Hillary Clinton broke State Department rules through the use of her private email server during her time as secretary, according to a government report that will be formally released on Thursday.
The 83-page report from the State Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), which was leaked to The Hill and other media outlets on Wednesday, compounds the problems that have dogged the likely Democratic presidential nominee since before her entry into the race.
It said definitively that Clinton “did not comply with the department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act,” and that federal officials claimed they “would not” have approved the setup, had a formal request been made.
Clinton’s campaign responded by noting that past secretaries of State were also criticized for issues with their record keeping, arguing that any problems were institutional and that her arrangement was “not unique.”
The server has proved to be an enduring vulnerability for Clinton, who in the past insisted that department rules allowed for her arrangement.
The OIG report is “just the latest chapter in the long saga of Hillary Clinton’s bad judgment that broke federal rules and endangered our national security,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement.
Wednesday’s report was not limited to Clinton. It also claimed that the State Department has had trouble with record-keeping through both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations, as Clinton’s campaign and her Democratic allies on Capitol Hill were quick to point out.
But Clinton was unique in her use of a private server with a personal email address, and the report noted that the department’s cybersecurity guidance was “considerably more detailed and more sophisticated” by the time she took office.
According to the report, Clinton “had an obligation” to discuss security components of her setup with various State Department offices but did not do so.
The server faced apparently unsuccessful hacking attempts at least twice in January 2011, the report claimed, citing an expert who worked on the machine, but its existence was still not disclosed to department security officials.
Additionally, a new email revealed in the report shows that Clinton appeared to reject a suggestion to use a state.gov email account or otherwise make her unusual arrangement more widely known within the department.
“Let’s get separate address or device but I don’t want any risk of the personal being accessible,” Clinton wrote in a November 2010 email to Huma Abedin, a longtime aide and then-deputy chief of staff for operations.
The message was not contained in the stack of roughly 30,000 emails Clinton handed over to the State Department in late 2014 but was nonetheless obtained by the department through other means, spokesman Mark Toner indicated. The existence of that email raises more questions about what material Clinton did not include in the batch of data she gave the government for record-keeping purposes, as well as whether there were any work-related messages in the approximately 30,000 she claimed were personal and deleted.
Clinton did not address the OIG report during a rally in Orange County, Calif., on Wednesday. She also reportedly declined to respond to questions about it posed by journalists at the event.
Clinton allies on Capitol Hill did not attack the report directly but said it was wrong for Republicans to single out the former first lady, given OIG criticism of officeholders in both parties.
“In light of the long-standing and bipartisan nature of the problem, it is disappointing — though entirely predictable — that Republicans would seek to frame this as an issue only pertaining to Secretary Clinton,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a Clinton supporter, in a statement.
“It’s time for Republicans to put an end to the political pursuit of Secretary Clinton and work on fixing the broader record-keeping problems that have existed for many years,” added Sen.Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
Team Clinton had criticized the OIG ahead of the publication of its report.
Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta in March said there were “serious questions” about the OIG’s integrity given comments from an internal whistleblower who contacted The Hill claiming the office had become increasingly partisan.
“This person’s account is highly troubling, and is cause to ask serious questions about the independence of this office,” Podesta said at the time.
The report is the first of several potential storms ahead for Clinton.
Within the next month, the House Select Committee on Benghazi is planning to release its final report on the events of the 2012 terror attacks in Libya. While Democrats have dismissed the panel’s work — as have some Republicans, including presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump — the panel was the first to expose Clinton’s exclusive use of a private email server, and the release of its report will return her to the hot seat.
“While the emails have never been the focus of our investigation, it was necessary to obtain them, and this committee is the first and only one to do so,” committee Chairman Trey Gowdy(R-S.C.) said in a statement on Wednesday.
Additionally, the FBI is believed to be winding down its investigation connected to Clinton’s server and the possibility that classified information was mishandled. Roughly 1 in 15 of the emails given by Clinton to the State Department has been classified at some level.
A decision by the Justice Department on whether to proceed with a criminal indictment has perhaps the greatest potential to upset the presidential race.
And lastly, the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch has begun gathering depositions as part of an open records lawsuit connected to Clinton’s server and allegations that using it broke federal law. The organization has asked for Clinton herself to be deposed in a separate but similar case, which is pending a judge’s review.
Clinton has refused to address the server issue at length, and the State Department on Wednesday gave her little room to maneuver.
“While not necessarily encouraged, there was no prohibition on using personal email. The only requirement is that — and regulations do state this — that records need to be preserved,” Toner, the department spokesman, told reporters.
“I would say, looking back with 20/20 hindsight, we do now have records management and cybersecurity policies that would make it hard to approve this kind of outside system that would replace your official email.”