Hillary Clinton is defending her use of a private email address, hosted at ClintonEmail.com, to conduct official State Department business by claiming that her emails were captured by official @state.gov accounts that other agency employees were instructed to use to contact her. But according to a knowledgeable source, at least two other top Clinton aides also used private email accounts to conduct government business—placing their official communications outside the scope of federal record-keeping regulations.

“Her top staffers used those Clinton email addresses” at the agency, said the source, who has worked with Clinton in the past. The source named two staffers in particular, Philippe Reines and Huma Abedin, who are said to have used private email addresses in the course of their agency duties. Reines served as deputy assistant secretary of state, and Abedin as Clinton’s deputy chief of staff. Both rank among Clinton’s most loyal confidantes, in and out of the State Department.

We were able to independently verify that Abedin used a ClintonEmail.com address at some point in time. There are several email addresses associated with Abedin’s name in records maintained by Lexis-Nexis; one of them is huma@clintonemail.com. An email sent to that address today went through without bouncing.

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In an email to Gawker, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill denied that Reines was ever given, or ever used, a ClintonEmail.com address. “He has never had one, not for communicating with anyone about anything,” he wrote. Merrill did not respond, however, to questions about whether Reines used a private account at a different provider, such as Yahoo! or Gmail, to conduct official agency business. He also refused to address multiple questions regarding how Abedin used her ClintonEmail.com address.

The use of private email addresses may explain the State Department’s puzzling response to several FOIA requests filed by Gawker in the past two years. One of our requests, in September 2012, sought correspondence between Reines and a variety of reporters, including former BuzzFeed reporter Michael Hastings, who engaged in a profanity-flecked exchange with Reines in 2012. That request was confoundingly denied on the grounds that the State Department had no record of Reines—whose job it was to communicate with reporters—emailing Hastings or any other journalists (Gawker is currently appealing the rejection). Another request in June 2011 sought Abedin's email correspondence; the State Department rejected that one as well, although we could not immediately locate the denial letter to determine on what grounds.

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“It pokes a big hole in her explanation,” the source added, referring to spokesman Nick Merrill’s statement to Business Insider. “Like Secretaries of State before her,” Merrill told the site, she used her own email account when engaging with any Department officials. For government business, she emailed them on their Department accounts, with every expectation they would be retained.”

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Email the author: trotter@gawker.com · Photo credit: Shutterstock