Hillary fallout: Josh Earnest now basically arguing that official government e-mail accounts are optional; Update: For aides too?

No foolin’. Jon Karl asks a simple question: Aren’t public servants supposed to use their official e-mail accounts so that complete records can be kept when they transact state business? HillaryWorld used to think so.


Earnest’s reply: Don’t worry so much about which e-mail account was used. As long as copies of Hillary’s e-mails ended up in the State Department archives, however they ended up there, that’s the important thing. Which is insane for the obvious reason that leaving it to Hillary and her cronies to decide years after the fact which e-mails to turn over means that any correspondence with people outside the State Department will include only those messages that Clinton is comfortable with people seeing. There are lots of good reasons to require government officers to use official accounts — they’re more secure, for starters, which you’d think would matter to someone routinely handling classified information — but the chief reason is simply to keep records as they’re being generated so that the officer can’t withhold and suppress any damaging stuff later. What you’re watching here is the White House press secretary on national television shrugging at what basic accountability requires because, after all, if you can’t trust the Clinton machine to be honest, who can you trust?

Karl asks a good question to follow up. Didn’t anyone at the White House exchange e-mails with Hillary in the course of her four years at State and notice that, gee whiz, she wasn’t writing from an official State Department domain? Earnest’s answer to that is that it’s not illegal to occasionally transact official business from a private account so long as the records are turned over to archivists. Right, says Karl — but all of her business was transacted on a private account. She didn’t even gesture towards compliance with records accountability by having an official State Department account set up for her. This is what I mean with my headline above. If you take this seriously, Earnest’s claiming that it’s no biggie for federal employees at the highest levels to bypass official e-mail accounts entirely so long as they’re willing to produce their e-mails eventually. And in this case, “eventually” meant two years after Hillary left office.

Exit question via Trey Gowdy: Why would Hillary Clinton need multiple private e-mail accounts?

Update: Well now.

Hillary Clinton is defending her use of a private email address, hosted at ClintonEmail.com, to conduct official State Department business by claiming that her emails were captured by official @state.gov accounts that other agency employees were instructed to use to contact her. But according to a knowledgeable source, at least two other top Clinton aides also used private email accounts to conduct government business—placing their official communications outside the scope of federal record-keeping regulations.

“Her top staffers used those Clinton email addresses” at the agency, said the source, who has worked with Clinton in the past. The source named two staffers in particular, Philippe Reines and Huma Abedin, who are said to have used private email addresses in the course of their agency duties. Reines served as deputy assistant secretary of state, and Abedin as Clinton’s deputy chief of staff. Both rank among Clinton’s most loyal confidantes, in and out of the State Department.

It doesn’t matter if Hillary was using an official State Department account, say her defenders, so long as the people she was e-mailing at State were using official accounts. After all, her messages will show up in the records of their accounts. What if they weren’t using official accounts (at least sometimes) either?