WASHINGTON — An email hacked from the private Gmail account of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, is raising new questions about when President Barack Obama found out about Clinton’s private email server.
In a March 7, 2015 interview with CBS News’ senior White House correspondent Bill Plante, Obama said he hadn’t been aware of Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state until “the same time everybody else learned it through news reports.”
On Tuesday, WikiLeaks’ highlighted a March 7, 2015 email found in its archives of Podesta’s emails, writing: “Clinton campaign panics after Obama misleads public over Clinton emails.”
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) October 25, 2016
In the original email sent shortly after the CBS interview aired, Josh Schwerin, spokesperson for Hillary For America, Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, alerted Jennifer Palmieri, the campaign’s director of communications, about Obama’s statements. Schwerin wrote:
“Jen you probably have more on this but it looks like POTUS just said he found out HRC was using her personal email when he saw it in the news.”
The email also includes a link to a March 7, 2015 tweet from Katherine Miller, a political editor at Buzzfeed. “I have some questions here,” she wrote about Obama’s statement.
I have some questions here pic.twitter.com/ufkeoZCx2m
— Katherine Miller (@katherinemiller) March 7, 2015
Schwerin’s email was also sent to Nicholas Merrill, Clinton’s traveling press secretary, and other close Clinton associates. Merrill, in turn, forwarded the email to Cheryl Mills, former White House counsel to Bill Clinton and a top aide to Hillary Clinton. Hours later, Mills forwarded the email chain to Podesta, writing:
“we need to clean this up – he has emails from her – they do not say state.gov”
On Tuesday, Jon Scott, host of Fox News’ “Happening Now,” said the email showed Mills going into “damage control mode.” He added:
“That is going to be the matter of some discussion, you would imagine, on Capitol Hill. What the president told the world versus what he may have known or perhaps should have known.”
For its part, the Obama administration had already attempted to clarify the president’s statement in a March 9, 2015 press briefing, so it’s unclear whether further statements will be coming from the administration in response to the newly released emails. In the briefing, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest responded to a question about Obama’s statement, saying:
“That may be one conclusion to draw from the President’s remarks, but it would not be an accurate one. The President, as I think many people expected, did over the course of his first several years in office trade emails with his Secretary of State. … And the point that the President was making is not that he didn’t know Secretary Clinton’s email address — he did — 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.”
In technical terms, Earnest’s explanation is plausible: a person’s email address doesn’t always indicate the final destination of an email sent to that address, which could be anything from a private server to a Gmail account.
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