State Department officials took pains to accommodate Hillary Clinton’s email practices as secretary, according to newly released testimony by a career agency official.
Clinton was offered a “stand-alone” computer near her office that would let her access the Internet without entering a password or logging into the department’s network as other employees are required to do, the official said.
The official, Lewis A. Lukens, executive director of Clinton’s executive secretariat from 2008 to 2011, said he was told the proposal was declined because Clinton was “not adept or not used to checking her emails on a desktop.” However, Lukens said, Clinton was “very comfortable” using a BlackBerry — even though she would have to leave her office to use the device due to security protocols.
Lukens’s testimony on May 18 came in the first of six depositions scheduled until late June of current and former State Department and top Clinton aides in a civil lawsuit probing whether Clinton’s exclusive use of a private email server while secretary from 2009 to 2013 thwarted federal open-records laws.
The Lukens transcript was released Thursday, one day after State Department Inspector General Steve A. Linick issued a highly critical, 83-page report on Clinton’s email practices. The report concluded that Clinton failed to seek legal approval for the server arrangement and that, if she had, it would not have been granted because of security risks.
Clinton allies had braced for the IG report and findings from a pending FBI investigation into whether the email setup mishandled classified information or violated other federal laws.
Clinton has moved to put the matter to rest in her presidential campaign; however, the ongoing depositions appear likely to keep it in the spotlight longer.
On Friday, Clinton’s former chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, is to give sworn testimony in the lawsuit brought by the conservative legal advocacy group Judicial Watch. The lawsuit concerns the group’s 2013 public records request for information about the employment arrangement of Mills’s deputy, Huma Abedin.
In a statement Thursday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said that IG report “makes clear that Secretary Clinton and a number of other former Department officials have not been truthful with the American people” and failed to turn over certain emails from personal email accounts.
In his testimony, Lukens, a Foreign Service officer for 27 years who oversaw 110 employees providing administrative support to the secretary, said he never recalled speaking about Clinton’s email address or use of a personal BlackBerry with a direct subordinate, John Bentel, in charge of the secretariat’s electronic communications.
Lukens said Mills did not ask for Clinton to have a computer in her office, and that he did not believe a State email account was set up for Clinton because she did not ask for one.
“At that point, as far as I knew, there was no requirement for her to be connected to our system,” Lukens said.
Lukens did not think it unusual because, he said, “I’m not aware of former secretaries of state having email addresses on our system.”
In its report, the inspector general’s office noted that “long-standing systemic weaknesses” in department handling of electronic records that spanned several secretaries, and noted that Colin Powell when secretary used a personal email account for official business.
Lukens said he assumed Clinton used a commercial email service and did not know of her private server until it was reported last year. He proposed a “stand-alone” computer for Clinton to access the Internet to check her emails because mobile phones are not allowed in the secretary’s office suite.
Lukens initially said he wanted to make it easier for Clinton to bypass the department’s computer network so she could log on with fewer passwords, before acknowledging that Clinton could not access the system without a department email account.