TIME White House

Obama Knew About Hillary Clinton’s Private Email Address, Aide Says

“He was aware of her email address. He traded emails with her," an aide said

President Obama knew about the personal email address Hillary Clinton used while she was Secretary of State, the White House spokesman said Monday, but he was unaware of the private email server she ran out of her home or the extent of its usage.

Obama had previously said he learned of Clinton’s exclusive use of private email while at the State Department “the same time everybody else learned it.” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told ABC News on Monday that Obama was referring to Clinton’s apparently lack of compliance with State Department rules by not submitting the communications as formal records for nearly six years.

“Yes, he was aware of her email address. He traded emails with her,” Earnest said. “But he was not aware of her personal email server or that she was using it exclusively for all her business.”

MORE: Republicans in Congress Focus on Possible Gaps in Hillary Clinton Emails

Earnest would not say how frequently Obama and Clinton exchanged emails, only that he “would not describe the number [of emails] as large.”

Revelations about Clinton’s use of private email have become the presumptive Democratic presidential frontrunner’s biggest political headache to date, and multiple reports have indicated she’s likely to address the matter publicly soon. She recently called for the release of the 55,000 emails her aides handed over to the State Department, though her camp has said about 10% of the emails on her private server were personal and not turned over.


TIME Congress

Republicans in Congress Focus on Possible Gaps in Hillary Clinton Emails

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton checks her PDA upon her departure in a military C-17 plane from Malta bound for Tripoli on Oct. 18, 2011.
Kevin Lamarque—Reuters Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton checks her PDA upon her departure in a military C-17 plane from Malta bound for Tripoli on Oct. 18, 2011.

The Republican investigation into Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of private email has begun to focus on whether she appropriately turned over all the emails that she sent or received about government business to the State Department.

“There are gaps of months and months and months,” said South Carolina GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy, the chief congressional Benghazi investigator, on CBS’ Face the Nation Sunday, pointing specifically to an October 2011 trip to Libya when she was photographed using her Blackberry. “And if you think to that iconic picture of her on a C-17 flying to Libya, she has sunglasses on and she has her handheld device in her hand, we have no e-mails from that day. In fact, we have no e-mails from that trip.”

Under Obama Administration policy, officials are told to conduct their business principally on official email. If they use private emails accounts, they are instructed to forward emails that are federal records onto their federal accounts. Clinton opted for a different approach by conducting all her business on private accounts and then selecting those that concerned federal business after she left office and sending them to the State Department.

Experts on federal email record-keeping say that how Clinton handled them is a meaty topic.

“There is an outstanding question, and it is a legitimate question, about whether she has now handed over all records pertaining to government business,” says Jason R. Baron, a lawyer at Drinker Biddle and Reath and former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration. “For example, in the case of an email that is mostly personal in nature but also contains a sentence or paragraph related to government business, then that email is a government record appropriate for preservation at the State Department, and should not continue to be withheld.”

U.S. law gives a broad definition of what constitutes a federal record, including “all recorded information, regardless of form or characteristics, made or received by a Federal agency under Federal law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved or appropriate for preservation by that agency or its legitimate successor as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the United States Government or because of the informational value of data in them.”

Based on that law, Baron says the timing of when Clinton turned over the emails could matter too.

“In my view Secretary Clinton and the State Department were out of compliance on the day she left office, as federal records created on her private network had not been transferred and preserved in an official recordkeeping system as of that date,” he says. “It appears that she came into compliance only after the State Department requested a return of the government’s records.”

Clinton left the State Department in February 2013 but finished handing over about 55,000 pages of emails in only the past few months. She has since called on the State Department to review those records to determine which are appropriate for release to the public, a process that could take months.

Gowdy, who says he wants “everything” related to Libya and Benghazi, said Sunday that he had “lost confidence” in the State Department to determine what is public record and advocated for “a neutral, detached arbiter” to decide. Some outside experts in federal record-keeping practices agree that an outside review is needed.

“To be fair, as a practical matter, on a day-to-day basis individual employees do make decisions about whether a certain email will be put in a file or whether a certain document is a personal document,” says Doug Cox, a law professor at the City University of New York School. “However the question of the record status of an entire archive of emails sent and received by someone who was the Secretary of State have to be treated differently and especially given the highly questionable, if not illegal, practice of sequestering federal records in a private email system even after leaving the position, I really think there needs to be an independent review of the larger pool of emails, perhaps both by the State Department and the Archivist.”

