The Cable

State Department: Don’t Blame Us for Hillary’s E-mail Issues

The State Department defended a top official in charge of records management on Friday after the employee acknowledged he exchanged more than 50 emails with Hillary Clinton’s private email account during her tenure as secretary of state.

State Department Spokesman John Kirby speaks during the daily briefing at the State Department on January 6, 2015 in Washington, DC. Even as world powers work to implement the Iran nuclear deal, North Korea's apparent detonation of a new bomb marks a stark setback for global anti-proliferation efforts. Kirby's message to Pyongyang was clear -- "we have consistently made clear that we will not accept it as a nuclear state" -- but not new. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN / AFP / MANDEL NGAN        (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
State Department Spokesman John Kirby speaks during the daily briefing at the State Department on January 6, 2015 in Washington, DC. Even as world powers work to implement the Iran nuclear deal, North Korea's apparent detonation of a new bomb marks a stark setback for global anti-proliferation efforts. Kirby's message to Pyongyang was clear -- "we have consistently made clear that we will not accept it as a nuclear state" -- but not new. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The State Department defended a top official in charge of records management on Friday after the employee acknowledged he exchanged more than 50 emails with Hillary Clinton’s private email account during her tenure as secretary of state.

Clinton’s use of a private account came under renewed scrutiny in May when the State Department inspector general found that she had not sought permission to use the private server for official business and wouldn’t have received it if she did due to “significant security risks.”

In defending Patrick Kennedy, the under secretary of state for management and resources, the State Department said he and other State Department officials did not know the extent to which Clinton was exclusively using a private email account during her tenure.

“He received a relatively small number of emails from Secretary Clinton sporadically during her four-year tenure,” State Department spokesman John Kirby told Foreign Policy. “As with any other official at the department, having some knowledge is different from having a complete picture of how Secretary Clinton used email.”

The acknowledgement by Kennedy that he sent and received emails to Clinton’s private account for official business came in the form of a deposition transcript released on Thursday. A lawsuit by Judicial Watch has prompted eight Clinton aides and State Department officials to provide sworn testimony to the conservative watchdog organization.

During his deposition, Kennedy said he wasn’t aware that Clinton was using her personal e-mail extensively for government business until media reports underscored that fact in March 2015.

Official government email accounts are generally more secure and ensure that records can later become available for Freedom of Information Act requests by journalists or academics looking for a better understanding of how the government works.

When asked why Kennedy didn’t think about the fact that he was receiving e-mails from Clinton from a non-State.gov e-mail account, Kennedy said “it did not register.”

“It did not strike any bells in my mind,” he said.

The Clinton campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment but has previously said that her use of a private email account was “not unique” and has noted that she has taken steps to release her records to the public.

The State Department is just the latest federal agency facing uncomfortable questions about Clinton’s email practices amid an ongoing FBI investigation and other legal challenges aimed at uncovering more information about her handling of sensitive information.

On Friday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that she “fully expects” to accept the recommendation of career prosecutors in deciding whether to bring charges against Clinton in the e-mail probe — theoretically removing the chances that a political appointee would overrule the FBI or investigators.

For months. the Justice Department had reportedly planned on this arrangement, but the announcement became necessary after a private meeting between Lynch and former President Bill Clinton on a tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport triggered allegations of impropriety.

In defending herself, Lynch said the meeting was spontaneous and social in nature, and did not address the ongoing email investigation.

“He did come over and say hello, and speak to my husband and myself, and talk about his grandchildren and his travels and things like that,” Lynch said on Wednesday at a news conference. “That was the extent of that. And no discussions were held into any cases or things like that.”

That has not assuaged Republican critics who say Lynch should recuse herself from the case. “In light of the apparent conflicts of interest, I have called repeatedly on Attorney General Lynch to appoint a special counsel to ensure the investigation is as far from politics as possible,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Thursday in a statement.

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