White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest made it crystal clear to reporters on Tuesday that there is a “very specific” protocol in place directing all government employees to use government-assigned email accounts.
So excusing Hillary Clinton for using her private account exclusively was a struggle.
Reporters demanded straight answers.
ABC News White House correspondent Jon Karl pressed Earnest on whether the White House believes Clinton broke the law.
The full exchange, transcribed by Real Clear Politics:
KARL: I want to plead to you, please do not refer me to the State Department on this one. I am going to ask you something about the White House and my question is a very basic one.
EARNEST: Before you ask me, I will do my best not to refer you to the State Department, but I want you to remember though that it is the responsibility of the State Department, that agency, to maintain their email system and to ensure that the employees there are in compliance with the Federal Records Act.
KARL: Okay, so my direct question is: Does the White House believe that Hillary Clinton broke the law? Yes or no?
EARNEST: Jon —
KARL: You’re going to refer me to the State Department.
EARNEST: No, I’m not. I’m going to do my best to answer your question. Secretary Clinton’s team has said that at the request of the State Department they have reviewed her records to make sure —
KARL: I know what her team has said. I am asking does the White House believe that Hillary Clinton broke the law or did she fully comply with the law?
EARNEST: Well —
KARL: What does the White House believe? Does the president believe that his former secretary of state broke the law or did she fully comply with the law?
EARNEST: Jon, if in fact, and again, you will have to go and verify this and the State Department will have to verify this because we’re talking about–
KARL: The State Department won’t answer this…
Let me ask you about something that was said at that podium in June 2011, this is while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. Jay Carney, your predecessor, said all “our work is conducted on work email accounts. We are definitely instructed that all our work is conducted on government email accounts.“
JOSH EARNEST: I think he was asked specifically about White House staffers. Questions that were raised over some work of some White House staffers.
KARL: He said U.S. government policy and administration policy is that all our work is conducted on work email accounts. So, was the White House unaware that Hillary Clinton was not conducting her work on personal email accounts?