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White House: Obama Traded Emails With Clinton, But Didn't Know Account Was Private

President Obama exchanged emails with Hillary Clinton while she served as secretary of state, the White House said Monday, a day after the president told CBS he learned about Clinton's use of a private email address through news reports like "everybody else."

"The president was referring specifically to the arrangement associated with Secretary Clinton's email," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday. "Yes, the president was aware of her email address; he traded emails with her. That shouldn't be a surprise, that the president of the United States is going to trade emails with the secretary of state.

"But the president was not aware of the fact that this was a personal email server, and that this was the email address she was using exclusively for all her business. The president was not aware of that until that had been more widely reported."

In an interview with CBS over the weekend, Obama was asked when he learned about Clinton's use of a private email to conduct State Department business.

"The same time everybody else learned it through news reports," he said.

The controversy began last week when news reports said Clinton used a domain named "clintonemail.com" to create the email account. The domain was created Jan. 13, 2009, the same day she began the confirmation process in the Senate. The server that handled the account was traced to an Internet service registered to Clinton's home in Chappaqua, N.Y.

Clinton last week said she would share her emails with a wider audience, tweeting: "I want the public to see my email. I asked State to release them." That came after the House Select Committee on Benghazi issued a subpoena for all emails related to Libya or Benghazi sent from her personal account.

As NPR's Bill Chappell reported last week:

"The issue rose to importance earlier this week, after it was revealed that during her entire tenure at the State Department, Clinton used a personal email account — a move that had kept the emails out of the government's control and circumvented archival practices.

"Those practices have become much more stringent in recent years. In January, Clinton reportedly provided some 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department, after her advisers reviewed them."

Clinton is widely seen as the Democratic front-runner for the 2016 presidential nomination — though she has not officially announced her intention to run. And, as NPR's Scott Horsley reported last week, the controversy over the emails could drag on for months as the State Department combs through all 55,000 pages. It is not, Scott reported, "what Clinton's political advisers would have wanted, just as she prepares to launch what's expected to be her 2016 presidential campaign."

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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