Even if the Administration doesn’t set up an independent review, Gowdy has done his part keeping the issue in the spotlight, subpoenaing all Clinton emails related to the 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi over Democratic objections. Robert Luskin, a lawyer who deflected a congressional subpoena request for George W. Bush political advisor Karl Rove under executive privilege concerns, says that an investigation into the former Secretary’s personal email account would not be “unprecedented.”

“Mrs. Clinton would always be amenable to a subpoena and the separation of powers/executive privilege issues depend upon the substance of what is sought, not who has custody of it,” Luskin told TIME. “Obviously, by using a personal email account, she has complicated her life. In the typical case, lawyers for the administration and Congress would fight it out and she would, more or less, be a bystander. Now, she’s in the ring.”

No matter what happens, the emails will continue to be used as a political cudgel as Clinton weighs a presidential bid. After reports that Gowdy would attend a “Beyond Benghazi” fundraiser this month, Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings said in a statement Monday that the select committee on Benghazi “appears” to have become a “surrogate for the Republican National Committee.” Gowdy quickly canceled the appearance and his office told reporters that he was “unaware” of the organizers’ planned topic.

Republicans continued to keep the pressure on. Michael Mukasey, an Attorney General in the George W. Bush Administration, said Clinton’s latest actions reminded him of the Wile E. Coyote cartoon character. “There are people who think that the laws of physics don’t apply to them,” Mukasey told TIME. “The coyote in the Road Runner cartoons—he keeps running after he goes over the cliff and he doesn’t start to fall until he looks down and sees that he’s over the cliff. It’s the ultimate existential animal.”

Nine sitting Cabinet Secretaries and the Attorney General told TIME through spokespersons last week that they use a government email account for official business. Other Cabinet officials did not comment, but Vice President Joe Biden’s office did. “The Vice President’s emails, like the President’s, are subject to the Presidential Records Act,” says a Biden spokesperson. “In accordance with the Act, the Vice President’s e-mails are preserved and maintained.”

With additional reporting by Zeke Miller/Washington

TIME 2016 Election

Hillary Clinton Talks About Glass Ceilings (Hint, Hint)

DON EMMERT—AFP/Getty Images Hillary Clinton speaks at a women's equality event March 9, 2015 in New York.

It was her third appearance at an event on women's issues in a week

Hillary Clinton called for women around the world to face “no ceilings” as she prepares to attempt to break what she once called “the highest, hardest glass ceiling.”

Joined by her daughter, Chelsea, and philanthropist Melinda Gates, Clinton issued a call for gender equality and women’s rights around the world at an event in Midtown Manhattan Monday.

“When women and girls have an opportunity to participate, we can lift up not just ourselves but our families, communities, and even our countries,” she said. “This isn’t just a story about women and girls. It is a universal story about the kind of world we want for our children and grandchildren.”

While billed as an apolitical event, Clinton’s appearance signaled that she will make gender issues more of a focus in her likely 2016 presidential bid than it was in 2008, as has been reported in the New York Times and elsewhere. She also changed her Twitter avatar to promote the report.

The event was the third in a week in which Clinton talked about women’s issues, including an appearance previewing the report in Miami Saturday and a speech at the 30th anniversary of the pro-choice Democratic women’s group Emily’s List.

The No Ceilings report brought together wide-reaching statistics related to women’s equality, measuring both progress in women’s participation and global shortcomings.

In the last two decades, the report says, health and education have vastly improved for women worldwide, with the maternal mortality rate halved since 1995 and attendance at primary school nearly equal among boys and girls. Women’s economic participation has not kept pace, however, and the gap in secondary school education for women and wage equality is severely lacking, Clinton said.

“This data is a benchmark of our progress but also a roadmap for the work ahead,” Clinton said. “We’re excited for you to dig into this data yourself: to use it, to share it, to get motivated by it.”

The event formed a sort of bookend to Clinton’s time away from politics. Her 2008 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination ended with a concession speech in which she referenced women’s suffragists fighting for the right to vote.

“Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18 million cracks in it, and the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time,” she said in that June 2008 speech.

TIME Hillary Clinton

Clinton Drops ‘Texts from Hillary’ Twitter Avatar

Hillary Clinton Email
Joe Raedle—Getty Images Hillary Rodham Clinton, Former Secretary of State speaks during an event at the University of Miamis BankUnited Center on Feb. 26, 2014 in Coral Gables, Fla.

Clinton's previous photo showed her on a Blackberry

A humorous photo of Hillary Clinton reading on a Blackberry served as the former Secretary of State’s Twitter avatar for more than a year after she left the State Department.

But on Sunday, less than a week since news broke of the Clinton email controversy, the likely 2016 Democratic presidential candidate has changed the photo.

