Email Controversy May Overshadow Clinton Presidential Launch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -

Controversy over emails could overshadow the launch of Hillary Clinton’s expected presidential campaign after an influential Republican on Wednesday raised the prospect of congressional hearings into her use of personal email for work when she was America’s top diplomat.

Representative Trey Gowdy said he would like Clinton to testify in Congress by April about using a personal email address instead of a government one while she was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

Clinton defended the practice on Tuesday, saying it  was a “convenience” to avoid her carrying two mobile devices.

But her attempt to defuse the controversy at a news conference appeared to have fallen short as opponents and news media raised further questions about her use of a private email address for official business and a private server at her home.

Republicans likened Clinton’s email habits to the secretive practices they say characterized President Bill Clinton’s years in office.

Gowdy chairs a House of Representatives committee investigating the 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. He told MSNBC that Clinton should appear before that panel, or others. “I would like to have it done by April,” he said.

Clinton would likely face hostile questioning in the Republican-led Congress. Gowdy’s timeline could clash with an expected announcement that Clinton is running for president in 2016.

Democratic sources have said the former senator and first lady could formally announce her plans in April, although some of her advisers have argued for delaying until summer.

Although Democratic donors played down the controversy when it surfaced, one donor said it portended a difficult general election campaign in 2016 dominated by noise about the Clinton family.

“Is she still my first choice? Absolutely. Hands down would she be a fabulous president? Absolutely. But if this poses questions about electability, that’s what concerns me,” said Richard Chesley, a lawyer for DLA Piper, who raised around $100,000 for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012.