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Court passes on ordering search for Clinton email backups

Court passes on ordering search for Clinton email backups
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A federal judge on Wednesday chose not to order the State Department to ask Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Monica Lewinsky responds to viral HBO intern's mistake: 'It gets better' Virginia governor's race poses crucial test for GOP MORE to look for and hand over any copies of the more than 31,000 allegedly personal emails that she deleted from her private server.

District Judge Reggie Walton said that the demand from Judicial Watch — a conservative organization involved in multiple lawsuits over Clinton's emails — was beyond his jurisdiction.

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The fact that Clinton used only her personal property in setting up the private email system — and not any devices issued by the State Department — means the issue is beyond the scope of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Walton said.

“I just don’t see what my authority under FOIA would be,” he said during a hearing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“It seems to me, having not used State Department devices ... it would be difficult ... for me to conclude... that the information contained on her private server ... is information that the State Department possessed.”

The initial determination that Clinton’s server is not an official record system and beyond the scope of FOIA diminishes the chances that the State Department will be forced to reevaluate Clinton’s determination about which emails were personal and which were work-related.

Last year, Clinton and her lawyers gave the State Department roughly half of the 60,000 emails she sent through her personal email account while serving as secretary of State. The rest she deleted, claiming they were personal in nature and did not belong in the government's hands.

The situation is “unfortunate,” Walton said, but “I’ve got to deal with the circumstances as they exist.”

Clinton’s server is now in the hands of the FBI, where officials have reportedly been able to uncover traces of some of those deleted emails.

Judicial Watch had asked the court to tell Clinton to search for any backups of those emails that may have been made, in case they contain information that ought to have been marked as work-related. According to reports, a Connecticut company hired to back up the emails has handed its files over to the FBI as part of the government's search.

Despite the initial setback for critics of Clinton's email setup, Walton’s decision will not be the last word. Multiple other judges are also involved in cases concerning Clinton’s emails.

“This is going to be further litigated,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton told reporters after Wednesday’s court hearing.

“In a long ballgame here, it’s going to be difficult I think, in the end, for any court to easily conclude that this isn’t a record system,” he added.

On Tuesday, Judicial Watch pledged in another federal lawsuit that it wanted the State Department to declare whether Clinton was explicitly authorized to use the personal servier, in order to determine whether or should be considered a government system of records.