The cloud hanging over Hillary Clinton because of her handling of government emails while she was secretary of state got a little lower, a little blacker and a little more ominous Thursday when another federal judge stepped in and ordered the State Department to work with the FBI to respond to a legal demand for details about her practice.
“We wouldn’t be here today if the employee (Clinton) had followed government policy,” U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said, according to a report from Judicial Watch.
The organization has Freedom of Information Act lawsuits pending over access to information about Clinton’s performance while secretary of state for Barack Obama. Judicial Watch was in court because the FBI recently took physical control of a thumb drive and a computer server reportedly used by Hillary Clinton while secretary of state.
She has reported she set up her own private email system and computer server while she was head of the State Department. She has claimed repeatedly that she neither sent nor received classified emails on the unsecured and private system.
But federal officials reviewing the issue, including two inspectors general, have found emails containing classified material.
Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, said the State Department today “admitted that it had not made any effort to coordinate with the FBI in the obvious task of asking for information responsive to inquiries by the court and Judicial Watch.”
“Today’s court hearing highlights the blatant disregard for federal records laws. The court observed, ‘We wouldn’t be here today if the employee [former Secretary Clinton] had followed government policy,’ and I could not agree more,” he said.
Sullivan’s order followed a concession by the State Department that it has an obligation to check the devices now in government custody for records that would be responsive to the Judicial Watch request.
He ordered the State Department to produce a report by Sept. 20, and another hearing is scheduled Oct. 1.
The court said: “For the reasons stated by the court at the August 20, 2015, status hearing, and as agreed to by defendant’s counsel, the State Department is hereby ordered to request that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) inform it about any information recovered from Mrs. Clinton’s server and the related thumb drive that is: (a) potentially relevant to the FOIA request at issue in this case; and (b) not already in the State Department’s possession. The State Department shall file a status report, no later than Monday, September 21, 2015 at 12:00 p.m., informing the court of the following: (1) the process agreed upon between the FBI and the State Department for the sharing of information relevant to this lawsuit; (2) the status of the Inspector General of the State Department’s report regarding Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private server; and (3) a timetable for the completion of any ongoing searches related to this lawsuit.”
The issue was complicated, Judicial Watch said, by a recent court filing from the State Department in which officials insisted they never issued a personal computing device to Clinton, and the units used by Clinton aides Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills might have been destroyed.
The explanation said: “[The State Department] does not believe that any personal computing device was issued by the department to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and has not located any such device at the department. [The State Department] believes that Ms. Mills and Ms. Abedin were each issued BlackBerry devices. [The State Department] has not located any such device at the department … Because the devices issued to Ms. Mills and Ms. Abedin would have been outdated models, in accordance with standard operating procedures those devices would have been destroyed or excessed. ”
The orders come in Judicial Watch’s lawsuit demanding records about the controversial employment status of Abedin, the former deputy chief of staff to Hillary Clinton. The case, once thought over, was reopened because of revelations about Hillary Clinton’s use of the private email services.
The Wall Street Journal said the Clinton campaign claimed that the emails were classified after the fact.
“She was at worst a passive recipient of unwitting information that subsequently became deemed as classified,” campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said.
The server she used was maintained by a private company and stored at a data center in New Jersey before it was turned over to the FBI last week.
Clinton repeatedly had assured questioners “there is no classified material” on her emails. She later changed her responses to say she didn’t get any materials marked classified.
“Secretary Clinton has repeatedly made false claims about her email records, and her charge that these investigations are partisan have been widely ridiculed. If she and her campaign are having a change of heart, she should personally admit the truth and retract her false statements,” said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner.
Federal investigators have said they now may be in a position to examine contents – even those that were deliberately deleted – now that they have physical custody of the unit.
CBS News reported questions are arising about not only her server but the devices she used to access her system.
“Any time you’re bringing your own equipment and using it for work purposes, it’s not as secure as something that’s actually issued by the company,” CNET senior editor Dan Ackerman told the network.
“Because they take those laptops, for example, and they pre-configure them, they put their own software on them, tracking software, update software, and they distribute them.”
WHAS TV reported even Democrats were beginning to back away from Hillary Clinton.
“I just never feel I have a grasp of what the facts are,” Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., told the station. “Clearly, she has handled it poorly from the first day. And, there’s the appearance of dishonesty, if it’s not dishonest.”
The Washington Free Beacon reported analysts have described two laws that potentially were broken.
One forbids the unauthorized removal and storage of classified information, a law that was used to prosecute retired Army Gen. David Petraeus. A second law, a felony with a sentence of up to 10 years, prohibits removal of national defense information.