White House: Obama emailed Hillary Clinton on her private email address

Olivier Knox
Chief Washington Correspondent
President Barack Obama uses a laptop computer to send a tweet during a "Twitter Town Hall" in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, July 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

President Barack Obama exchanged emails with Hillary Clinton on her private, nongovernmental account while she was serving as secretary of state, the White House said Monday. But he did not know that she used a private system exclusively for government business, press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.

Obama “did, over the course of his first several years in office, trade emails with the secretary of state,” Earnest said. “I would not describe the number of emails as large, but they did have the occasion to email one another.”

Obama told CBS in an interview broadcast over the weekend that he found out that Clinton had set up and maintained a private system that she used for official business “the same time everybody else learned it through news reports.”

“The point that the president was making is not that he didn’t know Secretary Clinton’s email address — he did,” Earnest said. “But he was not aware of the details of how that email address and that server had been set up, or how Secretary Clinton and her team were planning to comply with the Federal Records Act.”

That information, first disclosed by the New York Times, has raised questions about whether Clinton’s messages to other senior officials were secure and whether she used the arrangement to withhold messages that would normally be archived for potential future public release.

Earnest said that any messages to or from Obama’s email address would be archived under the Presidential Records Act.

Asked when the White House counsel’s office first found out about Clinton’s arrangement, Earnest seemed to try to distance the White House from the controversy.

“What I can tell you is that it is the responsibility of individual agencies to establish an email system and to make sure that those emails, as they're created, are properly archived and maintained, both so they can be used to respond to legitimate public inquiries and to legitimate congressional inquiries,” he said.