Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
Jason DeCrow—AP
By Zeke J Miller
March 3, 2015

A day after reports revealed that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used a private email account instead of a government address while in office, the White House said the dust-up is none of their concern.

“Very specific guidance has been given to agencies all across the government, which is specifically that employees in the Obama Administration should use their official e-mail accounts when they’re conducting official government business,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday.

Clinton’s exclusive use of private email raised questions about her compliance with the letter and spirit of the federal records act, which requires that all official correspondence be preserved by the department. Clinton’s staff turned over tens of thousands of pages of emails to the department just two months ago after it requested copies of her official correspondence.

Earnest said the White House can’t say whether Clinton has been in compliance with requirements saying that “can be verified by the State Department.”

“The policy as a general matter allows individuals to use their personal e-mail address as long as those e-mails are maintained and sent to the State Department, which if you ask Secretary Clinton’s team, that’s what they completed in the last month or two,” he said.

“What Secretary Clinton and her team have done is they have complied with the guidelines,” he added later.

Earnest would not say whether President Barack Obama ever communicated with Clinton on her private account, but said if he had, it would be archived on the White House servers. Asked whether Clinton’s use of personal email had ever raised red flags inside the White House, which Obama has branded as “the most transparent in history,” Earnest said that was not up to them. “It is the responsibility of agencies to preserve those records,” he said.

“These are their rules for them to manage,” he added, asked whether her use of private email could have been a security threat.

Internet registration records show Clinton’s team registered a domain for her emails just days before President Barack Obama was sworn into office, and the same day the Senate took up her confirmation hearings to the post.

Earnest said White House and other administration aides are encouraged to use their official emails only for ease of “Hillary Clinton benefits from something most federal employees don’t have: a team around them,” he said.

Asked whether any other Cabinet-level official official uses a private email account for official business, Earnest said “You will need to check with each of the Cabinet agencies about that.”

When asked if he was surprised by the revelation that Clinton didn’t maintain an official account while in office, Earnest replied, “I’m not surprised by anything.”

Write to Zeke J Miller at zeke.miller@time.com.

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