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Inspector General Report Criticizes Hillary Clinton's Use Of Private Server

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now more on that report Donald Trump referred to when criticizing his likely Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. It came from the State Department inspector general, the department's watchdog. It concludes that Clinton disregarded government rules by using a personal email account on a private server to conduct official business as Secretary of State. The inspector general said the arrangement would not have been approved if department officials had known about it in advance. Now here to talk more about this is NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. And, Carrie, tell us more about what this report had to say.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: The inspector general has been investigating this matter for over a year. Today, he said the private server that Hillary Clinton set up left government secrets vulnerable. The watchdog report says Clinton essentially blew off guidelines for protecting information at the State Department and didn't heed warnings about hackers and warnings about using her Blackberry and personal email in sensitive areas.

CORNISH: So I understand it also went into how using private email can actually thwart open records laws, too.

JOHNSON: Right. By using a personal server and not using a State Department email address, the inspector general says Clinton dodged record-keeping rules and made it difficult for the government to comply with the Freedom of Information Act. Another new fact here, Audie - there's some evidence people inside the State Department were worried about this. The watchdog report says workers at State flagged their concerns about her email practices, and a supervisor told them the idea had been reviewed and approved by lawyers and not to ask again. There's an important point here, though. The IG's office said they couldn't find any evidence lawyers had reviewed that matter. And in any event, the request would've been denied anyway because they were so concerned about protecting those government secrets.

CORNISH: Now, how is Hillary Clinton actually responding to all of this?

JOHNSON: Well, her campaign says they agree that there are widespread problems with record-keeping practices at the State Department. But Hillary Clinton's campaign says those problems were not limited - not limited to her tenure as Secretary of State. For instance, Colin Powell exclusively used a private email address, too, when he was Secretary of State in the Bush years. And the campaign of Hillary Clinton says many State Department officials knew about her email practices at the time, and there's no evidence that anybody was able to successfully breach her server. No evidence, they say, that hackers got inside. Now, Hillary Clinton's also getting some cover from her Democratic allies in Congress. People like Senator Dianne Feinstein of California and House member Elijah Cummings of Maryland essentially say there's nothing new to see here. Republicans need to stop wasting their money investigating Hillary Clinton.

CORNISH: But there are many investigations going on, right? This isn't the only scrutiny that Hillary Clinton is getting over these emails. Tell us what else is out there.

JOHNSON: First and foremost, the FBI is conducting a criminal investigation into the handling of classified information here. We know agents and prosecutors have talked to a few of Hillary Clinton's close aides, but there's no sign Clinton herself has been interviewed yet. We do expect that to happen. U.S. officials tell me, as of now - as of - based on the facts we know now, there's nothing the Justice Department has found that would signal Clinton herself is in criminal jeopardy. And the FBI director says he wants to finish this investigation quickly, but also be thorough.

CORNISH: What about investigations going on outside of the government?

JOHNSON: A lot of churn there, Audie. There are lots of nonprofit groups and media organizations, including a conservative group called Judicial Watch. All of them have filed more than 39 open records lawsuits in federal courts here in Washington related to some aspect of Hillary Clinton's email practices or behavior of her aides. A federal judge here in D.C. has allowed judicial watch to take sworn testimony of Clinton's aides as part of those civil - not criminal - lawsuits. And Clinton's longtime lawyer and confidant Cheryl Mills is scheduled to face a deposition here in D.C. later this week, so a lot more to come.

CORNISH: That's NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Carrie, thank you.

JOHNSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.