What & when did Obama know about Clinton's emails?

politics | Mar 10, 2015 | By Martin Barillas

Perennial presidential-hopeful Hillary Clinton broke her silence on her use of private email account and a server in her home for official business she conducted as Secretary of State in the Obama administration. After speaking at a conference at the United Nations on March 10, Clinton claimed that she “opted for convenience” by using only her private email address while serving as the nation’s top diplomat.
 
“I thought it would be easier to carry one device for my work,” Clinton said to a huddle of journalists. However, Clinton also admitted that it “would’ve been better” to use a government email account. “Looking back, it would have probably been smarter to use two devices, but I have absolute confidence that everything that could be in any way connected to work is now in the hands of the State Department,” Clinton said.
 
Clinton called for respecting her privacy, since she deleted emails pertaining to personal matters – including her daughter’s wedding. Clinton added that of the 60,000 emails on the server, half of them are personal. “No one wants their personal emails made public and I think most people understand that and respect that privacy,” Clinton said. The emails in question date from 2009 to 2013.
 
Clinton also said that there were no security breaches on her private email server. Nonetheless, the State Department is now conducting an investigation of the matter. “Step up and come out and state exactly what the situation is," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on March 8. Speaking on NBC on Sunday, Feinstein said, "She is the leading candidate, whether it be Republican or Democrat, for the next president. ... From this point on, the silence is going to hurt her." 
 
Other fellow Democrats have urged her to speak out about conducting business in a private account while serving in the Obama administration. Ranking Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) was the first Democratic leader to demand a response from Clinton. “I think it’s only fair to say to Hillary Clinton: ‘Tell us your side of the story,'” Durbin said on MSNBC. “What did you put on this personal email?” In addition, five Democrats on the panel at the House of Representatives which is investigating the 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, have asked the State Department to publicize the emails recently provided to the committee. Secretary of State John Kerry was urged to release 850 pages of documents that State gave to the panel.  The White House appeared to distance itself from the presumed Democratic Party presidential nominee: according to The Wall Street Journal, administration sources voiced frustration with the former diplomat and senator, saying “if they screwed up on the emails, if we find out they skipped over her emails ... then that will be a problem for them ... but it's not one that we'll own." 
 
Currently, the State Department is looking into 55,000 pages of emails that Clinton has turned over in an effort that will take several months.
 
Republicans say they will also review Clinton’s email practices.
 
President Barack Obama appeared to be blind-sided by these practices.  During a weekend interview, the Chief Executive claimed that he learned about Clinton’s practices "The same time as everybody else, through news reports."  However, White House spokesman Josh Earnest sought to further explain Obama’s explanation. Speaking on March 9, Earnest said that Obama and Clinton did indeed exchange emails.  “The president, as I think many people expected, did over the course of his first several years in office, trade emails with the secretary of state," he said. Official government emails bear a “.gov” account marker, leaving observers to presume that Obama noticed this as he read the emails. Official messages and correspondence are required, under federal law, to be accessible for historical purposes. Earnest said Obama was unaware of Clinton’s personal email server and whether she was following federal records law. 
 
In previous instances, Obama has claimed ignorance of what his administration is doing. For example, when media reports revealed that dozens of veterans had died before receiving care at a Veteran’s Administration hospital, Obama spokesman Jay Carney said at the time "I believe we learned about them through the reports. I will double-check if that's not the case. But that's when we learned about them, and that's when, as I understand, Secretary [Eric] Shinseki learned about them and immediately took the action that he has taken, including instigating his own review ... but also requesting that the inspector general investigate." 
 
In the case of allege inappropriate targetting of political groups by the IRS, Obama said in 2013 "I first learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this," adding "I think it was on Friday. And this is pretty straightforward." He later repeated this claim. 
 
Also, as for the issuance of subpoenas by the Justice Department for Associated Press phone records, Jay Carney said in May 2013 that Obama found out "Yesterday. Let me just be clear. We don't have any independent knowledge of that. He found out about the news reports yesterday on the road."

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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