Judge orders State to coordinate with FBI about Clinton server

 

A federal judge on Thursday ordered the State Department to communicate with the FBI about Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump, Clinton campaign aides launch their own bids Hannity: I won't discuss Seth Rich story for now 'out of respect for the family' Clinton slams Trump's budget: 'An unimaginable level of cruelty' MORE’s personal email server, and opened the door to additional demands on the former secretary of state.

Judge Emmet Sullivan told the department to “establish a dialogue” with the FBI about the machine, and be prepared to demand that the FBI turn over documents that may be related to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

ADVERTISEMENT
“I'm surprised that State didn't do that already,” Sullivan told government lawyers.

“If you can get the information as result of a dialogue with the FBI... I think I may be satisfied,” he added. “Let's see what the investigation reveals, if anything.”

The order comes amid increasing scrutiny on Clinton's unorthodox email practices while serving as the nation's top diplomat. Her use of a private email system has grown into an increasing drag on her front-runner presidential campaign, and forced top campaign officials to grow more aggressive in trying to get out in front of the story.

Last week, Clinton handed the server and thumb drives containing copies of 55,000 pages of her work-related emails over to the FBI, after news broke that classified information may have inappropriately passed through her inbox.

On Thursday, Sullivan raised the specter of demanding that Clinton determine whether a backup of her home server was made either by the company that managed it or by someone else, and prepare for the possibility of turning that over to the government.Those files might contain other messages of interest to the government, he suggested.

“Arguably there were backups of everything that were communicated,” he said.

“Why wouldn't the same requirement be appropriate” with that private company as with the FBI, he questioned.

However, any additional demands would not be handed down until the FBI had at least 30 days to inspect Clinton's server.

“Let's see what the investigation reveals and we'll go from there,” the judge said.

Sullivan asked for a written status report about the FBI’s progress on Sept. 21.

Thursday’s order came as part of a lawsuit launched by the conservative organization Judicial Watch, which had requested documents from the State Department about the employment status of Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

“We believe [additional] records exist,” Judicial Watch lawyer Michael Bekesha said. “Just because the government hasn’t found them doesn’t mean they’re not out there.”

Those records may be among the roughly 30,000 emails that Clinton said were personal and deleted from her server, Bekesha speculated, or else on a computer or other device she had used while in office. On Wednesday, the State Department confirmed that Clinton was not issued a BlackBerry or other device by the government while in office.

“I think the judge was curious and interested in what other copies may be out there and where those backups and copies may be,” Bekesha told reporters after the hearing. “The court decided that let’s first hear from the FBI, see what they have, see what they are doing with it, and then proceed in 30 days.”

“We don’t know what those devices could be,” he added. “All we know is they’re probably out there and the American people are not being told about them, probably because more emails are there.”

Clinton appeared to have wiped the server after deleting them at some point between last December and this March. However, there are signs that investigators may nonetheless be able to recover and search some of that information.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for the morning of Oct. 1.

Peter Wechsler, a Department of Justice lawyer representing the State Department, told the court that it did not need to ask about backups of Clinton’s server or other locations that her communications may be, since the former secretary and her lawyer had already pledged that all work-related documents had been handed over to the department.

Wechsler also urged the judge not to demand that State itself take control of and search the server and USB thumb drives.

That would be an “extraordinary” demand, he said.

“We think the concept of reasonable search here has been met,” he added, while repeatedly expressing a desire not to “interfere” with the work of the FBI.

“To now go and request the devices would be the tail wagging the dog,” the told the court.

This story was updated at 3:35 p.m.