On classified emails, Clinton still asserts innocence — but her language has varied

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Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton arrives with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) for a rally at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Local 357, union hall in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. Thursday, August 4, 2016. REUTERS/Steve Marcus - RTSL3QO

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JUDY WOODRUFF: And now, the latest installment in our Candidates in Context series, where we go behind the headlines to explain what’s happening and why.

Tonight, the latest back-and-forth over Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server.

Lisa Desjardins has that.

LISA DESJARDINS: Two years in on Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, what was new today? An important change in her words about truth, and specifically on this statement she made Sunday about FBI Director James Comey, and her e-mail.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), Presidential Nominee: Director Comey said that my answers were truthful, and that what I have said is consistent with what I have told the American people.

LISA DESJARDINS: OK, now her words today.

HILLARY CLINTON: Director Comey had said that my answers in my FBI interview were truthful. That’s really the bottom line here.

LISA DESJARDINS: The difference, these words:

HILLARY CLINTON: In my FBI interview.

LISA DESJARDINS: Before, Clinton had implied that Comey had backed up all of her statements, not just what she said behind closed doors to the FBI. She seemed to admit a mistake.

HILLARY CLINTON: I may have short-circuited it, and, for that, I will try to clarify.

LISA DESJARDINS: In fact, last month, Comey testified that some things Clinton said before Congress and in public were false.

REP. TREY GOWDY (R-S.C.): Secretary Clinton said there was nothing marked classified on her e-mails either sent or received. Was that true?

JAMES COMEY, Director, FBI: That’s not true. There were a small number of portion markings on, I think, three of the documents.

LISA DESJARDINS: In other words, Clinton’s statements that nothing on her server was marked classified were wrong, which brings us to another thing about today’s comments, what we know about the e-mails.

Clinton estimated 60,000 to 70,000 e-mails went through her private server when she was secretary of state. About half were deleted. She says they were personal. Looking at the rest, some 30,000, the FBI found 110 that contained information classified at the time. That is different than Clinton’s original assertion.

HILLARY CLINTON: There is no classified material, so I’m certainly well aware of the classification requirements.

LISA DESJARDINS: Later, she added the phrase marked classified.

HILLARY CLINTON: I never sent or received any material marked classified.

LISA DESJARDINS: So, back to those e-mails. Of those 110 that had classified information, the FBI says three did contain classified markings. But Clinton points out today that those marks, the letter C, were lower in the documents.

HILLARY CLINTON: In questioning, Director Comey made the point that the three e-mails out of the 30,000 didn’t have the appropriate markings. And it was therefore reasonable to conclude that anyone, including myself, would have not suspected that they were classified.

LISA DESJARDINS: Did Comey say that?

JAMES COMEY: I think it’s possible, possible that she didn’t understand what a C meant when she saw it in the body of the e-mail like that.

LISA DESJARDINS: That leaves two questions. Was Hillary Clinton truthful when she said none of her e-mails were marked classified? No. Three out of 30,000 were marked classified. And did she intentionally lie to Congress about that? Well, that is a matter for debate. Comey has not given an opinion.

But Republicans in the House have asked him and the FBI to investigate.

For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Lisa Desjardins.

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