President Obama confirmed Saturday that he learned about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email as secretary of state through the news.
“When did you first learn that Hillary Clinton used an email system outside of official business while she was secretary of state?” CBS News White House correspondent Bill Plante asked Obama during an interview on Saturday.
“The same time everybody else learned it through news reports,” Obama said, confirming something White House press secretary Josh Earnest hinted at, but did not confirm earlier in the week.
Asked if he was disappointed in Clinton’s private email use — a work-around which violated State Department rules, White House policy and potentially broke federal law — Obama demurred.
“Let me just say that Hillary Clinton is and has been an outstanding public servant. She was a great secretary of state for me,” he said.
“The policy of my administration is to encourage transparency, and that’s why my emails, the BlackBerry I carry around, all those records are available and archived,” Obama continued. “I’m glad that Hillary’s instructed that those emails that had to do with official business need to be disclosed.”
Clinton only turned over 55,000 pages of emails from her personal email account — HDR22@clintonemail.com — in December. The State Department initially claimed that Clinton turned over the records after the agency requested them to improve its record maintenance. But it came to light on Thursday that State Department attorneys sifting through emails related to a House committee’s investigation into Benghazi set the wheels in motion to obtain the records. State Department officials began negotiating with Clinton attorneys for the emails as early as August.
Obama also told Plante that Clinton’s private email use does not undermine his claims that his is the “most transparent in history.”
“You say that you have the most transparent administration ever,” Plante began.
“It’s true,” Obama interjected.
“I think that the fact that she is putting them forward will allow us to make sure that people have the information they need,” he added.
It was only on Thursday that Clinton sent out a tweet saying that she had asked the State Department to analyze her emails and release them to the public.
“I want the public to see my email. I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible,” she wrote.
While Clinton and the Obama administration have held that up as evidence that the likely 2016 presidential candidate has nothing to hide, neither the State Department nor Clinton have said how many official emails she actually has in her possession. The State Department also has not committed to any oversight action to ensure that Clinton has turned all official documents over for review.
The story of Clinton’s emails joins a growing list of scandals which Obama has said he only first learned about through the media. He learned about the Fast & Furious gun running scandal, former IRS exemption director Lois Lerners’ targeting of conservative groups, the Department of Justice’s wiretapping of reporters at The Associated Press, the same agency’s wiretapping of Fox News’ James Rosen and the VA’s wait list scandal through news reports.