WASHINGTON (AP) — Senior Obama administration officials knew as early as 2009 that Hillary Rodham Clinton was using a private email address for her government correspondence.
White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel requested Clinton’s email address on Sept. 5, 2009, according to one of some 3,000 pages of correspondence released by the State Department on Tuesday evening. 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 Chappaqua, New York, home — a potential security risk and violation of administration policy.
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.
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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.
At least two dozen emails were also marked “sensitive but unclassified” at the time they were written, including a December 2009 message from top Clinton aide Huma Abedin about an explosion in Baghdad that killed 90.
Though Clinton has said her home system included “numerous safeguards,” it’s not clear if it used encryption software to communicate securely with government email services. That would have protected her communications from the prying eyes of foreign spies or hackers.
Still, Clinton’s correspondence from her first year as the nation’s top diplomat leaves 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.
In June, Axelrod requested her 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.
The White House counsel’s office 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 2012 Benghazi, Libya, attacks, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Once the State Department turned over some of her messages in connection with the Benghazi investigation after she left office, making it apparent she had not followed government guidance, the White House counsel’s office asked the department to ensure that her email records were properly archived, according to the person, who spoke on a condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak on the record.
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.
Separately, the State Department on Tuesday provided more than 3,600 pages of documents to the Republican-led House committee investigating the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, including emails of Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations at the time, and former Clinton aides Mills and Jake Sullivan.
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 department to release the emails as soon as possible.
Clinton turned her emails over to the State Department last year, nearly two years after leaving the Obama administration. She has said she got rid of about 30,000 emails she deemed exclusively personal. Only she and perhaps a small circle of advisers know the content of the discarded communications.
Much of the correspondence reflects the mundane details of high-level public service, scheduling secure lines for calls, commenting on memos and dealing with travel logistics.
One day in November 2009, Abedin forwarded Clinton a list of 11 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.
They also reflect the vast scope of Clinton’s network after several decades in Washington. She asks aides for restaurant recommendations for a meal with California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein (whom she refers to as DiFi). She advises her future 2016 campaign chairman John Podesta to wear socks to bed. And she passes on advice from former campaign strategist Mark Penn with the note “overlook the source.”
Terrence A. Duffy, the executive chairman of the CME Group in Chicago, writes to Clinton that he had dinner with “a mutual friend of ours,” South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham. “Lindsey always talks about how much he likes you and said if I were to be in contact with you to say hi from him.”
Graham is now running for president, primarily on a foreign policy platform focused heavily on attacking Clinton’s credentials.
During her time on the international stage, Clinton occasionally waded into domestic policy, emailing her former policy director Neera Tanden about the health care law and praising an op-ed published by Strobe Talbott, the president of the Brookings Institution, saying she hoped the “absurd ‘death panels’ argument can be put to rest.”
In one email with the subject “Don’t laugh!!” Clinton asked her longtime aide, Capricia Marshall, about carpets in China.
“Can you contact your protocol friend in China and ask him if I could get photos of the carpets of the rooms I met in w POTUS during the recent trip?” Clinton wrote. “I loved their designs and the way they appeared carved. Any chance we can get this?”
Associated Press writers Jack Gillum, Eileen Sullivan, David T. Scott, Stephen Braun, Donna Cassata, Ted Bridis, Alan Fram, Ken Thomas, and Matthew Daly contributed to this report.