Her new avatar is a female silhouette with text that includes the web address of No Ceilings, a group that fights for equal rights for women. Clinton announced the move on Twitter as an attempt “to raise awareness on how far we’ve come in reaching equal rights.”

Clinton’s Twitter header photo remains an image of her checking her Blackberry aboard a plane. Before Clinton adopted the iconic photo—taken by Diana Walker on assignment for TIME—it had been the inspiration for the internet meme “Texts from Hillary.”

Chelsea Clinton, daughter of Bill and Hillary, also changed her avatar Sunday to support equal rights for women.

TIME 2016 Election

Bill Clinton Addresses Charity’s Donor Controversy in Hillary’s Stead

<> on March 7, 2015 in Coral Gables, Florida.
Joe Raedle—2015 Getty Images Hillary Clinton speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative University meeting at the University of Miami on March 7, 2015.

The 42nd president answered questions about his family's charity, while Hillary introduced a new philanthropic initiative

Likely presidential candidate Hillary Clinton avoided any mention Saturday night of the political controversy sparked by donations to her family foundation from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and others with business before the State Department during her time in the Obama Administration. Instead, at a foundation event in the University of Miami, she left that work to her husband.

“We do get money from other countries, and some of them are in the Middle East,” former President Bill Clinton said, after being prompted on stage in a question and answer session. “The United Arab Emirates gave us money, do we agree with everything they do? No, but they’re helping us fight ISIS and they helped build a university with NYU. . . . My theory about all this is, disclose everything, and let people make their judgments.”

“I have a lot of people who help me but who never voted for me,” Clinton continued. “We ought to bring people together across great divides around things that they can agree on and find something to do to make peoples lives better.”

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton lobbied for the interests abroad of corporations like Walmart and General Electric that also gave to her family’s charity. The Clinton foundation also has accepted donations from foreign governments. Unlike most charities, the Clinton Foundation publicly discloses a list of all its donors.

Hillary, meanwhile, devoted her joint discussion with her daughter, Chelsea, to the work the foundation is doing, instead of the questions surrounding it. She announced the “No Ceilings” project, an advocacy and data repository intended to encourage gender equality around the world.

“This is a global data project that measures the gains that women and girls have made around the world in the last 20 years, but also identify the gaps that remain,” said the former Secretary of State. “Whether it’s women’s rights or civil rights or LGBT rights, we’re counting on you to lead the way, and that’s what the No Ceilings initiative is really all about.”

The packed gathering of volunteer-minded students was a friendly audience, and they gave Hillary a standing ovation as she entered. All day a relentless loop of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” and Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” heralded speakers onstage.

It was the culmination of a three-day event hosted by the Clinton Foundation called the Clinton Global Initiative University, an incubator of sorts for student volunteers and activists who have committed to address jaundice in India and nutrition in West Philadelphia.

“We couldn’t think of a better audience to be the first to share this data with, because a lot of the changes that we need to make to build a future is the work of every one of you,” Hillary Clinton said, before turning the focus on continued problems in the United States.

“Even in wealthier countries like our own, it really makes a difference as to your economic status whether or not you are going to be able to participate fully, get the healthcare we need—although we’ve made a lot of progress on that—and get the education we need, though it needs to be more affordable,” she said. “We have seen progress everywhere, but we have also seen concerted efforts to stop that progress or even turn it back in too many places.”

The Clinton Foundation owes much of its success and its billions in funding to the Clinton name, and to Bill and Hillary’s deep web of political and business connections. For the Clintons, politics and philanthropy make temperamental bedfellows. In his remarks, Bill addressed the questions critics have posed of his wife.

“I believe we’ve done a lot more good than harm,” he said of his family’s charity. “So I’m going to tell you who gave us the money, and you can make your own decisions.”

TIME 2016 Election

Chelsea Clinton Grabs The Spotlight at Family Foundation Miami Meeting

Clinton Global Initiative University - Fast Forward: Accelerating Opportunity For All
Johnny Louis—WireImage Vice Chair of Clinton Foundation Chelsea Clinton attends Clinton Global Initiative University - Fast Forward: Accelerating Opportunity for All at University of Miami on March 6, 2015 in Miami, Florida.

A former first daughter takes the reins at her family's Foundation event

When the introductory music stopped Friday night at the Clinton Foundation’s latest meeting Friday, the star who took the stage in Miami before a hundreds of young activists wasn’t a former president, governor, senator or secretary of state. Rather it was Chelsea Clinton, the daughter who had watched her parents inhabit all of those roles, ready to claim her own moment in the spotlight. “All sorts of sounds are very welcome,” she told the crowd to hoots and cheers. “Interactive is what we love.”

