National Security

Emails threaten to shadow Clinton through Election Day


The fallout over Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server appears certain to dog her until Election Day, after a federal judge ordered the State Department to accelerate its production of nearly 15,000 previously unreleased emails uncovered by the FBI.

The State Department is under intense pressure from Republicans to release the full set of the former secretary’s emails before Nov. 8.

{mosads}But sorting through all 14,900 documents is a gargantuan task. The first batch likely won’t be released until mid-October — just weeks before Americans head to the polls.

It’s also not clear what the emails contain. They weren’t in the original trove of 30,000 documents that Clinton voluntarily turned over to the State Department in 2014. And their release could put her on the defensive in the critical final stretch of the election.

The revelation of the thousands of additional documents dovetailed with Monday’s release of another set of emails that exposed uncomfortably close ties between Clinton’s staff and the Clinton Foundation during her tenure as secretary of State.

It was only the latest development in a long controversy Clinton, now the Democratic presidential nominee, has struggled to move beyond.

The FBI discovered the new documents during its investigation into whether Clinton illegally transmitted classified information through her private server.

Clinton deleted 30,000 emails prior to turning over the other half to the State Department in 2014, arguing that they were personal correspondences. But in July, Director James Comey said investigators uncovered “several thousand” work-related emails that were not in the group Clinton returned to State.

Investigators pieced together the deleted emails from Clinton’s correspondence with other officials and reconstructed “fragments” from old servers and machines connected to her email domain.

There are many lingering questions about the emails and the process and timing for handling them is complex.

It remains unclear how many of the 14,900 recovered documents will be deemed part of the agency’s record by the State Department, clearing the way for their release, and how long that review process will take.

The agency has committed to releasing the documents under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, but first it must weigh whether the emails are personal. Some may also be duplicates of the 30,000 it already has.

Then, State authorities must comb through the emails to determine which ones are subject to the FOIA request and redact any classified information.

District Court Judge James E. Boasberg on Monday ordered the agency to complete the first part of the process in a month’s time. On Sept. 23, the court is expected to set a release schedule for the documents.

But the second part of the process is extremely time-consuming, according to State Department lawyers, especially if there are many emails to review and redact. Government lawyers are likely to push for as much time as they can get during the September hearing.

Clinton’s critics will keep up the pressure for the agency to act quickly.

Judicial Watch is already accusing the agency of slow-walking the release to guard Clinton against damaging revelations on the eve of the election.

“Our concern is that politics will intrude upon the process and as, they’ve already done, delay the records unnecessarily,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said, calling State’s arguments that reviewing the documents is resource-intensive “ridiculous.”

“Evidently they’re more concerned with not hurting Mrs. Clinton’s election prospects as opposed to complying with the Freedom of Information Act.”

Monday’s other release from Judicial Watch, concerning the Clinton Foundation, led to heightened allegations that she ran a “pay-for-play” operation while in office.

Republicans will look to keep the spotlight on Clinton’s emails.

GOP nominee Donald Trump hammered Clinton over the email controversy and the Clinton Foundation and on Tuesday called for the Justice Department to appoint an independent special prosecutor to investigate her.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has also repeatedly demanded the emails be released prior to the election.

Clinton has long struggled with the perception that she is untrustworthy, and the continuing email releases have done little to improve that image.

The Justice Department cleared Clinton of illegally mishandling classified information, but Comey still damned her use of the server as “reckless.”

“What everyone wants to know is, will any of the information [in the new emails] be deemed classified? Because that would be just one more nail in the proverbial coffin for Hillary,” said Bradley Moss, a lawyer who specializes in matters related to open records laws.

Clinton’s campaign has claimed not to know what’s in the newly uncovered documents.

“As we have always said, Hillary Clinton provided the State Department with all the work-related emails she had in her possession in 2014,” spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement. “We are not sure what additional materials the Justice Department may have located, but if the State Department determines any of them to be work-related, then obviously we support those documents being released publicly as well.”

The agency is beginning the second review process on a rolling basis, as documents are deemed to be agency records. State Department lawyers on Monday indicated that it could begin releasing documents weekly as soon as Oct. 14.

But for Fitton, the concern is that State will drag the process out.

“The question is going to be what quantity, and how long does it take them to produce,” he said. “On Oct. 14, are you going to produce one document? Two documents next week?”

Judge Boasberg himself seemed to indicate that he will push to ensure that at least some of the documents are released before the Nov. 8 election, moving up the Sept. 23 deadline from State’s original proposal and pressing government lawyers repeatedly on the volume of content they expect to process.

Fitton hopes that documents will start to become public shortly after the Sept. 23 hearing.

Others project the court will set a timeline closer to State’s original proposal.

“Unless Boasberg gets really upset with them, I anticipate Oct. 14 will be the first production,” said Moss.

“I think he’s just trying to keep them on the ball and not allow it to drag out. He wants to at least see some progress before the election.”

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