"I think it was damaging because (the Clinton campaign) let it go way too long without answering it," Maggie Haberman, presidential campaign correspondent for The New York Times and CNN political analyst, told David Axelrod on "The Axe Files" podcast, produced by CNN and the University of Chicago Institute of Politics.
"She just didn't want to deal with it. As I understand it from people around her, it sent her to a very sort of dark place of controversies past when her husband was president, things like Whitewater, the impeachment hearings -- things like that that ultimately ended up hurting Republicans as something of an overreach but that put them through a lot of unhappiness," she said.
The podcast was recorded before FBI Director James Comey issued a blistering critique Tuesday of Clinton's handling of classified material over her private email and server, though he recommended no prosecution.
Haberman, who has covered Clinton since her first campaign for the U.S. Senate in New York in 2000, says Clinton's initial response to the scandal was delayed because of her reluctance to accept responsibility for having made a mistake.
"The impulse was to act as if this was something unfair being done to her as opposed to looking at she did this thing that was ill-advised, that she herself has acknowledged was ill-advised," Haberman said.
"She's acknowledged it. Do you think she believes it?" asked Axelrod.
"No, I do not," said Haberman. "I think that she thinks that she was doing ... and to be clear I don't know she thinks this, this is just my guess ... people close to her have said she was doing it because she has been examined to death under 800 microscopes over many decades in a lot of investigations that were politically driven and that cost everybody around them enormous legal fees. I think she felt that no matter what she did that was likely to happen, so ... as James Carville put it, she didn't want (Rep.) Louie Gohmert going through her emails. The problem is that it was directly at odds with how President (Barack) Obama viewed transparency on records keeping."
Haberman also predicted that Clinton will not select Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as her running mate.
"She is being vetted. They are looking at her. Very few people around Clinton expect that she will be the (vice presidential pick) ... for many reasons, but among them, the risk of two women, she's not a safe choice, she will outshine Clinton and there's not a ton of personal chemistry there. That's what I hear," she said.
Haberman named Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as a more likely choice.
To hear the whole conversation with Haberman, which also touched on her family's journalism background, her time on the City Hall beat, what it was like covering 9/11 and much more, click on http://podcast.cnn.com
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