Former President Bill Clinton still might be the biggest draw at the Clinton Foundation, and Hillary Clinton is certainly the most talked about, as she prepares a second campaign for the White House. But at the Clinton Global Initiative University meeting, Chelsea Clinton took the lead role, playing host, judge, motivational speaker and master of ceremonies through much of the first day. While her father was scheduled to host four of the weekend’s sessions, Chelsea was scheduled to take five. On a cleared-out University of Miami basketball court, where bleachers and ballers had given way to a sea of students and green chairs, she was playing point guard. About 1,100 students from more than 80 countries came to listen to panels and learn how to organize their own aid projects, and the sitting area was packed. She told crowd that she hoped they would come to all the speaker sessions—“not just the ones where my dad will be on stage.” The students cheered in response.

“She makes you feel like you’re the only one in the room,” Nick Pugh, a 19-year-old American student studying at the University of Edinburgh, said of the 35-year-old on stage. “And in that way she reminds me of her father.”

Chelsea played an active role in Hillary’s 2008 campaign, giving stump speeches and question-and-answer sessions on colleges campuses across the country. Seven years later, after a stint as an on-air correspondent at NBC News, Chelsea, now 35, is a far more experienced speaker with a penchant for connecting with young crowds, a skill that could come in handy in the upcoming race, particularly with a mother who has often struggled to engage personally with audiences. Her ubiquity at the sun-soaked campus at the University of Miami over the weekend reflected the new role she is playing in the philanthropic endeavors her father began in 14 years ago. She became vice chair in 2013, the same year the charity was renamed the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation.

Her opening remarks ran just 10 minutes, and it was her father who got a standing ovation among this activist-minded crowd when he later appears on stage. But she ran the show at an earlier, smaller event in the glass-sheathed student center hours earlier, where Chelsea judged a so-called Codeathon from a sunlit room on the building’s top floor, as students nursed cups of beer nearby. She was plainly excited: students had been working on apps like “SeaZar,” which would crowd source data on coral reefs’ health status from smartphone-wielding diving instructors, and “Tik,” which aims to educate mothers in rural Mexico on nutrition. Most of the presenters were younger than 25, and they had come from London and North Dakota for this Chelsea-organized event.

Chelsea sat at the judge’s table, taking notes notes between sips of San Pellegrino seltzer, dabbing celery into a hummus dip as she listened. Young attendees said later they were won over by her pragmatic questions: How do you actually incentivize dive shops to take part in SeaZar’s coral reef data collection? Where’s the funding for that quit-smoking app going to come from? She told students she loved math, and mentioned her own motherhood several times; her daughter, Charlotte, was born in September. “I believe mothers will do anything and everything for their children, and that’s a universal unimpeachable truth around the world,” Chelsea said.

Left unspoken was the question that Chelsea will soon need to answer for the world. Are children willing to do the same for their mothers, especially when they run for the highest office in the land?

TIME White House

Obama Cabinet: We Don’t Use Only Personal Email

US President Barack Obama speaks during a Cabinet Meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington on Feb. 3, 2015.
Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images US President Barack Obama speaks during a Cabinet Meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington on Feb. 3, 2015.

Thirteen sitting Cabinet members in the Obama administration say that they do not exclusively use a personal email account for official business, as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did.

Spokespersons for the top officials at the departments of Defense, Treasury, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Education, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, Interior, Homeland Security, Energy and Justice all told TIME that they use an official email account to conduct government business.

Several agencies—including Transportation, Agriculture, Energy, HUD, and Interior—said that their Secretaries also had personal accounts for family or other nongovernment purposes. Only two agencies—the departments of Labor and Veterans Affairs—declined to comment for this article.

Clinton faced criticism this week when the New York Times revealed that she exclusively used a private email system instead of an official government account, possibly violating federal rules on official correspondence. On Twitter Wednesday, she responded by saying she has asked the State department to release her emails.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said earlier this week that he had not “encountered” a senior White House official who only uses a personal email and that the “official guidance” for Administration employees is to use government email when conducting official business and to forward any relevant emails from a personal account to properly preserve the record.

