even before the news that Clinton will talk about the emails, it was clear that those likely to challenge her in a Democratic primary for president weren’t yet ready to make them an issue.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) practically recoiled when asked about the topic at an event hosted by the International Association of Fire Fighters.

“I really don’t want to,” he said, before trailing off.

Former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) was only a touch more willing to entertain the emails.

“I think that is between her and you all, and she is going to have an availability this afternoon and I think it is a good time for the air to be cleared,” he told reporters at the same event. “I think it is a good opportunity for Secretary Clinton to come forward and explain what the situation is."

The presumed 2016 candidate remains a juggernaut on the Democratic ticket, even if a wounded one. It may very well be that both Sanders and Webb feel like there’s no point in attacking her when the damage is already self-inflicted. But it’s a bit more likely that they recognize the dangers of going after Clinton from the Democratic side of the ledger -- both in the backlash that may come and the long-term implications that it holds -- and don’t want to take that risk.

UPDATE: 2:24 p.m. -- The State Department announced Tuesday that it would make Clinton’s emails publicly available on a website after departmental review. This process could take months, and it’s unclear just how much it will quiet critics. Clinton has turned over around 55,000 pages of documents covering her time in office. The question is how much of that -- if any -- includes correspondences between her private email account and non-State Department accounts. Those types of communications are not caught up in the public records dragnet, and so it is impossible to say if Clinton is being fully transparent or not.

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