The State Department is investigating some of the questions raised in a Daily Caller article published this week which revealed that one of Hillary Clinton’s top aides, Huma Abedin, rejected the idea of the then-secretary of state using a government-issued Blackberry, an agency spokesman indicated Thursday.
Mark Toner declined during a daily press briefing to answer a reporter’s questions about the article, saying that there are “other investigations” and “reviews looking at some of these questions.”
Emails released to TheDC in response to a FOIA lawsuit showed that in an Aug. 2011 email chain Stephen Mull, the State Department’s executive secretary at the time, wrote that Clinton had asked for a department-issued Blackberry to replace her malfunctioning personal unit. The Blackberry would be able to “mask [Clinton’s] identity,” Mull said, but cautioned that it would be “subject to FOIA requests.” (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Clinton Aides Resisted State Department Suggestion That Clinton Use State.gov Account)
But as the email traffic shows, the idea was vetoed by Abedin, Clinton’s deputy chief of staff at the time and the vice chair of her presidential campaign.
“Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Abedin wrote.
On Thursday, a reporter asked Toner about the emails and about the decision to not provide Clinton a government-issued Blackberry.
“Why from an institutional point of view would it not make sense for the secretary of state to have an official Blackberry from the State Department…with a state.gov email address that was believed to be more reliable than the personal email address that the former secretary was using?” he asked.
“You’re probably not going to be satisfied with my answer,” Toner responded, noting that he was aware of the article and the emails.
“I can’t speak to the content of them, or make a judgement, or offer…an opinion, even an institutional one over what was said or not said in them, given that, as I said there’s other investigations, reviews looking at some of these questions.”
“I can’t address your questions because of the reviews, because of these investigations, these inquiries under way. I don’t want to get ahead of them,” he added.
Toner and other State Department officials have said before that various aspects of the Clinton email scandal are under review and investigation. As he noted Thursday, Sec. of State John Kerry asked State’s inspector general to look into how email records were stored and how records requests were handled.
But that particular matter seems to have been dealt with in a report released earlier this month which found that the State Department provided “inaccurate and incomplete” responses to FOIA requests for Clinton’s emails. In one of those cases, Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff, was made aware of a request in Dec. 2012 for information about Clinton’s email accounts but failed to flag her boss’ account for State’s FOIA office.
Clinton never did use a government-issued Blackberry while at the State Department, opting instead for a personal device. The State Department has admitted in court hearings that Clinton was never issued a Blackberry, but it has never publicly acknowledged that an offer was made to provide one or that her aides nixed the idea. The fact that Clinton never received the government-issued device suggests that she sided with Abedin on the issue.
The emails could also pose a potential problem for Mull and Kennedy since the records show for the first time that both officials knew about Clinton’s private server. Neither the State Department nor Clinton have explained why the private email system was approved and who signed off on it.