The State Department’s independent watchdog has issued a highly critical analysis of Hillary Clinton’s email practices while running the department, concluding that she failed to seek legal approval for her use of a private email server and that department staff would not have given its blessing because of the “security risks in doing so.”
The inspector general, in a long awaited review released Wednesday, found that Clinton’s use of private email for public business was “not an appropriate method” of preserving documents and that her practices failed to comply with department policies meant to ensure federal record laws are followed.
The report says she should have printed and saved her emails during her four years in office or surrendered her work-related correspondence immediately upon stepping down in February 2013. Instead, Clinton provided those records in December 2014, nearly two years after leaving office.
The report found that a top Clinton aide was warned in 2010 that the system may not properly preserve records, but he dismissed those worries, indicating that the system had passed legal muster. But the inspector general said it could not show evidence of a review by legal counsel.
The 83-page report reviews email practices by five secretaries of state and generally concludes that record keeping has been spotty for years.
It was particularly critical of former Secretary of State Colin Powell – who has acknowledged publicly that he used his personal laptop to write emails – concluding that he too failed to follow department policy designed to comply with public-record laws.
The timing of the report is inconvenient for Clinton, who now faces an intense onslaught of attacks from presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.
But its release – as well as the conclusion of an ongoing FBI investigation – have also been seen for months by her allies as a key milestone to finally putting the email issue to rest. The inspector general has rejected allegations of bias, noting that the scope of the review encompasses secretaries of state from both political parties and that it was undertaken at the direction of Clinton’s Democratic successor, John Kerry. The report includes interviews with Kerry and Powell and former secretaries of state Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice, but it says Clinton declined to be interviewed.
Mrs. Clinton has not explained how she intended emails sent to private citizens, who did not use government email, to be preserved. Some emails have emerged, particularly from Clinton’s first months in office in 2009 when her aides have said she was transitioning technology.
In December 2014, nearly two years after leaving office, she turned over more than 30,000 emails she said represented all of her work related correspondence. She said she also exchanged about 31,000 personal emails during her time as secretary and those notes have been deleted.
About the Author
Rosalind Helderman is a reporter for the Washington Post. She has covered the Clinton email story for several months.