Judge orders DOJ to preserve emails from Comey's personal account

Judge orders DOJ to preserve emails from Comey's personal account
© Greg Nash

A judge has ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to preserve any emails located on former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyFBI’s top lawyer believed Hillary Clinton should face charges, but was talked out of it Dems seize on Times bombshell to push allegations of Trump obstruction Trump calls Andrew McCabe a 'poor man's J. Edgar Hoover' MORE's personal email account after a government watchdog revealed he used the account to conduct government business.

The order issued Monday in federal court in Washington, D.C., comes in response to a request from the right-leaning group Judicial Watch asking for the records to be preserved for use in possible Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

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"In order to avoid any possible issues later in this litigation, the Court will grant Plaintiffs’ Motion. Defendant is ordered to take all necessary and reasonable steps to ensure that any records that are potentially responsive to either of the Plaintiffs’ FOIA requests located on former Director Comey’s personal e-mail account are preserved," U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote.

The judge said the DOJ had failed to explain why it was an "undue burden" to preserve records from Comey's personal account. Judicial Watch has requested that records of meetings between Comey and top Democrats, including former President Obama, be preserved.

The agency "has not explained why this preservation order would prejudice Defendant or cause any undue burden. Indeed, it appears that Defendant is taking steps to ensure the preservation of these records already," she wrote.

Comey's use of a personal email account to conduct unclassified agency business was first revealed in a report from the DOJ's inspector general in mid-June, which criticized the former FBI chief for poor judgement in his handling of the investigation into Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFBI’s top lawyer believed Hillary Clinton should face charges, but was talked out of it Harris adds key Clinton aide, women of color to 2020 campaign: report Democrats more likely Trump's foil, than to foil Trump MORE's use of a private email while she was serving as secretary of State.

“We identified numerous instances in which Comey used a personal email account to conduct unclassified FBI business,” the report stated.

Clinton mocked Comey over the inspector general report, though the former FBI chief later defended his actions, saying he didn't use his personal email account or laptop for sensitive or classified information but instead for items such as drafting speeches at home and emailing it to his government account.

Comey's firing by President TrumpDonald John TrumpJustice Department preparing for Mueller report as soon as next week: reports Smollett lawyers declare 'Empire' star innocent Pelosi asks members to support resolution against emergency declaration MORE last year is a focus of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's investigation into Russia's election meddling, as the special counsel looks in to whether the president sought to obstruct justice by firing his FBI chief.

Trump had told NBC News's Lester Holt that concerns over the Russia investigation were on his mind when he fired Comey, who at the time was leading the federal probe into ties between Trump campaign associates and Russia.