Republican presidential candidates were quick to pounce on Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, a day after the former secretary of state announced she would turn over her private email server to the Justice Department.
Clinton said she’d provide the server after an independent government watchdog group told Congress that it contained “top secret” emails. Although Clinton remains the overwhelming favorite to win the Democratic nomination, she has been mired in controversy over the use of a private email account during her time as secretary of state, leading some to question her trustworthiness as a leader.
RELATED: A double whammy for Hillary Clinton
Republican candidates, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, argued Clinton’s actions were a potential national security risk. At a meet and greet with potential voters in Reno, Nevada, Bush characterized Clinton as “thinking it was okay to use a private server, thinking that her server would be safer than the State Department firewalls.”
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson said on Fox News earlier in the day that “whether she’s in legal trouble or not, if people are paying attention, they recognize that someone in her position who doesn’t realize that they are putting the nation’s security at risk by doing what they’re doing, how in the world are you going to turn the keys over to them? Are you kidding me?”
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker tweeted the latest development “proves Hillary Clinton put her own personal convenience ahead of the safety and security of the American people. She cannot be trusted to keep America’s secrets or its citizens safe, and therefore cannot be trusted to be commander in chief.”
Other GOP candidates went as far as to suggest that Clinton deserved to be punished.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s campaign released a statement saying Clinton is “one email away from prison.” And in Iowa, Jindal told a crowd, “Question for service members: If you had been reckless with the nation’s secrets, what would have happened to you? Why should rules be different for Clinton? I’m tired of the political class thinking they’re on higher ground.”
Similarly, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee argued, “The same action for anyone serving in the military would mean a court-martial and a prison sentence.”
Clearly in damage-control mode, the Clinton campaign, meanwhile, sent an email to supporters on Wednesday afternoon. Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri wrote, “You might hear some news over the next few days about Hillary Clinton’s emails” and added that the bottom line is “this kind of nonsense comes with the territory of running for president.”
Palmieri maintained that Clinton didn’t send any classified material over email and pointed out that there is no criminal inquiry into Clinton’s email or her server.
“Like other secretaries of state who served before her, Hillary used a personal email address and the rules of the State Department permitted it. She’s already acknowledged that,” said Palmieri. ”In hindsight, it would have been better just to use separate work and personal email accounts. No one disputes that.”