Hillary Clinton’s decision while serving as secretary of state to use a private email server for most of her communication with her staff has haunted her presidential campaign since it came to light last year. It was made worse by her decision to allow her own attorneys to determine which of the tens of thousands of emails constituted government records, and would be turned over, and which were purely personal, and would be destroyed.
It was a remarkable move for a politician who knows very well that one of her greatest weaknesses is the well-documented fact that most Americans don’t find her trustworthy. But it turns out that the impulse not to cooperate with investigators wasn’t limited to Clinton.
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A report released Wednesday by the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General revealed, among other things, that only five out of 26 of her former staffers who were presented with a questionnaire about email use during their time at the State Department were willing to return the document to investigators.
And that wasn’t the only damaging element of the 83-page report.
One of the biggest objections to Clinton’s use of a personal email server was, obviously, security. The report reveals at least two occasions on which the Clinton server came under attack by hackers and had to be shut down.
The OIG found “extensive” use of personal email by four of Clinton’s immediate staff, one of whom turned over 9,585 work-related emails sent or received using a personal account.
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The report also relays the accounts of State Department staff who raised concerns that Clinton’s use of a personal email server might violate federal recordkeeping requirements. One person who questioned the email arrangement was told by the director of the department’s executive secretariat that it was the department’s job to support Clinton and “instructed the staff never to speak of the Secretary’s personal email system again.”
The OIG also reveals an exchange between Clinton and a top aide in which the former secretary of state made it clear that her desire to use a private server was driven by the desire to prevent any personal messages from becoming part of the public record.
The OIG report’s actual purpose was to review the email handling procedures over the tenures of secretaries of state going back to Madeleine Albright, who served under Mrs. Clinton’s husband, former president Bill Clinton.
The findings turned up more bad news for Clinton, who has frequently cited the use of personal email by other secretaries of state, particularly Colin Powell, as evidence that what she did was neither out of the ordinary nor against the rules.
However, the report finds that not only was Clinton’s action against departmental rules, but that those rules had changed so much between Powell’s term and Clinton’s that the comparison of email practices between their respective tenures is not useful.