White House: Clinton used private email address with Obama

Hillary Clinton, Email, State Department
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President Obama exchanged messages with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at her private email address but did not know how the address was set up, the White House said Monday. 

The admission from White House press secretary Josh Earnest pulled Obama further into the budding controversy over Clinton’s exclusive use of a private email address to conduct official State Department business, which has raised questions over her compliance with federal records laws.

{mosads}Obama’s knowledge of her use of private email is deeper than he initially acknowledged in an interview with CBS News on Sunday, in which he said found out about it “the same time everybody else learned it, through news reports.”

“The president, as I think many people expected, did over the course of his first several years in office exchange emails with his secretary of State,” Earnest told reporters at his daily press briefing.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said that the comments proved the skepticism surrounding Obama’s claim was justified. 

“.@BarackObama misled Americans answering a direct ? about @HillaryClinton’s emails,” he tweeted. “He did email with her, obviously.”

Earnest, however, said the president’s comments did not mean that he was unaware of Clinton’s private email address, but that he did not know the extent to which Clinton used the email. Earnest did not specify how many emails Obama and Clinton exchanged, but said the number was not large. 

“The point that the president was making is not that he didn’t know Secretary Clinton’s email address, he did,” Earnest said. “But he was not aware of the details of how that email address and that server had been set up or how Secretary Clinton and her team were planning to comply with the Federal Records Act.”

The email controversy has cast a shadow over Clinton’s all-but-certain presidential bid next year and provoked questions about tensions between her and the Obama administration.

While the Obama and the White House have answered questions about Clinton’s use of private email, the former secretary of State has not. 

On Monday, Clinton did not respond to shouted questions on the issue outside of a Clinton Foundation event on gender inequality in New York City. 

She will, however, likely hold a press conference in the coming days to address the email controversy, according to media reports.

A Clinton spokesman did not respond to a request for comment from The Hill. 

Critics say that Clinton’s use of a private email account could have left her official correspondence susceptible to hackers and hid it from public records requests and congressional oversight panels.

Earnest said all correspondence between Obama and Clinton were maintained by the White House under the Presidential Records Act. But he made it clear that the burden is on Clinton and her staff to ensure all relevant emails from her private account were turned over to the government. 

“They say that they have done that and I don’t see any reason to doubt that they have done exactly what they said they would do,” Earnest said. “But ultimately that is the responsibility of Secretary Clinton and her team.”

The State Department did not initially retain records of Clinton’s personal emails. Clinton’s team recently selected and turned over 55,000 pages of emails in response to a State Department request. Last week, Clinton said in a tweet that she wants the department to release her emails to the public.

She is facing criticism for her use of private email from Democrats as well as Republicans. 

“She is the leading candidate, whether it be Republican or Democrat, to be the next president and I think that she needs to step up and come out and state exactly what the situation is,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the chairman of the House committee investigating the September 2012 attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, said this weekend on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that there are gaps in the emails Clinton submitted to his panel. 

Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), a Democratic member of the Benghazi committee, said Clinton complied with the committee’s request. 

“We have read them,” Schiff said of the emails on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “There’s nothing in them.”

—This story was updated at 5:53 p.m. 

Tags Hillary Clinton Josh Earnest
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