Hillary Clinton is the latest potential 2016 presidential candidate to have an email controversy swirling around her.
The New York Times first reported late Monday that Clinton used a private e-mail account while conducting official government business as secretary of state. Additionally, her aides did not preserve those emails on government servers for routine records collections, as required by the Federal Records Act.
It was only two months ago after a new State Department effort to comply with those record-keeping practices, that thousands of emails — 55,000 pages in all — were handed over to the department by Clinton’s advisers.
The use of the personal email account was discovered by a House committee investigating the attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi while it was looking for correspondence between Clinton, then the Secretary of State, and her aides.
Two weeks ago, the State Department, after reviewing Mrs. Clinton’s emails, provided the committee with about 300 emails — amounting to roughly 900 pages — about the Benghazi attacks.
Government watchdogs and former National Archives and Records Administration officials have called her use of a personal email account a serious breach.
It is very difficult to conceive of a scenario — short of nuclear winter — where an agency would be justified in allowing its cabinet-level head officer to solely use a private email communications channel for the conduct of government business, said Jason R. Baron, a lawyer at Drinker Biddle & Reath who is a former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration.
While Clinton isn’t the first government official or even the first secretary of state to use a personal email account for official business, Baron said her exclusive use of it is unusual.
“I can recall no instance in my time at the National Archives when a high-ranking official at an executive branch agency solely used a personal email account for the transaction of government business,” Baron, who worked at the agency from 2000 to 2013, told The New York Times.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is considering his own run for the White House, pounced on the opportunity on Monday night.
Transparency matters. Unclassified @HillaryClinton emails should be released. You can see mine, here. http://t.co/wZbtwd8O2j— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) March 3, 2015
Hillary Clinton spokesperson Nick Merrill released a statement Tuesday morning, saying Clinton followed the rules, as set forth by the State Department.
From On the Record with Greta Van Susteren:
“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. When the Department asked former Secretaries last year for help ensuring their emails were in fact retained, we immediately said yes.
“Both the letter and spirit of the rules permitted State Department officials to use non-government email, as long as appropriate records were preserved. As a result of State’s request for our help to make sure they in fact were, that is what happened here. As the Department stated, it is in the process of updating its record preservation policies to bring them in line with its retention responsibilities.”
In The New York Times report, Merrill “did not address emails that Mrs. Clinton may have sent to foreign leaders, people in the private sector or government officials outside the State Department.”