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White House, State coordinated on Clinton email issues

Victoria Sarno Jordan

Communication officials in the Obama administration coordinated how to handle fallout from Hillary Clinton’s email server scandal before she launched her presidential campaign, according to a new report.

{mosads}The White House communications director and her counterpart at the State Department discussed the matter in March 2015, shortly after the story broke that Clinton had relied on a private server, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The Republican National Committee obtained the emails through a FOIA lawsuit seeking records from Clinton’s time as secretary of State. They gave some select pages to the Journal they said related to White House and Clinton camp communications.

Clinton had yet to announce her formal presidential bid but was already laying the groundwork for the campaign when the email story first erupted. 

The emails given to the Journal show communications officials from the White House and the State Department discussing how to keep current Secretary of State John Kerry from having to answer questions about the issue. 

“Between us on the shows … think we can get this done so he is not asked about email,” White House communications director Jennifer Palmieri emailed State spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki on March 12, 2015.

“Good to go on killing CBS idea,” Psaki replied a day later. “And we are going to hold on any other TV options just given the swirl of crap out there.

“Ha, I mean — the challenge stories out there,” she retorted when Palmieri teased her about the phrase “swirl of crap” in another communication.

The Journal said the messages apparently referred to a Kerry appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” three days later. Kerry was never asked about Clinton’s server, though it is unclear if Psaki and Palmieri had anything to do with it. A CBS spokeswoman told the Journal no topic was off limits, but the discussion, which took place in Egypt during the height of Iran deal talks, focused on policy.

Palmieri had previously announced she would join Clinton’s campaign but was still at the White House at the time of the exchange. Psaki later left the State Department to fill her post at the White House.

Another email chain between top White House communications officials, entirely redacted, reportedly centered on whether Kerry should do the interview at all.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in June that President Obama had been in touch with Clinton and her primary challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

“Well, the White House has been in touch with both campaigns throughout this nomination fight,” Earnest said.

“And, look, the president has had individual conversations with both candidates throughout this nomination fight. So we’ve maintained an open line of communication with both with both campaigns and with both candidates, and I would expect that to continue.”

Critics say Clinton’s use of a private email server prevented accountability and possibly jeopardized national security.

FBI Director James Comey in July said his agency would not recommend charges over Clinton’s use of the system.

This story was updated on Oct. 7.

Tags Bernie Sanders campaigns Democrats Emails Hillary Clinton John Kerry Politics State Department
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