WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was supposed to have turned over all work-related emails to the State Department to be released to the public. But an agency audit found at least three emails never seen before — including Clinton’s own explanation of why she wanted her emails kept private.
After 14 months of public scrutiny and skepticism over Clinton’s motives in keeping her State Department emails secret, new questions emerged Thursday. They centered on her apparent failure to turn over a November 2010 email in which she worried that her personal messages could become accessible to outsiders, along with two other messages from 2011 that divulged possible security weaknesses in the private email system she used throughout her term as secretary of state. The Clinton campaign has previously denied that her home server was breached, but newly revealed emails show aides worried it could have been compromised.
The existence of these previously unreleased messages — which appear to have been found among electronic files of four former top Clinton State Department aides — renews concerns that Clinton was not completely forthcoming when she turned over a trove of 55,000 pages of work-related emails.
“I have turned over all my emails,” Clinton said late Wednesday in an interview with Univision’s Los Angeles affiliate. “No one else can say that.”
Most of those messages have been made public by the State Department over the past year due to both a court order and Clinton’s willingness to turn them over. But hundreds were censored for national security reasons and 22 emails were completely withheld because the agency said they contained top secret material — a matter now under investigation by the FBI.
Clinton said in March 2015 that she would turn over all work-related emails to the State Department after removing private messages that contained personal and family material. “No one wants their personal emails made public and I think most people understand that and respect their privacy,” she said after her exclusive use of private emails to conduct State Department business was confirmed by media reports.
Senate investigators have asked for and received numerous emails about Clinton’s server as part of their own inquiry into Clinton’s email practices in recent months but did not receive copies of those three emails, according to a person briefed on the matter.
All three emails cited in the inspector general’s report appear to contain work-related passages, raising questions about why they were not turned over to the State Department last year. The inspector general noted that Clinton’s production of work-related emails was “incomplete,” missing not only the three emails but numerous others covering Clinton’s first four months in office.
A spokesman for the Clinton campaign did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment Thursday. An inspector general’s spokesman declined to discuss the report.
The report said the inspector general was able to reconstruct some of Clinton’s missing emails by searching the email files of four former Clinton aides who had turned over thousands of pages of communications in 2015 at the request of the State Department, which is defending itself in multiple public records lawsuits, including one filed by The Associated Press. The four aides who turned over those files, according to the report, were Clinton’s former chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, and top aides Huma Abedin, Jake Sullivan and Philippe Reines.
Abedin was the aide who authored the key email in November 2010 that provoked Clinton’s concerns about outsiders obtaining her personal emails. After the State Department’s computer spam filters apparently prevented Clinton from sending a message to all department employees from her private server, Abedin suggested that she either open an official agency email or make her private address available to the agency.
Clinton told Abedin she was open to getting a separate email address but didn’t want “any risk of the personal being accessible.” Clinton never used an official State Department address, only using several private addresses to communicate. Abedin, Mills, Sullivan and Reines all also used private email addresses to conduct business, along with their government accounts.
Two other emails sent to Abedin were cited in the inspector general’s report, but also did not turn up among the 55,000 pages of emails released by Clinton to the State Department. Those messages to Abedin contained warnings in January 2011 from an unidentified aide to former President Bill Clinton who said he had to shut down Hillary Clinton’s New York-based server because of suspected hacking attacks. In response, Abedin warned Mills and Sullivan not to email Clinton “anything sensitive” and said she would “explain more in person.”
The AP has obtained more than 900 pages of Abedin emails from the State Department as part of a continuing production of documents under a public records lawsuit filed last year. But none of the three newly-disclosed emails to Abedin were found in those records.
The inspector general’s report found “extensive use of personal email accounts” by Mills, Abedin, Sullivan and Reines, who turned over a total of nearly 72,000 pages of hard copy documents and 7.5 gigabytes of electronic files to the State Department. But the report notes that some emails turned over by those four aides had not been preserved by the State Department because they sent and received messages using only “their personal web-based email accounts.”
The report singled out one Clinton aide who sent 9 emails a day using a personal account. The staff member, who is not identified by name, submitted a total of 9,585 emails between Jan. 22, 2009, and Feb. 24, 2013, in response to the IG’s request for federal records contained in personal email accounts.
The report notes that the staff members policy violations were mitigated by their production of the records last summer, but it’s unknown if all emails were turned over.
“OIG did not attempt to determine whether these productions were complete,” the report said.
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