Feds: DeVos used personal emails for work in 'limited' cases

FILE - In this April 10, 2019, file photo, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. An internal Education Department watchdog says DeVos has sometimes used personal email accounts for government business and did not always properly save the messages. The agency's Office of Inspector General released a report Monday, May 20, finding "limited" instances in which DeVos sent work emails from four personal accounts. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, file)

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has sometimes used her personal email accounts for government business and has not always properly saved the messages, according to an internal investigation released Monday.

The agency's Office of Inspector General, which was investigating at the request of House Democrats, said it searched the department's email system and found a "limited" number of messages to or from DeVos' personal accounts. In total, it said there were "fewer than 100" emails linked to four personal accounts.

Most of the emails were from the first six months of 2017, soon after DeVos took office, and most were from a single person, the inquiry found. The person, who was not identified in the report, was writing to recommend candidates for agency jobs. Other emails were from people who congratulated DeVos on her confirmation or offered other job advice.

In total, investigators said they identified six emails sent by DeVos on private accounts, including five that involved official agency business. The inquiry concluded there was no evidence of "active or extensive" use of DeVos' personal accounts.

The secretary's office told investigators it was taking "additional steps to identify and preserve" emails in her personal accounts. A department spokeswoman declined to comment for this story.

Under department rules, employees are forbidden from using personal emails for government business except in rare circumstances when their work accounts are unavailable. In those cases, employees are required to forward the messages to their work accounts within 20 days. But in DeVos' case, the report said, that never happened.

"We did not identify any instances where the secretary forwarded emails from her personal accounts to her department email accounts," the report said. It added that "the secretary's emails related to government business were not always being properly preserved."

The inspector general's office urged the department to improve its training on the issue. It said there was no other evidence of irregularities around the use of personal emails.

During his 2016 campaign, President Donald Trump repeatedly attacked Democratic rival Hillary Clinton over findings that she used a private email server for work while she was secretary of state. At rallies, Trump often called for her prosecution and led supporters in chants of "lock her up!"

The Education Department review was requested in October 2017 by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. The inspector general's office said it was unable to begin work until "well into 2018" because of staffing challenges.

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Follow Collin Binkley on Twitter at https://twitter.com/cbinkley

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