Justice Department: No Criminal Referral Over Clinton Emails

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a news conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York, March 10, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Updated | The Justice Department said Friday it has received a request to examine the handling of classified information related to private emails from Hillary Clinton during her time as secretary of state, but it is not a criminal referral.

The department's statement followed a report by The New York Times that Justice Department officials had received a request to open a criminal investigation into the Clinton emails. A separate memo from government inspector generals that was disclosed Friday expressed concern about how the emails were being handled as they were prepared for release to the public.

On Thursday evening, the Times reported that the Justice Department was weighing a request by two government inspectors general to open a criminal investigation into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in connection with Clinton's use of a private email account for her work as secretary of state. The Times report initially suggested that the inspectors general, who were not identified, had asked the Justice Department to decide whether Clinton mishandled classified information while serving as secretary of state, but the article was later adjusted to suggest the invesitgation would focus only on whether information was mishandled in connection with her private account. As of Friday afternoon, the Times was categorizing the request as one for a criminal investigation.

Clinton has repeatedly said she broke no laws or rules by eschewing a standard government email account for her State Department work in favor of a private account linked to a computer server in her New York home. She has also said she sent no classified information through email.

Her exclusive use of a private email account first came to public attention in March, opening her to a volley of criticism from political opponents as she began her presidential campaign that she was sidestepping transparency and record-keeping laws.

Last year, she says, she gave the State Department all the work-related emails she had, amounting to some 55,000 printed pages covering her four-year tenure beginning in 2009, although her staff have recently acknowledged there are gaps in the records she retained.

The State Department is now obliging her request to make public as many of the emails as disclosure laws allow, and through January will be regularly releasing them in batches.

Some of the emails have been retroactively marked as classified or as containing some sort of sensitive information, according to the State Department, though the department says this does not mean the information was classified at the time an email was sent.

The inspectors general behind the complaint told the Justice Department last month that at least one email already made public contains classified information that was apparently not properly redacted, the Times reported. Which email they had in mind is unclear.

While Clinton is the clear frontrunner for the Democratic Party's 2016 presidential nomination, several recent polls have found a majority of voters find her untrustworthy, a feeling likely to be exacerbated by a criminal investigation by the federal government.

Newsweek staff contributed to this report.