How Hillary Clinton and Her Team Decided to Throw Out 31,830 Emails

The "thorough" process may not have included opening and reading each email.

ByABC News
March 12, 2015, 5:31 PM

— -- The big headline from Hillary Clinton’s news conference Tuesday was that, although she claims to have turned over all work-related emails, she deleted the rest of her emails and it appears there is no way to read them ever again.

But one important point regarding how her team determined which of Clinton's 62,320 e-mails were work-related and which were “personal and private” may have been glossed over.

A new Time magazine cover story about the email scandal boiled down the exact process she used in responding to a State Department request for her emails related to official business and pointed out that each individual e-mail was not read.

"This review did not involve opening and reading each email," Time reported. "Instead, Clinton’s lawyers created a list of names and keywords related to her work and searched for those. Slightly more than half the total cache -- 31,830 emails -- did not contain any of the search terms, according to Clinton’s staff, so they were deemed to be 'private, personal records.'”

Time didn't disclose how it determined that each email wasn't opened individually, but it’s consistent with a written explanation provided by Clinton's spokesman after a news conference this week.

Clinton's spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

During the news conference, Clinton did not go into the details of how the review was conducted, but said it was “thorough” and that she went “above and beyond” what she was required to do in turning over many of her emails to the State Department.

"We went through a thorough process to identify all of my work-related emails and deliver them to the State Department," she said, adding that all other emails were personal and pertained to matters such as "yoga routines," "family vacations," and "planning Chelsea's wedding."

But later, after the news conference, Clinton’s team distributed a lengthy question-and-answer document that detailed the “multi-step” process. The process appeared to have included an extensive, nuanced search of Clinton’s inbox, but the document did not make clear how many of the emails were opened and read in the review.

According to that document, here is a summary of how Clinton’s attorneys, who were tasked with the job, said they sorted through:

  • First, a search was done of all emails Clinton received from a .gov or account during the period she was secretary of state -- from 2009 to 2013.
  • Then, with the remaining emails, a search was done for names of 100 State Department and other U.S. government officials who Clinton may have had correspondence with during her tenure.
  • Next, the emails were organized and reviewed by sender and recipient to “account for non-obvious or non-recognizable email addresses or misspellings or other idiosyncrasies.”
  • Lastly, of the emails still left over, a "number of terms" were searched, including “Benghazi” and “Libya.”

The results of the searching were that Clinton’s attorneys found 30,490 work-related emails and 31,830 emails that were deemed “private and personal.”

Clinton said on Tuesday she deleted all of the personal emails because she felt she “had no reason to save them.”

The revelation has only raised more questions among Clinton’s detractors about what was in those emails and why she used the private account in the first place.

Clinton said she did so out of “convenience,” but acknowledged during the news conference it “would have been better” if she had used two separate phones and two email accounts. "I thought using one device would be simpler, and obviously it hasn't worked out that way,” she said.

On Wednesday, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said he was prepared to subpoena Clinton to answer questions about her private email account.

Meanwhile, Clinton is hoping to move past her email issues as she prepares for a more-than-likely presidential campaign that she is expected to announce next month.