We already knew that Hillary Clinton’s e-mail and mobile device issues were likely a pain for State Department employees—and some foreign governments as well. But new testimony recorded on Tuesday by one of Clinton’s top aides illuminates the extent of those headaches.
Huma Abedin is the vice-chair of Clinton’s presidential campaign and the former deputy chief of staff and senior advisor to Clinton during her stint as Secretary of State. She was deposed on June 28 by an attorney representing the conservative action group Judicial Watch as part of discovery for a lawsuit being brought against Clinton. Judicial Watch published the transcript of that deposition yesterday, and Abedin revealed what she knew about Clinton’s use of the mail server and how she was "frustrated" with the technical glitches caused by Clinton’s mobile device and e-mail travails.
Both Clinton and Abedin had accounts on the clintonemail.com server, which was originally set up at the Clinton residence by staffers of former president Bill Clinton prior to the family’s arrival at the State Department. (The server would later be managed by Platte River Networks, a managed IT services firm, with security provided by Datto.) Clinton had been using a BlackBerry mail account through AT&T during the 2008 presidential campaign, and she had been having "technical issues" with the account, according to Abedin. Clinton switched to the private server when she got a new device, and Abedin was given an account on the server after she lost access to her Senate e-mail account. Abedin said she used it primarily for personal business in addition to a personal Yahoo e-mail account (where she would later forward press clippings received from a State Department clipping service, she said).
But Abedin said that once she arrived at the State Department, she primarily used a State.gov e-mail account for business while Clinton continued to use her clintonemail.com account. On occasion when traveling, Abedin would use her clintonmail.com account. Abedin testified that she also used that account when State’s e-mail service was down—which apparently happened with some regularity. As for Clinton, "most of her State Department business was done in person, in meetings at the State Department or when she traveled, or by phone," Abedin testified. "When she used e-mail off-hours and when we were on the road, she did use Clintonemail.com." Clinton never used a State.gov account, according to the deposition.
This situation created some issues while Clinton was traveling. Since she was never issued a device for secure e-mail, Clinton used her personal BlackBerry for communications. And as Ars previously reported, mail filtering problems often prevented her e-mails from getting through.
During the deposition, Abedin discussed an e-mail exchange with Clinton in which Abedin encouraged the Secretary to either get and use a State.gov e-mail address or to have her clintonemail.com address added to the State Department’s e-mail directory. The thread began with Clinton reacting to missing a phone call with another nation’s foreign minister because Abedin and State Department’s operations department had never gotten her e-mail signing off on the call (because, again, the e-mail was blocked by State’s spam filter).
"She missed the call because… I never got her e-mail giving us the sign-off to do it," Abedin recounted. "So she wasn’t able to do her job, do what she needed to do. My response would have been, ‘Here are some suggestions.’ I cannot tell you if I called somebody else. I don’t remember calling anybody else, or if I on my own said, ‘Here are some solutions so that your e-mails get through to us so that we can place calls to foreign officials.’ And, you know, she clearly missed the window in this exchange."
Judicial Watch asked what Abedin meant in her message to Clinton about "releasing your e-mail address to the department." The aide responded with uncertainty, saying, "I’m not sure I would know how to define that then or define that now. It might have also just been my… being frustrated back at the fact that I wasn’t getting her messages. Just reading the exchange, she seems frustrated because she’s not able to do her job. I seem frustrated back."
In the same e-mail thread, Clinton agreed to getting a State department account or mobile device, "but I don’t want any risk of the personal being accessible." Abedin told Judicial Watch that she understood that as a reference to Clinton’s personal e-mails, not her address. Clinton didn’t want her personal e-mails being stored in the State Department’s servers and becoming public. Shortly after the exchange, Abedin said, Clinton’s e-mails started coming through again. "The matter resolved itself, or was resolved, and we went back to the prior practice," Abedin explained—the practice of Clinton continuing to use her personal e-mail account for State Department business.
When questioned about how things were resolved, Abedin again responded with uncertainty. "I couldn’t define to you exactly what [happened]—I don’t recall any response other than once the system was back up and running, that it was… we just proceeded with business the way it was before."