Published: May 25, 2016 — 7:51 AM PDT
Updated: May 25, 2016 — 9:39 AM PDT
Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail system while she was secretary of state violated State Department rules, the agency’s inspector general concluded in a report that will hand Republicans an additional line of attack as the general election campaign gets under way.
The audit by the State Department’s independent investigator found no evidence that Clinton requested guidance or approval to conduct official business via personal e-mail on a private server and concluded that she wouldn’t have gotten it if she had. The inspector general also faulted the State Department’s handling of electronic records and communications generally.
“Longstanding, systemic weaknesses related to electronic records and communications have existed within the office of the secretary that go well beyond the tenure of any one secretary of state,” according to the report, which was delivered to Congress Wednesday.
Clinton declined to speak with investigators, according to the report, as did at least three key aides: former Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills, former Director of Policy Planning Jake Sullivan, who is now a top aide on the campaign, and former Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin, who now serves as the campaign vice chairwoman.
Clinton’s e-mail practices followed those of her predecessors, her campaign spokesman said. “As this report makes clear, Hillary Clinton’s use of personal e-mail was not unique, and she took steps that went much further than others to appropriately preserve and release her records,” Brian Fallon said in an e-mailed statement.
The inspector general’s report adds to Clinton’s political woes as she’s trying to wrap up the Democratic presidential nomination and focus on campaigning against presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, who’s used the e-mail controversy as part of his attempt to label her “Crooked Hillary.” Clinton faces a separate FBI investigation, and a conservative watchdog group has sued for access to her messages.
Several of Clinton’s top aides have been interviewed already by the FBI, and Clinton is expected to be questioned by investigators soon, according to federal officials.
While her challenger for the Democratic nomination, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, has mostly steered clear of the issue, Republicans have jumped on the controversy. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who abandoned his bid for the Republican nomination in March, said Wednesday that the report confirms suspicions about Clinton.
“It’s part of a longer record of always trying to play loose with the rules, which is what she has done and her husband did before her,” he told reporters at the Capitol.
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