Hillary Clinton

After e-mail revelations, some Democrats are dodging questions more than offering Clinton cover. (Kris Connor/Getty Images)

By Rachel Roubein and Lauren Fox
March 4, 2015

Everyone in Washington is talking about Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail account during her four years as secretary of State and her homebrew computer server. Everyone, that is, except for many Senate Democrats.

As operatives, strategists and opposition research groups rush to her defense, some Washington Senate Democrats are remaining silent for the moment, saying they’ve been too busy with the week’s packed schedule to be fully briefed on the crisis du jour.

Democrats have a difficult line to walk. They don’t want to be seen hitting their strongest contender to keep the White House, but that does not mean they are rushing to shield her from criticism either. For more than a dozen senators, the easiest thing to do was to shrug off questions about Clinton’s private e-mail or the fact she was running them through her own server.

“[I’ve] been busy with other things around here, like Prime Minister Netanyahu and ISIL and things like that,” Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland said on the way to a midday floor vote. “So I haven’t looked at it yet.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts—who has built a reputation of rarely taking press questions in the hallway—kept her head down as she bristled through corridors of the Capitol basement with a crowd of reporters moving briskly to keep up.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York asked “can we talk about it later? I have to go to my vote,” she said before offering up a press staffer’s name. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota also said she was in a rush to get to votes.

A few—including Sens. Barbara Boxer, Chris Murphy and Tom Carper—came to Clinton’s defense. It’s not unusual for a secretary of State to use a personal email address, they said, and a law that only allows government officials to use private email accounts if they adhere to specified stipulations went into effect after Clinton left her cabinet post.

“I’d be surprised if a number of secretaries of State hadn’t done that for as long as we’ve had email,” Carper, of Delaware, said. “That’s all I’m going to say.”

“That’s a nothing burger. Total,” California’s Boxer said. “There isn’t one secretary of State that ever did that because the law didn’t change until after she left, so they’re making a mountain out of a molehill.”

But most Senate Democrats who stopped to answer reporters’ questions outside the Senate on Wednesday pleaded ignorance on the issue.

As Virginia Sen. Mark Warner strode through the Capitol basement, headed to cast a vote on the upper chamber’s floor, he said he needed to understand more before commenting.

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