Breaking the Law? Hillary Clinton Used Private Email as Secretary of State

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On Monday, the New York Times revealed that during her four years as U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton did not have a government email address, and used her private email account to conduct government business, possibly violating the Federal Records Act.

Vox reported that while Clinton’s use of her personal email looks bad now, it looked even worse in 2009, when she “initially refused to use a governmental account,” due to the fact that she was entering just as a Congressional oversight committee was investigating allegations that the Bush Administration fired several U.S. Attorneys for political reasons, and denied access to “millions of internal messages that might have incriminated the White House.”

The New York Times reported that it wasn’t until two months ago, when the State Department made a new effort to observe the Federal Records Act, that Clinton’s advisors “reviewed tens of thousands of pages of her personal emails and decided which ones to turn over to the State Department.”

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On Tuesday, Clinton’s spokesperson Nick Merrill released a statement, claiming that Clinton’s behavior was not out of the ordinary, and that previous Secretaries of State had also used their personal emails:

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.”

The statement went on to say that Clinton’s practice of using her personal email was a way of updating old policies:

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 a statement from Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking member of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, he defended Clinton and said that her use of private email has been public knowledge for several years.

“It has been public for several years that Secretary Clinton used her personal account, apparently following the pattern of previous Secretaries of States,” said Cummings. “Although Secretary Clinton has produced her emails to the State Department, it is unclear from press reports whether previous Secretaries have done the same.”

According to Vox, the fact that Clinton chose to use her private email for conducting government business shows a “stunning disregard for governmental transparency requirements.”

Jason Baron, a lawyer at Drinker Biddle & Reath and former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration told the New York Times that Clinton’s use her private email is not a common practice and should not have been allowed.

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,” Baron said.

March 5, 2015: UPDATE: Benghazi Committee Subpoenas Hillary Clinton’s Private Emails for Investigation

March 9, 2015: UPDATE: Hillary Clinton’s Chief of Staff Fired Ambassador for Using Private Email

March 10, 2015: UPDATE: Benghazi Chairman: There are “Huge Gaps” in Hillary Clinton’s Email Records

March 12, 2015: UPDATE: Fact Check: Holes in Hillary’s Email Story

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