Top Hillary Clinton aides said "there is just no good answer" to questions about her decision to use a private email server, according to recently released hacked emails.
Less than a week after the New York Times revealed that Clinton used a private email account while she was secretary of state, her team scrambled to try to get ahead of the story.
Clinton's Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills circulated a conversation between Anne-Marie Slaughter, Clinton's former director of policy planning at the State Department, and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, on March 7, 2015.
Slaughter had reached out to Friedman to argue that Clinton should get a pass because technology was a lot different in 2008 and it would have been a "pain" to use the State Department email system.
"You were talking about 2004, a decade ago; now we are talking about 2008, 6 years ago — all of this ‘she should have known, she must have known' is ridiculous," Slaughter said. "In 2008 it was hard for the President to get a blackberry; State Department technology was terrible (it still is); we hadn’t had any major data breaches, private (Target etc) or public (Wikileaks; Snowden)."
"The other thing I keep remembering is how you were still using an AOL account until very recently," she said. "Even as sophisticated a tech guru as you just sticks with what you know amid the constant pressures of a busy life.
"We all know there is a better system out there; we should switch, but it’s such a pain and we don’t have time …"
Friedman thanked Slaughter for her note, but did not buy her explanation.
"That all seems true to me, and yet… Even I evolved," he said. "I moved to gmail, got a Mac laptop, got rid of AOL. And I am not the Secretary of State, bound by very clear government regulations."
"I have to say I am troubled by what I have read about what Hillary did," Friedman said. "I am keeping an open until I hear what she has to say, but it doesn't sit right with me. Just to let you know where I stand. Thanks for reaching out."
Slaughter passed along the conversations to Mills, saying, "not great, but useful to know."
Mills then sent the message to John Podesta, Jennifer Palmieri, Kristina Schake, and Phillipe Reines.
"There Is Just No Good Answer," said Reines, a longtime Clinton press aide who would shortly thereafter part ways with the Clinton campaign. "We need to gut through the process phase, get them all out there and let the content do the talking."
The email exchange was posted online by Wikileaks. The U.S. director of national intelligence and the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security have accused "Russia’s senior-most officials" of hacking and leaking emails posted to Wikileaks and other sites in order to influence the 2016 election.