Representatives of 12 Cabinet agencies either told TIME that the current secretaries conduct all government business on their official account or that they forward any relevant emails from personal accounts. (Clinton’s successor, Secretary of State John Kerry, uses a government email account, according to the New York Times.) Here are their responses:

  • “The Department of Defense follows all Federal guidance regarding the management of department records, to include email,” says Lt. Col. Tom Crosson, a Pentagon press officer. “Additionally, in 2012, the Department of Defense published DoD Instruction 8550.01, ‘DoD Internet Service and Internet-Based Capabilities,’ which covers email communications and applies to all DoD employees with no exceptions based on rank or position. This instruction forbids the routine use of personal email to conduct official business and specifically states, ‘baring absence of official communication channels, personal accounts shall not be used to conduct official DoD communication.’ Secretary [Ashton] Carter maintains an official government email account.”
  • “The Department of the Treasury is firmly committed to maintaining records in a manner that complies with legal requirements, promotes accountability, and establishes an historical record,” says a Treasury Department spokesperson. “Treasury policy is that employees should conduct official business through their official Treasury email accounts. The policy recognizes that there are situations in which an employee must use a personal email account for work purposes. In those circumstances, the employee must ensure that all federal records are preserved. Secretary [Jack] Lew complies with Treasury’s policies regarding email use. Secretary Lew uses government email and conducts official Treasury business on government email.”
  • “Secretary [Jeh] Johnson uses his official dhs.gov email account for official business,” says Tanya J. Bradsher, a DHS spokesperson.
  • “Secretary [Sally Jewell] uses a government email address to conduct official business,” says Jessica Kershaw, a spokesperson for the Interior Department.
  • “Secretary [Tom] Vilsack has a government email account which he uses for USDA business,” says an Agriculture Department spokesperson. “He also has a personal account. In the event he receives an official request at that email address, it is forwarded to an official account.”
  • “Secretary [Julián] Castro uses an official HUD.gov account for government business,” says Cameron French, a HUD spokesperson.
  • “Secretary [Sylvia Mathews Burwell] uses a government email address to conduct official government business,” says a HHS spokesperson.
  • “Secretary Arne Duncan uses an ed.gov email address for all Department business, which has been his practice since he was appointed six years ago,” says Dorie Turner Nolt, an Education department spokesperson.
  • “Secretary [Anthony] Foxx has an official government account that he uses to conduct government business,” says a Transportation Department spokesperson. “The Department of Transportation counsels all employees, including senior leadership, that they’re expected to use government approved/issued systems for all government business. If an employee does not have access to a government system/account and needs to engage in government business, the employee is advised to copy or forward the communication to his/her government account so that the Department can retain it as a government record.”
  • “Attorney General [Eric Holder] uses the Department of Justice email system for his official business,” says a DOJ spokesperson.
  • “Secretary [Ernest Moniz] uses his Department of Energy email account for official business,” says a DOE spokesperson. “In the rare event of technical issues, the Secretary has on occasion used his personal email account for official business, but ensures that those emails are properly documented and filed as part of the official record.”
  • “Secretary [Penny] Pritzker has an official doc.gov email address that she uses for official business, which is consistent with Department of Commerce policy,” says a spokesperson for the agency.

With reporting by Maya Rhodan/Washington

TIME Know Right Now

Know Right Now: Hillary Clinton Wants Emails Made Public

The former Secretary of State wants to release some of her emails to the public

Hillary Clinton said late Wednesday that she wanted her emails to be made available to the public, after coming under fire for exclusively using a personal email address while U.S. Secretary of State. Watch Know Right Now to catch up on the latest in this story.

TIME 2016 Election

What Should Hillary Clinton’s Twitter Avatar Be?

The email controversy has put a negative spin on Hillary Clinton's "texts from Hillary" avatar on Twitter (see below). Here are some ideas for what could replace it.

TIME 2016 Election

Hillary Clinton Asks for Some of Her Emails to be Released

The former Secretary of State looks to get ahead of a brewing controversy

Hillary Clinton, embroiled in a controversy over her use of personal email during her time as Secretary of State, said late Wednesday that she’s asked the State Department to release her some of her correspondence.

“I want the public to see my email,” Clinton said in a tweet Wednesday evening. “I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible.”

The likely 2016 presidential candidate’s aides reportedly turned over more than 50,000 pages of emails over to the State Department in compliance with new rules passed late last year. But it was subsequently revealed by the Associated Press that Clinton also used a private email server registered to her family home in Chappaqua, N.Y., which would make it more difficult for her online correspondence to be accessed by court orders or public requests. And her tweet made no mention of releasing emails her aides reviewed and then declined to hand over to the State Department.

“The State Department will review for public release the emails provided by Secretary Clinton to the Department, using a normal process that guides such releases,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement. “We will undertake this review as quickly as possible; given the sheer volume of the document set, this review will take some time to complete.”

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