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White House Says It Will Block Release of Clinton Emails to Obama

FILE - President Barack Obama, with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House, Sept. 12, 2012.

White House officials say they will not allow emails between President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to be made public as part of the court-ordered release of all her emails when she was secretary.

A senior unidentified White House official said Friday that releasing the communications at this time would violate the long tradition of records remaining confidential while a president is in office.

"It is a principle that previous White Houses have vigorously defended, as it goes to the core of the president's ability to receive unvarnished advice and counsel during his time in office and is central to the independent functioning of the executive branch," the official said.

The White House plans to keep the emails under wraps at least until Obama leaves office in January 2017. The exact number of emails between the president and Clinton is not known.

The State Department has been releasing the more than 55,000 emails Clinton received and sent when she was secretary of state in monthly batches after they have been examined and electronically converted. Some have been labeled classified and held back.

Clinton is the leading Democratic contender in the 2016 presidential campaign. She used a single private email account for both official and personal business.

She has defended using one server as an issue of convenience. But some Republicans say she may have been trying to hide details on important questions, including exactly what happened in Benghazi when four Americans, including the ambassador to Libya, were killed during an attack by militants on a U.S. diplomatic compound.