Did Hillary Clinton break email protocol when she was Secretary of State?
WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton did not have a State Department email account while she served as America’s top diplomat, a senior state department official said Monday, and instead used a personal email account during her four years on the job. The New York Times first reported Clinton’s exclusive use of a personal email account on Monday night. Using personal email as a sole method of communication appears to break rules outlined by the National Archives and Records Administration. The government agency stipulates that personal email can only be used in “emergency situations,” and when used, the emails “are captured and managed in accordance with agency record-keeping practices.” According to the Times report, Clinton’s “aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved on department servers at the time.”
Nick Merrill, Clinton’s spokesman, told CNN on Tuesday morning that, “like Secretaries of State before her, she used her own email account when engaging with any Department officials.”
“For government business, she emailed them on their Department accounts, with every expectation they would be retained,” he said in an emailed statement. “When the Department asked former Secretaries last year for help ensuring their emails were in fact retained, we immediately said yes.”
Despite Clinton using a personal email address, all of her emails to official government accounts would be archived as received mail by the people on the other end of the email. Her communication with people not using government emails, however, would likely not be automatically kept.
But Merrill says her records were kept and turned over to State. “Both the letter and spirit of the rules permitted State Department officials to use non-government email, as long as appropriate records were preserved,” Merrill concluded.
The senior state department official noted that previous secretaries of state had used personal emails to communicate with staff, including Secretary Colin Powell.
“As a result, our policies are continuing to evolve, including how those policies pertain to leadership officials,” the official said. “And we all know that implementing changes in the federal government can be an onerous process.”
The National Archives and Records Administration outlined new rules for federal agencies in 2013 that “reaffirm that agencies and agency employees must manage federal records appropriately and protect them from unauthorized removal from agency custody.”
This bulletin stipulated that email messages are federal record.
Clinton’s emails have been at the center of debate around the House’s select committee investigating the Benghazi attack that resulted in four dead Americans. Republicans have demanded the State Department hand over emails from Clinton and other top officials. The committee has received some of those emails, but the State Department is still processing the request.
Clinton agreed to testify to the committee late in 2014, according to Democrats on the panel, but Rep. Trey Gowdy, the committee chairman, has said he would wait to call her until all the emails are received.
Jen Psaki, a state department spokeswoman, said in a statement on Monday that ever since the select committee asked for emails, “the State Department has been proactively and consistently engaged in responding to the Committee’s many requests,” including “providing more than 40,000 pages of documents.”
Last year, Psaki said, the department asked former secretaries to “submit any records in their possession for proper preservation,” including personal emails used while leader the State Department.
“In response to our request, Secretary Clinton provided the department with emails spanning her time at the department,” Psaki said. “After the State Department reviewed those emails, we produced about 300 emails responsive to recent requests from the Select Committee.
The Times also reported that Clinton’s personal email account was discovered by Gowdy’s House committee when State — through Clinton — provided those emails to the committee.
However, Gawker reported in 2013, based on emails obtained by a Romanian hacker named “Guccifer,” that Clinton was using a “clintonemail.com” domain name in emails to advisers and friends.
Republicans have already seized on The New York Times report.
“This latest development raises serious questions,” said Michael Short, Republican National Committee spokesman, in a press release, adding it “begs the question: what was Hillary Clinton trying to hide?”
Potential rival Jeb Bush, who recently released thousands of emails from his time as Florida governor, also used the revelation as an opportunity to draw a contrast.
“Hillary Clinton should release her emails. Hopefully she hasn’t already destroyed them,” said Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell in an email to CNN. “Gov. Bush believes transparency is a critical part of public service and of governing. That’s why he recently launched www.jebemails.com.”