A spokesman for the State Department could not say for certain on Friday that information contained in a set of talking points that Hillary Clinton ordered her aide to be scrubbed of their headings was unclassified.
And the agency was so concerned about the prospect that the information was classified that it conducted a complete search of the 55,000 pages of emails that Clinton has given the State Department, spokesman John Kirby acknowledged during a press conference.
One of the major complaints leveled against Clinton in the ongoing scandal over her private email use as secretary of state is that she frequently sent and received classified information. More than 1,300 emails have been retroactively classified by the State Department. Two other emails were deemed by the Intelligence Community inspector general to have contained classified information when originated. Clinton has asserted she did nothing wrong, claiming that none of the emails were “marked” classified when sent or received.
But a June 17, 2011 email exchange between Clinton and her top aide, Jake Sullivan, undermines that defense. The email shows that Clinton instructed Sullivan to remove headers — or markings — from a secure fax of talking points so that he could send it to her on her email account.
After Sullivan told Clinton that he was having trouble sending the fax on a secured system, Clinton ordered him to “turn into nonpaper w no identifying heading and send nonsecure. (RELATED: Bombshell Email Shows Hillary Instructed Adviser To Strip Markings From Sensitive Talking Points)
The email raises the question of whether Clinton was attempting to skirt regulations and laws regarding the handling of classified material. By directing Sullivan to strip the fax of its headings and putting the possibly classified information on a private email system, Clinton was inviting her adviser to violate State Department rules and, possibly, federal law.
Kirby was unable to verify that the information in the talking points was unclassified.
And in an indication that the State Department is concerned that the information may indeed have been of extreme sensitivity, Kirby said that the agency searched through the 55,000 pages of Clinton emails to determine whether Sullivan followed Clinton’s instructions and stripped the talking points of their markings. The spokeman said that there is no record of such an email having been sent but added that he is not sure if Clinton was ever sent a fax with the talking points.
“We’ll continue to do whatever searches are necessary,” Kirby said.
Asked repeatedly if the State Department is worried that Clinton violated federal law, he asserted that “that is not our role.”
He also said that he was not sure if anyone within the State Department had referred the matter to the Justice Department, which is handling other investigations into Clinton’s email practices.
Clinton’s critics pounced on the news of the email.
“The circle of evidence is closing even more tightly around Hillary Clinton,” said Matt Whitaker, the executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a government watchdog group, said in a statement.
“This latest email revelation shows she was completely aware of classified material getting passed by email and she even instructed an aide to remove certain markings that label the material as classified,” he continued, accusing Clinton and her aides of spinning “a web of deceit.”