Presumed Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton pushed back Tuesday against accusations that she ran afoul of federal record-keeping regulations by using her personal email address while serving as secretary of state.
The practice may have made Clinton’s correspondence susceptible to cyber attack and potentially skirted the Federal Records Act, which requires government officials to preserve email records, according to a new report from The New York Times.
In an email to msnbc, a Clinton spokesperson claimed there were “inaccuracies” in the Times article. ”Like Secretaries of State before her, she used her own email account when engaging with any Department officials,” the spokesperson wrote in the email. “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 added that “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.”
Clinton did not have an official government government account while at State, using a personal email account to conduct all her business, the Times reported Monday evening.
With Clinton already facing criticism over her family foundation’s acceptance of donations from foreign governments, Republicans were quick to pounce on the latest development as a pattern of a lack of transparency.
Only two months ago did aides begin to turn emails over to the government, after the State Department asked for them. The private email account was recently discovered by the House committee investigating the 2012 terror attack on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
In 2013, Gawker noted that Clinton appeared to be using a personal email account while serving secretary of state. The practice appears to be with some precedent, however. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell used a personal email account from 2001 to 2005, before current regulations went into effect, the Times reports.
Republicans were quick to attack Clinton over the news. “This latest development raises serious questions in light of revelations that Clinton’s foundation received donations from corporations and foreign governments while they were lobbying her State Department,” said Republican National Committee Spokesperson Michael Short. “And it all begs the question: what was Hillary Clinton trying to hide?”
Deputy State Department spokesperson Marie Harf defended Clinton in response to the report. “The State Department has long had access to a wide array of Secretary Clinton’s records – including emails between her and Department officials with http://state.gov/ accounts,” she said in a statement.
Last year, to comply with a 2013 ruling from the records administration, the State Department asked several former secretaries of state to submit any records in their possession, and Clinton provided emails “spanning her time at the Department,” Harf said. They then gave the Benghazi committee about 300 relevant emails, she added.
Democrats quickly pointed out to msnbc that Clinton is hardly alone in using personal email to conduct business, noting several Republicans eyeing 2016 runs did the same.
Jeb Bush has touted his release of thousands of emails from his tenure as governor of Florida, but as the Tampa Bay Times reported, “The former governor conducted all his communication on his private Jeb@jeb.org account and turned over the hand-selected batch to the state archives when he left office.”
Meanwhile, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker reportedly used a “secret” email system to conduct political business while county executive of Milwaukee. And staff of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have used gmail and Yahoo! accounts in the past.
Nonetheless, the federal government, and particularly a national security agency like the State Department, provides additional challenges and complications to state government, which have different record keeping laws.