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Bill Clinton: Email controversy will 'burn itself out'

The former president said he's glad Clinton is facing these questions now and not next year.

Bill Clinton said Monday that he thinks the controversy over his wife’s private email server will “burn itself out” soon, and sarcastically congratulated Republicans on driving down Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Speaking with CNBC’s Becky Quick, the former president said he’s glad Clinton is facing questions far away from Election Day, and he seemed baffled by the importance of the inquiry.

“I'm glad it happened in 2015 instead of 2016. And I believe it will burn itself out,” Clinton said. “What the american people have to think of is this: A few months ago, she was still the most admired person in public life in america. Why? because she was covered because of the work she did. She'd been around a long time. People knew that she's on the level, that she gets up every and tires to do a good job. Then all of a sudden the only thing that matters is e-mails. What exactly does it matter?”

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In a separate interview over the weekend with CNN, the former president defended his wife from what he characterized as partisan witch hunt, which he compared the Whitewater investigation of the 1990s.

Noting his wife’s deteriorating polling, Clinton said Monday that the GOP had been successful. “They were successful. I congratulate all the people behind it,” he said.

But he said that the real transparency problem is not with his wife, but with Republicans on the congressional committee investigating Hillary Clinton’s email server, whom he accused of leaking sensitive national security documents and forcing witnesses to testify in private.

“Creative non-disclosure is being practiced by the people who are shoving the information out,” he said. “The disclosure problems are not on her, they're on other people.”

The former president was interviewed at the Clinton Global Initiative, the glitzy annual meeting of businessmen, heads of states, and charity heads where participants are asked to make contributions to help the world. Hillary Clinton skipped the meeting this year, as did President Obama and others, after critics raised questions about alleged conflicts of interests with the Clinton Foundation, the charitable organization Bill Clinton founded.

Defenders of both Clintons have blamed the media for hyping the email controversy, while Clinton herself has said she takes responsibility for starting questions by choosing to use a private email account. "I want these questions to be answered," the presidential candidate said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday.

Her support has fallen precipitously in polls since the fact that she exclusively used a private server as secretary of state first became public in March. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll out this weekend found her lead over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders had fallen by 19 percentage points since July.