Tenenbaum: Using private email account was clearly against federal rules

Another little contact report

Talking with Inez Tenenbaum this morning about her support of Joe Biden, I changed the subject to Hillary Clinton and asked, somewhat facetiously, whether Inez used two email accounts when she was in Washington as head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“No,” she said. “I was told emphatically… that all federal business had to be conducted on federal email addresses.”inez-tenenbaum

“We had lawyers that did nothing but ethics” at her agency, and they let her know “we could not use our own private email.”

And if by any chance she did use private email for public business, it would be treated as public — she was told such communications would all be subject to Freedom of Information requests.

When I asked why she thought Hillary Clinton doesn’t seem to have gotten the same message, she declined to go there.

I had called Inez because she has been named to co-chair (along with Sen. Gerald Malloy) the Draft Biden effort in South Carolina.

She had no news on that front. “I don’t know” whether he’s going to run or not. “It could go either way.”

But she’s ready to support him if he does. And in explaining why, she talks more about a personal connection than anything having to do with politics or policy. “He has been a friend of ours, and we have had a close relationship with him.”

While she cordially knows Hillary Clinton as well, she just has “a much closer relationship” with Biden. “And I just have so much respect for him” as someone who has “serve the country for 40 years.”

If you’ll recall, the last time around (in 2007) she came out early for Barack Obama, while her husband Samuel was backing Biden. Samuel is not in a position now to endorse candidates because of his job, but as an attorney in private practice, Inez has no such barriers to contend with.

I asked whether she’s gotten any pushback from the Clinton campaign. No, she said. “I got lots of calls from the Hillary people early on” seeking her support. But even though there was no serious anticipation at that point that Biden would get in, she said she felt an obligation to him to wait until he said definitively whether he was running or not.

As to whether he should, “One part of me wants him to get into it… one part of me understands” why he might decide not to go through that grinder.

I asked her to keep me in mind if she hears anything…

11 thoughts on “Tenenbaum: Using private email account was clearly against federal rules

  1. Lynn Teague

    The State Department has said that they have no blanket prohibition, and have waffled on at length on that theme. I’m not saying that resolves the issue regarding Clinton, but it does seem that Tenenbaum’s experience in a different department is even less likely to resolve it.

  2. Lynn Teague

    NPR has a good review of the Clinton email situation:


    To me it looks like questionable judgment, but not unprecedented (other than with respect to the location of the server) and neither contrary to policy at the time or illegal.

    1. Mark Stewart


      I believe that a lot of people would strongly disagree with your summation of the situation. Hillary’s actions and her follow on commentary on them don’t describe questionable judgment, to many they illuminate her unfitness for the office to which she aspires.

      That is certainly my take on the situation.

      What I would like to see is how the White House tried to handle this as it was occurring; that matters more than what the State Department was willing to say to its urstwhile leader. I think the inferences seem to be that there was widespread concern with Hillary’s email system; but Obama wasn’t willing to tackle the Bill and Hillary juggernaut. Or maybe he couldn’t corral them. It isn’t good either way for the President, but it would be a meaningful piece of information to sort out this most peculiar situation.

  3. Bart

    Instead of relying on others to be influential when reaching our own conclusions about the use of her private email account to conduct official business for the US, why not stop and consider what you would do under the same circumstances and then reach a reasonable conclusion.

    Personally, I do not believe it is a wise or intelligent decision to use a personal email account to conduct the affairs of the office of SOS or any other sensitive branch of the government or when acting in an official capacity for the US.

    It doesn’t matter whether one is conservative, liberal, Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian, what does matter is judgment and discretion in sensitive matters and in leadership. If the elected leader of our country does not abide by common sense rules and in effect, ignores the potential dangers associated with outside parties hacking private email accounts, then how can we trust that person to answer the red phone at 3:00 am and react wisely in a real emergency situation?

    This is not like the Holiday Inn Express commercials, this is reality and the consequences can be dangerous if one is prone to ignore common sense and in this case, Hillary Clinton acted in an irresponsible manner. Her apology is a little late and seems to be insincere. Is this the person who should be POTUS?

  4. bud

    It’s more weird than senister. I seriously doubt any national security interests were compromised. Let’s just hope that Bernie Sanders can win the nomination so we won’t be bombarded with this overblown non-issue during the general election.

    1. Juan Caruso

      Bud, you are not keeping up with last week’s news. Hillary’s Top Secret flub as judged by the experts (not reporters) has been mightily unanimous — she was insensitive to realizing or caring that at least one e-mail on her server (could even be more) was DEFINITELY considered TOP SECRET for all of the BIPARTISANLY accepeted legitimate reasons.

      Pedestrian observers are always welcomed to their own opinions — but rarely their uniformed interpretations of facts. Hillary is either an incompetent leader or at best a clueless liar who seems to believe’ a female lawyer should be able to flaunt even this nation’s most sacred laws.

      in my opinion, people who would vote for HRC care more about her agenda than their country.

  5. Mike Cakora

    The only way that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) works, the only way that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) can perform its vital function is if federal employees’ official communications are preserved and available to the extent allow by law.

    We apparently cannot agree that those federal employees who engage in surreptitious communications — use of invisible ink, holding meetings at coffee houses to avoid official notice of the meetings, conducting regular correspondence on official matters via private email accounts, etc., are violating the law.

    That’s a shame because it means that all that matters is power and who wields it, public be damned.

    The deliberations of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 were held in strict secrecy. Consequently, anxious citizens gathered outside Independence Hall when the proceedings ended in order to learn what had been produced behind closed doors. The answer was provided immediately. A Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

    Can we?


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