WASHINGTON — (CNN) A criminal investigation could be opened in relation to the personal email account that Hillary Clinton used during her time as secretary of state, according to a New York Times report late Thursday.
Inspectors general for the State Department and the intelligence agencies have asked the Justice Department to open an investigation into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in connection with Clinton’s account, The Times reported, citing senior government officials.
The inspectors general are independent officials who conduct audits, investigations and inspections in the agencies for which they’re responsible.
Clinton’s use of the personal account for official business instead of a State Department one stirred up a political storm after news of it emerged in March.
Clinton has denied handling classified material on account
The request for the Justice Department investigation comes after a June 29 memo from the inspectors general that said Clinton’s private account held “hundreds of potentially classified emails,” The Times reported.
A Democratic presidential contender for 2016, Clinton has insisted that she never handled classified information on her private account.
“She followed appropriate practices in dealing with classified materials,” Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said in a statement early Friday.
“As has been reported on multiple occasions, any released emails deemed classified by the administration have been done so after the fact, and not at the time they were transmitted,” he said.
The New York Times report said it was “not clear if any of the information in the emails was marked as classified by the State Department when Mrs. Clinton sent or received them.”
The Justice Department hasn’t yet decided whether to open an investigation, according to the senior officials cited by The Times.
Nonetheless, the reported request for an inquiry is likely to renew fierce Republican criticism of Clinton’s email practices.
The State Department in May began publicly releasing some of the tens of thousands of emails from the private account that Clinton handed over to it in December.
Officials from the department have been reviewing and redacting the huge collection of documents before putting them in the public domain.
Clinton has said she has nothing to hide and would like the process of making the emails public to be expedited.
But The Times reported Thursday that a second memo from the inspectors general, on July 17, said that at least one of the emails released by the State Department contained classified information.
The memos were addressed to Patrick F. Kennedy, the under secretary of state for management, according to The Times.
Clinton’s successor as secretary of state, John Kerry, wrote to the State Department inspector general in March asking for recommendations on the department’s practices on document retention and its freedom of information process, a senior state department official told CNN.
“The Inspector General’s assistance is welcomed as we take efforts to improve our policies with respect to the preservation of records in a digital environment,” the official said.
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