Hillary Clinton’s emails: What you need to know

Updated 2:14 PM EST, Thu March 5, 2015
(CNN) —  

Hillary Clinton is back in a familiar place: the center of a political controversy.

The firestorm surrounding Clinton’s exclusive use of private — rather than official — email during her time running the State Department is rapidly escalating, with Republicans and Democrats turning the issue into a political back-and-forth.

Clinton is certainly ready to move on, tweeting late Wednesday night that she wants “the public to see my email.

“I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible,” Clinton tweeted.

It won’t be that easy to put this issue aside though, and the State Department has already said the review process will take “some time” before they can release any Clinton emails.

The controversy has echoes of the 1990s when controversies ranging from Whitewater to Monica Lewinsky had a way of exploding into a partisan pile-on during the Clinton White House.

As the accusations and denials fly, here’s a look at what you need to know.

Clinton lawyer takes on Republican Benghazi chairman

Hillary Clinton’s lawyer, David E. Kendall, sent Republicans and Democrats on the House committee investigating Benghazi, a statement on Wednesday morning refuting something Trey Gowdy, the committee’s Republican chairman, said about the email controversy.

READ: 4 reasons to care about Clinton’s personal email

Gowdy told reporters on Tuesday that Clinton used multiple personal email accounts to conduct government business.

“She used only private email accounts and she had more than one private email account,” Gowdy said.

Kendall, in an email obtained by CNN, said that claim is wrong.

“Secretary Clinton used one email account when corresponding with anyone, from department officials to friends to family,” Kendall wrote in an email to the committee.

Kendall explained that after Clinton’s email address was published in a 2013 Gawker story, “she changed the address on her account.”

“At the time the emails were provided to the department last year this new address appeared on the copies as the ‘sender,’ and not the address she used as secretary,” Kendall continued. “This address on the account did not exist until March 2103, after her tenure as secretary.”

Kendall is the same lawyer who represented Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and his impeachment trial.

During his press conference on Tuesday, Gowdy said he did not want to leak information that would be refuted the next day.

“So rather than selectively highlight – you know, whatever exists today could be contradicted by something that’s produced tomorrow, which is why you wait until the end and you produce a report,” he said.

After Kendall’s email was made public, Republicans on the committee stood by Gowdy’s multiple emails claim, telling CNN the committee is in possession of records with two separate and distinct email addresses used by former Secretary Clinton and dated during the time she was secretary of state.”

“Without access to the relevant electronic information and stored data on the server – which was reportedly registered to her home – there is no way the committee, or anyone else, can fully explain why the committee uncovered two email addresses,” said Jamal Ware, Republican spokesman for the committee.

Ware went on to say questions around the number of emails shows why “former Secretary Clinton’s exclusive use of personal emails to conduct official U.S. government business is so problematic and raises significant issues for transparency.”

On Wednesday, Ware announced Gowdy’s committee had issued subpoenas for Clinton emails related to Benghazi.

“The Select Committee on Benghazi today issued subpoenas for all communications of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton related to Libya and to the State Department for other individuals who have information pertinent to the investigation,” he said in a statement. “The committee also has issued preservation letters to Internet firms informing them of their legal obligation to protect all relevant documents.”

What emails are we talking about? And where were they stored?

By using a private email system, Clinton and her aides had access to all emails that would have been backed up by the government if she had used an official account.

While she is not the first secretary of state to use a private email address – former Secretaries Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice both had private emails – Clinton is the first to exclusively use a private account. As opposed to Clinton, both Rice and Powell had and used an official government email address.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters the department asked former secretaries in 2014 to “submit any records in their possession for proper preservation.”

Hillary Clinton’s spokesman, Nick Merill, said when the Clinton’s received that request, they “immediately said yes.”

Aides have argued that Clinton had “every expectation” her emails would be automatically retained because she was sending them to other government accounts. A Clinton aide said Tuesday, that “nine out of 10 emails that she sent over the course of her tenure went to the State Department.”

That assumption, cybersecurity experts told CNN, makes the process of accessing all of Clinton far more difficult.

David Kennedy, CEO of TrustedSec and a former member of the Marines cyberwarfare unit, said that if Clinton expected her emails to be saved as received mail, not sent mail, it would mean archivists would have to look through nearly everyone’s email at the State Department, instead of just pulling from her State account, a far easier task.

Unlike personal emails, officials emails are backed up and kept by the government.

“When you move that over to a public email address or a personal account, you lose all of that backup capability, so there’s no way to actually go back and retrieve it,” Kennedy said.

The current set up also puts the decision making process of what to submit for the record in the hands of Clinton, not government archivists who would automatically have everything.

Although multiple Democratic sources told CNN that when the former secretary of state received State’s requests for records, her team quickly sent 55,000 pages of documents, there is no way to tell if that is all emails of interest.

“Secretary Clinton’s people have said that she provided anything that was responsive to our request for any records. If she did indeed provide everything then she would indeed be in compliance with her preservation requirements,” a senior administration official said.

The official could not, however, ensure that all of Clinton’s emails were preserved properly in accordance with federal rules.

A Clinton aide told CNN on Tuesday that they did comply fully with the request for all official emails.