Hillary Clinton
The State Department's report revealed Hillary Clinton violated records policies during her time as secretary of state Reuters

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was hit by stinging criticisms in a newly released State Department report regarding her usage of a personal email and private server during her time as secretary of state. The report, delivered by the department's independent watchdog, concludes that Clinton failed to obtain legal approval for her private server, which she would not have otherwise received due to "security risks", it was reported on Wednesday (25 May).

Clinton handled email in a way that was "not an appropriate method" for preserving public records, the report said. The 83-page report found that Clinton failed to provide security details to officials responsible for protecting sensitive government information.

The former secretary of state has maintained that it was not a secret at the department that she used a private email and the review backs up that claim, noting there was "some awareness" of Clinton's email practices among staff members and senior officials. On Wednesday (25 May), POLITICO reported that her use of private email made staffers nervous, but management dismissed their concerns.

"In one meeting, one staff member raised concerns that information sent and received on Secretary Clinton's account could contain Federal records that needed to be preserved in order to satisfy Federal record keeping requirements," the report says. The staff member said the director claimed Clinton's personal system had been reviewed and approved by legal staff "and that the matter was not to be discussed any further".

"As previously noted, OIG [Office of the Inspector General] found no evidence that staff in the Office of the Legal Adviser reviewed or approved Secretary Clinton's personal system," the report continues.

"At a minimum, Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with Department business before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department's policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act," the report notes.

However, the review did not place all the blame on Clinton. "Longstanding, systemic weaknesses related to electronic records and communications have existed within the Office of the Secretary that go well beyond the tenure of any one Secretary of State," the report concludes.

The review by OIG, which also looked into the email practices under the past five secretaries of state, was delivered ahead of a separate FBI inquiry into whether Clinton mishandled classified information when using her private email system. FBI officials have said that they have found little evidence that Clinton maliciously violated classification rules, The Washington Post reported.

Clinton and her team reportedly cooperated with the FBI, but declined to speak with the State Department's inspector general's investigators.

The review arrives at a critical time in Clinton's campaign for the Democratic nomination. Despite being ahead of rival Bernie Sanders in terms of delegates, Clinton has yet to officially secure the nomination and recent polls show weakening performance against presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump in a possible general election match up.