President Barack Obama did know that Hillary Clinton was using a private email address, despite his assertion that he learned about it “through news reports.”
The president’s answer was a problem for Clinton aide Philippe Reines, who flagged the issue for top Clinton aides as well as White House communications director Jennifer Palmieri in an email.
“It’s not unreasonable to assume that Josh [Earnest] is going to get asked how this was possible, and he should have the factset,” Reines wrote on March 8, 2015. The email has been made public as part of the WikiLeaks releases of Clinton campaign chief John Podesta’s private email account.
Palmieri confirmed that it was “standard practice” at the White House not to confirm anything about Obama’s email, and that both of the president’s press secretary’s were aware if the issue.
“They know POTUS and HRC emailed. Josh has been asked about that. Standard practice is not to confirm anything about his email, so his answer to press was that he would not comment/confirm,” she wrote.
On March 9, White House press secretary Josh Earnest clarified that Obama knew Clinton’s private email address, but wasn’t aware of other details.
“Yes, the president was aware of her email address. He traded emails with her … but the president was not aware of the fact that this was a personal email server and that this was the email address that she was using exclusively for all her business,” Earnest said during the White House press briefing.
Officials at the State Department and the White House have blocked the release of emails between Clinton and Obama, even though those records exist.
“There is a long history of presidential records being kept confidential while the president is in office,” a White House official said to the New York Times in October 2015. “It is a principle that previous White Houses have vigorously defended as it goes to the core of the president’s ability to receive unvarnished advice and counsel.”