WASHINGTON (UPI) — Hillary Clinton contravened federal records rules by using a private email server while she was secretary of state, a State Department audit has concluded.
The long-awaited report, issued Wednesday, also revealed the Democratic presidential front-runner and her top aides refused to cooperate with the investigation.
“At a minimum, Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with department issues before leaving government service,” stated the audit.
“Because she did not do so, she did not comply with the department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act.”
However, the 78-page report noted that there had been “longstanding, systemic weaknesses” in the agency’s communications procedures, which had started before Clinton’s appointment as secretary of state
Her predecessor, Colin Powell, a Republican, also failed to preserve government-related emails during his tenure. And despite requests by the State Department to Powell asking him to try to retrieve relevant emails from his Internet provider, they “had not received a response” from him, as of May 2016, the audit stated.
Questions have been asked about Clinton’s email practices for more than a year, since it was revealed that she had been using her own private email server, located in the basement of her New York home, while she served as the nation’s top diplomat from 2009 to 2013.
FBI agents have also been investigating whether Clinton’s email setup put government secrets at risk.
A federal law requires the preservation of official records, and Clinton has said that since most of her emails were sent to government workers on the State Department system, she was complying.
Clinton has always maintained that her use of a private server was a mistake, and she insisted that she never sent or received anything marked classified at the time. More than 2,000 emails were retroactively considered classified after they were sent and received.
But the inspector general’s audit stated that “sending emails from a personal account to other employees at their department accounts is not an appropriate method of preserving any such emails that would constitute a federal record.”
The report says Clinton should have printed and saved her emails during her four years in office or surrendered her work-related correspondence immediately upon stepping down in February 2013. Instead, Clinton provided those records in December 2014, nearly two years after leaving office.
It added that that none of the senior State Department officials in charge of information security was asked to approve Clinton’s email arrangement. They would not have done so if asked, they said, according to the audit.
“It is clear that the department could have done a better job preserving emails and records of secretaries of state and their senior staff going back several administrations,” the State Department said in a statement. “We also acknowledge the report’s finding that compliance with email and records management guidance has been inconsistent across several administrations.”
Since the start of the investigation, Clinton has handed over more than 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department.
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