By Julian Hattem - 02/13/16 08:05 AM EST
The State Department is releasing more than 500 emails from Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonSanders looks to Golden State for comeback hopes Secret Service protects Sanders as audience members rush stage Ex-pharma CEO Martin Shkreli: I didn’t endorse Trump MORE’s personal server on Saturday, part of a final dash to make the remaining few thousand messages public.
The Obama administration is in a race against the campaign calendar as Clinton seeks the Democratic nomination.
A judge ordered the State Department to release the remaining emails on three dates this month: the days before Democratic primaries in Nevada, South Carolina and the multi-state “Super Tuesday” on March 1. Critics say the voters should have access to the emails before heading to the polls.
The latest email dump comes as Clinton faces herself in a tighter than expected race against Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders looks to Golden State for comeback hopes Secret Service protects Sanders as audience members rush stage Five things Clinton needs to do to win the California primary MORE (I-Vt.) for the Democratic nomination. Clinton squeaked by in the Iowa caucuses, but Sanders took a decisive victory in New Hampshire.
The two candidates now face a crucial two-week stretch ahead of Democratic contests in Nevada and South Carolina.
After Saturday’s release — which comes in the middle of the three-day Presidents Day weekend — there will still be more than 3,000 email messages outstanding.
It’s unclear whether any of the forthcoming emails will be classified, though it appears likely since more than 1,300 messages have been.
Last month, the Obama administration announced that it entirely withheld 22 emails that were marked as “top secret,” a potentially damaging blow to Clinton’s claim that classified information never touched her “homebrew” server.
“We’ve been very clear all along in this process, as we review these emails, we’ll upgrade them as is seen necessary,” Toner said. “And we’ll continue to do that.”
The pressure is building after the State Department missed its Jan. 29 deadline to release the last of the roughly 30,000 emails on Clinton’s machine that are believed to have been work-related. That led to a judge forcing the new release schedule on officials.
The government has been releasing thousands of emails on a monthly basis since last May, the result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit from a Vice News reporter.
An “oversight” prevented the State Department from sending thousands of emails to other federal agencies to be reviewed, it said last month, which delayed the process.
The holdup meant that roughly 3,700 emails were not released by the time Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire went to the polls in recent weeks, formally beginning the 2016 nominating contest.
Lawyers for Jason Leopold, the journalist who sued, worried that the final emails would be “the most controversial,” since they were subject to “the most review time."
Delaying the release meant that “a substantial portion of the electorate will be forced to vote without the benefit of important information to which it is entitled about the performance of one of the candidates for U.S. president,” Leopold’s lawyers claimed in a filing this month.
Judge Rudolph Contreras, who appeared visibly annoyed by the administration’s delays this week, agreed.
“These documents have a lot of public interest,” he said, “and the timing is important.”
For each release date over the next two weeks, the State Department has been ordered to put on its website “all documents that have proceeded through final, internal State Department review.”
The very last remaining emails will be due out on Feb. 29.
After a month-long delay, pressure is high for the Obama administration to meet the final deadline.
“It’s been dragged out so long, people are so frustrated with this,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a vocal critic of Clinton, said on “Fox Business Network” on Thursday.
“I think they're going to turn them over. And again, it's about time.”
Clinton's bespoke email arrangement has been a constant target for Republicans, who repeatedly accuse the former secretary of State of violating the law.
In a cheeky campaign video this week, leading Republican candidate Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzStephen Hawking: Trump a 'demagogue' Dems to Clinton: Ignore Trump on past scandals Meet the billionaire donor behind Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker MORE (Texas) depicted office workers smashing a computer over a song claiming that, for Clinton, “a server full of secrets ain’t no thing.”
The issue, though, has failed to take hold in the Democratic presidential race, with Clinton's opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) refusing to seize on the controversy.
During Clinton’s debate with Sanders this week, the matter did not even come up.