Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

White House: Don’t Ask Us About Hillary Clinton’s Email Use

Josh Earnest said Tuesday that it’s up to the State Department to handle how its employees use email correspondence to conduct official work.

The White House is neither condemning nor defending Hillary Clinton's exclusive use of her personal email during her time as secretary of state, a surprising response that was revealed by aNew York Times report on Monday night. And the White House thinks the State Department should handle all of the fallout.

"Well, what you should do is, you should check with the State Department, who is responsible for administering this policy," White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Tuesday. "But the policy as a general matter allows individuals to use their personal email address as long as those emails are maintained and sent to the State Department, which if you ask Secretary Clinton's team, that's what they completed in the last month or two."

A House committee investigating the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi uncovered the existence of Clinton's personal email account, The Times reported. Clinton did not have a government email address during her four years as secretary of State, and she exclusively used a personal address instead. The Times writes that Clinton's aides didn't try to have her personal emails recorded and preserved on department servers, as required by the Federal Records Act.

Two months ago, Clinton advisers reviewed thousands of emails sent from her personal email account per a request from the State Department, according to The Times. In all, they sent 55,000 pages of emails to the agency, 900 pages of which were forwarded to the House committee on the Benghazi attack.

Clinton's decision to conduct official work through a personal account is quickly creating political problems for her nascent presidential campaign. The former secretary of State is already known for the insular style of her team, and Republicans, including potential competitor Jeb Bush, were quick to peg the news as an example of Clinton's lack of transparency.

While Earnest said that Clinton's camp recently passed personal emails to the State Department, he declined to say definitively whether Clinton violated federal record-keeping laws. He also wouldn't say whether senior administration officials were aware of Clinton's personal email use, repeating several times that "it is the responsibility of agencies to preserve those records even when those records exist on a personal email account."

Earnest would not say whether current administration officials use their personal emails as Clinton did as secretary of State. He repeatedly told reporters to direct their questions to the State Department, leading ABC's Jon Karl to open his question with, "Do not refer me to the State Department."

Earnest explained how administration officials are told to use email correspondence, putting the onus on the user. "The official guidance that we offer to administration employees, and it's certainly the guidance I followed here when I've been at the White House, is that I use my official government email address when I'm conducting official government business. It saves me the additional step of having to take a personal email and forward it to my government email so it can be properly maintained."

Earnest said that Clinton is not the only former secretary of State to forgo using a government email address. Colin Powell used his own personal email account during George W. Bush's first term. Condoleezza Rice, who held the position during Bush's second term, rarely used email at all, an aide close to her told MSNBC, but when she did, she went with her official State Department email. John Kerry is the first secretary of State to primarily use an official email account.

Marina Koren contributed to this article.