WASHINGTON (AP) — Senior Obama administration officials, including the White House chief of staff, knew as early as 2009 that Hillary Rodham Clinton was using a private email address for her government correspondence, according to some 3,000 pages of correspondence released by the State Department late Tuesday night.
The chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, requested Clinton’s email address on Sept. 5, 2009, according to one email. His request came three months after top Obama strategist David Axelrod asked the same question of one of Clinton’s top aides.
But it’s unclear whether the officials realized Clinton, now the leading Democratic presidential candidate, was running her email from a server located in her home in Chappaqua, New York — a potential security risk and violation of administration policy.
The emails, covering March through December 2009, were posted online as part of a court mandate that the agency release batches of Clinton’s private correspondence from her time as secretary of state every 30 days starting June 30.
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The regular releases of Clinton’s correspondence all but guarantee a slow drip of revelations from the emails throughout her primary campaign, complicating her efforts to put the issue to rest. The goal is for the department to publicly unveil 55,000 pages of her emails by Jan. 29, 2016 — just three days before Iowa caucus-goers will cast the first votes in the Democratic primary contest. Clinton has said she wants the emails released as soon as possible.
A Republican-led House panel investigating the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, also is examining emails of Clinton and other former department officials, raising the possibility of further revelations into 2016. The State Department provided more than 3,600 pages of documents to the committee on Tuesday, including emails.
Pushing back, the Clinton campaign released a video on Wednesday that argues that seven previous investigations have debunked the conspiracy theories surrounding the attacks that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, and the panel’s sole purpose is to rough up Clinton politically ahead of the presidential election.
“How long will Republicans keep spending tax dollars on this political charade?” the video asks.
The emails ranged from the mundane details of high-level public service — scheduling secure lines for calls, commenting on memos and dealing with travel logistics — to an email exchange with former President Jimmy Carter and a phone call with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Carter mildly chided Clinton about how to handle the release of two hostages held in North Korea, while Clinton recounted that Rice, her predecessor, “called to tell me I was on strong ground” regarding Israel.
One day in November 2009, aide Huma Abedin forwarded Clinton a list of 11, back-to-back calls she was scheduled to make to foreign ministers around the world.
“Can’t wait. You know how much I love making calls,” Clinton responded.
In one email, Clinton tells Abedin, “I heard on the radio that there is a Cabinet mtg this am. Can I go? If not, who are we sending?” Clinton was later informed it wasn’t a full Cabinet meeting.
The emails also reflect the vast scope of Clinton’s network, after several decades in Washington. She advises her future 2016 campaign chairman John Podesta to wear socks to bed, and passes on advice from former campaign strategist Mark Penn with the note “overlook the source.”
Clinton’s emails have become an issue in her early 2016 campaign, as Republicans accuse her of using a private account rather than the standard government address to avoid public scrutiny of her correspondence. As the controversy has continued, Clinton has seen ratings of her character and trustworthiness drop in polling.
The newly released emails show Clinton sent or received at least 12 messages in 2009 on her private email server that were later classified “confidential” by the U.S. government because officials said they contained activities relating to the intelligence community.
Clinton’s correspondence from her first year as the nation’s top diplomat left little doubt that the Obama administration was aware that Clinton was using a personal address.
“The Secretary and Rahm are speaking, and she just asked him to email her — can you send me her address please?” Amanda Anderson, Emanuel’s assistant, wrote.
Abedin passed along the request to Clinton. “Rahm’s assistant is asking for your email address. U want me to give him?”
Less than a minute later, Clinton replied that Abedin should send along the address.
Emanuel, now the mayor of Chicago, said at a news conference Wednesday that he was honored to serve as Obama’s chief of staff.
“I’ve also got to tell you, the farthest thing from my mind today, given all the challenges that we face as a city and all the opportunities we face, is what server Bill and Hillary Clinton had at their home,” Emanuel said.
In June 2009, Axelrod requested Clinton’s address, according to a message to Clinton from chief of staff Cheryl Mills.
“Can you send to him or do you want me to? Does he know I can’t look at it all day so he needs to contact me thru you or Huma or Lauren during work hours,” Clinton replied, referencing some of her top aides.
Axelrod said Wednesday that while he knew Clinton had a private email address, “I did not know that she used it exclusively or that she had her server in her home.”
The White House counsel’s office also was not aware at the time Clinton was secretary of state that she relied solely on personal email and only found out as part of the congressional investigation into the attacks, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Clinton turned her emails over to the State Department last year, nearly two years after leaving the Obama administration. She said she got rid of about 30,000 emails she deemed exclusively personal.
Associated Press writers Jack Gillum, Eileen Sullivan, David T. Scott, Stephen Braun, Donna Cassata, Ted Bridis, Alan Fram and Ken Thomas in Washington, and Sophia Tareen in Chicago, contributed to this report.