Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while U.S. secretary of state broke government rules and was not approved by State Department security officials, according to an internal government watchdog's report released on Wednesday.
Clinton's use of the private email server in her home in Chappaqua, New York, for government purposes has prompted several investigations, including an ongoing probe by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The email controversy has hung over her campaign for months.
The report by the department's inspector general cited "longstanding, systemic weaknesses" with State Department records that predated Clinton's tenure, and found problems with the email record-keeping of some of her predecessors.
But it also singled out Clinton, the front-runner in the race to become the Democratic presidential nominee, for her decision to use a private email server for government business, apparently without seeking authorization.
"OIG found no evidence that the Secretary requested or obtained guidance or approval to conduct official business via a personal email account on her private server," the report said, using an abbreviation for the office of inspector general.
The report said she should have discussed the arrangement with the department's security officials. Officials told the inspector general's office that they "did not - and would not - approve her exclusive reliance on a personal email account to conduct Department business." The reason, those officials said, is because it breached department rules and presented "security risks."
There was no immediate comment from Clinton or her predecessors as secretary of state.
Officials in the inspector general's office interviewed John Kerry, the current secretary of state, and predecessors Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright for the report, which was released to the media by lawmakers on Wednesday. Kerry asked the inspector general to investigate after Clinton's email arrangement came to light last year.
Clinton, who served as the nation's top diplomat from 2009 to 2013, and her deputies, including Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan and Huma Abedin, declined to be interviewed for the inspector general's investigation, the report said.
Republicans have used Clinton's email practice to suggest she was trying to hide government records from scrutiny under public-access laws.
"It was a systemic, plotted-out plan to avoid the security that we should maintain for those kind of records," U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a supporter of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, told Fox News on Wednesday.
Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, said that the report's key recommendations have already been acted upon.
"As this report underscores, agencies across the Federal Government are working to adapt decades-old recordkeeping practices to the email-dominated modern era," he said in statement.