Former secretary of state James Baker said through a spokesman on Friday that he signed a separation statement from the Department of State when he stepped down as secretary in 1992.
The State Department stirred controversy Tuesday when it said it has no record that Hillary Clinton had signed the same form, known officially as OF-109, which requires employees to attest they’ve turned over all official records before their departure. According to the Foreign Affairs Manual, all employees are required to sign the form when “terminating employment” or when they are “otherwise to be separated [from the Department] for a continuous period of 60 days or more.”
According to Baker’s policy assistant, John Williams, Baker signed OF-109 on August 24, 1992, the day he left the State Department to serve as White House chief of staff to George H. W. Bush.
Baker’s testimony casts doubt on the explanation offered by State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki about why Clinton may not have signed the same form. Psaki told reporters that the department’s most senior employees often do not sign the separation statement verifying the return of their documents because “there’s a long tradition of secretaries of state making themselves available to future secretaries and presidents and secretaries are typically allowed to maintain their security clearance and access to their own records for use in writing their memoirs and the like.”
“Hence, this is not a form that many would have signed,” Psaki said.
But Baker, who retained his security clearance at the White House and continued to offer counsel to the president, clearly falls into the camp of former secretaries described by Psaki. The State Department has said it has no record that former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice or Colin Powell signed separation statements upon their departure.
Republicans have zeroed in on the form and said that Clinton would’ve lied if she signed it when she left Foggy Bottom in 2013, because she was keeping all of the official work-related e-mails on her personal server — and that if she didn’t sign the form, she was unfairly exempted from a policy applied to all State Department employees.
#related#“Secretary Clinton’s non-answers and evasions has raised even more questions about why she did not turn over any of her emails until the Select Committee on Benghazi forced her to,” says a senior GOP aide. “Those emails belong to the taxpayers, and the Obama State Department should stop tap dancing around this issue and be straight with the American people. They deserve the whole truth, and that’s why Speaker Boehner and Chairman Gowdy have called on Secretary Clinton to turn over her server to an independent, third-party arbiter.”
Baker’s statement will add fuel to the partisan battle over Clinton’s private e-mail server and her behavior at the State Department and lend credence to the perception that she operated under her own rules. Additionally, Baker is a longtime friend of the Bush family and is currently advising former Florida governor Jeb Bush, one of Clinton’s likeliest foes in the 2016 presidential contest.
— Eliana Johnson is Washington editor of National Review.
EDITOR’s NOTE: This piece has been updated since its original posting.