A recent report compiled by U.S. Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz makes public new allegations and contradicts previous statements regarding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s improper use of a private email server.
The scandal became a major campaign issue during her 2016 presidential bid and resulted in a federal investigation, which was the subject of the report released this week.
A number of high-ranking officials were named in the document and accused of some level of involvement in the scandal, including former President Barack Obama. Clinton served as secretary of state during Obama’s first term in office.
One of the major revelations in Horowitz’s report involves Obama’s apparent “direct contact” with Clinton through the private email account. He reportedly used an account with a pseudonymous email username.
“FBI analysts and Prosecutor 2 told us that former President Barack Obama was one of the 13 individuals with whom Clinton had direct contact using her clintonemail.com account,” a footnote in the 568-page report states.
The emails sent and received were not classified, according to the inspector general, and there was no indication the president purposely communicated with his secretary of state through an unsecured channel.
Nevertheless, Obama critics say the report appears to contradict statements both the president and then-White House press secretary Josh Earnest offered when the investigation got underway in 2015.
In a CBS interview, Obama said he learned of the email controversy at “the same time everybody else learned it, through news reports.”
Earnest issued a follow-up statement acknowledging that as “many people expected,” Obama “did over the course of his first several years in office, trade emails with the secretary of state.”
At the time, skeptics maintained that the difference between a secured “.gov” email address and Clinton’s “.com” domain should have been enough to raise a red flag for Obama. Earnest and others, however, continued to maintain the president did not have advanced knowledge of Clinton’s email situation.
Obama was cited in the inspector general’s report for reasons other than his email correspondences with Clinton.
As National Review noted, Obama made multiple appearances in the document.
His contribution to the controversy was largely limited to his assertion in a “60 Minutes” interview, that some in the intelligence community felt undermined their investigation.
“Former President Obama’s comments caused concern among FBI officials about the potential impact on the investigation,” the report states. “Former (Executive Assistant Director) John Giacalone told the OIG, ‘We open up criminal investigations. And you have the President of the United States saying this is just a mistake. … That’s a problem, right?’”
Others in the FBI had similar reactions, the inspector general reported.
“Former AD Randy Coleman expressed the same concern, stating, ‘(The FBI had) a group of guys in here, professionals, that are conducting an investigation. And the … President of the United States just came out and said there’s no there there,’” Horowitz wrote. “Coleman said that he would have expected someone in FBI or Department leadership to contact one of Obama’s national security officials, and ‘tell (him or her), hey knock it off.’”