In her press conference yesterday, Hillary Clinton asserted that the vast majority of her e-mail had been retained by the State Department because most of it included other State employees as addressees. Therefore, the former Secretary of State claimed, she’d already mostly complied with the Federal Records Act, albeit indirectly. Not so fast, says Stephen Hayes; Hillary’s top two aides also used private e-mail, which means that a large number of e-mails between members of the top echelon at State may never have been archived at all. This raises the question again of just how much correspondence at State got deleted — and why:

HAYES: Two of Hillary Clinton’s top aides used personal email while they were employed at the State Department, Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff. The State Department has evidence of this, and the question I think becomes: were they emailing with Hillary Clinton from their personal email addresses to her personal email address about State Department business, about Benghazi, including sensitive classified information? Those are questions that I think that Trey Gowdy and the House Benghazi committee is going to want to look at very carefully. …

This is the key point. Yesterday, she said look, when I was doing State Department business I was emailing to people who on the receiving end of her emails had .gov email addresses and therefore the emails, the documents would have been retained. What this suggests is that others were using non-.gov emails, their personal emails, and if they communicated with her in that manner those emails with her will be lost unless they’re compelled to provide them.

Remember that there is no absolute ban on using personal e-mail addresses for official business, unless (a) it contains sensitive or classified material, and (b) it isn’t copied to a State Department e-mail account for automatic collection into the record. Hillary’s basic mistake was not to open a State account at all for her entire four years. Had she done that and just cc’d herself on routine e-mails, some of the controversy might have been avoided. The use of personal e-mail would still have been apparent, but the account would have given her an out to claim that she still had the intent to comply with the Federal Records Act, instead of the obvious conclusion that she thinks she’s above the law for other mere mortals.

We knew before the presser yesterday that Abedin and Mills had outside e-mail addresses, potentially through the clintonemail.com server. If they also had accounts through State and copied all of their official work to them, then they’re probably safe. Until Hillary’s claim yesterday, though, that wasn’t central to the scandal — but it certainly is now. Did Abedin and Mills copy their correspondence with Hillary to those accounts? You can bet that Gowdy et al will be combing through the e-mails Hillary finally and grudgingly released to see if they match up with the Abedin and Mills records — and if they don’t, look out.

This may have even more import for another scandal that’s rising to Senate attention. Two days ago, Tom Hamburger reported for the Washington Post that the revelation of Hillary’s e-mail system blindsided Chuck Grassley, who had been investigating the use of a government program by Hillary to give her aides a special designation that eliminated conflict-of-interest rules normally applied to government employment. Grassley had sought Hillary’s e-mail records to probe that practice, to no avail. Among those aides are … Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills:

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who heads the Judiciary Committee, had previously questioned Clinton’s use of a program that allowed some political allies to work for the government while pursuing private-sector careers.

Grassley had sought e-mails and other documents from the State Department.

But he didn’t know until last week that Clinton was exclusively using a private e-mail account that could contain relevant information about her use of the so-called “special government employee” program. Huma Abedin, a Clinton confidante and adviser who was granted the special designation, also used the private e-mail system. …

Aside from Abedin, Clinton political allies who were granted the special status included Maggie Williams, Clinton’s 2008 campaign manager; Jeremy Rosner, a former Clinton pollster; Jonathan Prince, a speechwriter for Bill and Hillary Clinton; Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a former Maryland lieutenant governor who is on the board of American Bridge, a left-leaning political operation that has defended Hillary Clinton against partisan attacks; and Cheryl Mills, a former White House deputy counsel and longtime adviser to Hillary Clinton.

I wonder how many of these advisers used private e-mail to send and receive communication from Clinton, Abedin, and Mills — and how much of that got properly archived by State.x