Did Hillary Clinton Break The Law By Emailing From Her Personal Account? Maybe — But She's Not The Only One

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton (C) looks at her mobile phone after attending a Russia - US meeting on the sidelines of the 43rd annual Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Ministering Meeting in Hanoi on July 23, 2010. Asia-Pacific's biggest security dialogue convenes in Vietnam with ructions over North Korea and friction between the United States and China likely to dominate proceedings. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Na Son Nguyen (Photo credit should read Na Son Nguyen/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Former Secretary of State and all-around role model Hillary Clinton may have broken a federal requirement while she served in the State Department. According to The New York Times, Clinton has come under fire for using a personal email account to conduct government business during her tenure with the department — a big no-no under federal rules. Clinton reportedly went rogue all four years there and did not use a government email account, which means all her correspondence as Secretary of State was not on the department's records at the time. 

So, did Clinton break the law while serving with the State Department? There's a good possibility that she did. Under the Federal Records Act, emails written and received by a federal official must be preserved and published in the Federal Register. The emails need to be recorded for transparency and public records, the law states. 

This not only applies to emails written and received in government accounts, but also ones formulated in the personal accounts of government officials. That means Clinton had to keep track and publish her email records in the registrar — something she did not do until very recently. According to the Times, Clinton's advisers didn't turn over 55,000 pages of emails until two months ago, when pressed by the State Department.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf explained in a statement on Monday:

In response to our request, Secretary Clinton provided the department with emails spanning her time at the department.

What's currently unconfirmed is if Clinton knew about this federal law — and it's certainly possible that she did. The National Archives and Records Administration very clearly guides government agencies on how to preserve their records, including email correspondence, so they can be preserved and archived. The NARA states that "email messages created or received in the course of official business are Federal records" so they must be handled like any other documents.

The NARA also advises against using personal email accounts unless it's an emergency case where the official government account is not accessible. "In these situations, agency employees must ensure that all Federal records sent or received on personal email systems are captured and managed in accordance with agency record-keeping practices," state the NARA guidelines.

While there are criminal penalties for government employees who purposely destroy or remove these kinds of federal records, it's unclear what would happen in a case like Clinton's or if she would be charged — does keeping a personal email over a government one technically qualify as removing government records? Clinton's advisers are now complying with the State Department, but this surely makes some documents and correspondence harder to track down.

However, this also isn't the first time a high-ranking politician has been under fire for mixing personal emails with government business. In 2007, it was discovered that advisers to President George W. Bush used their Republican National Committee email accounts for government business, even though the RNC accounts were only meant for campaign-related work. As a result, the White House estimated that many emails, presumably holding important government information, were lost.

Images: Getty Images, Texts From Hillary

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