Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said Thursday that former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s email arrangement broke “government policy” and prodded the department to talk to the FBI to see what documents can be recovered from the computer server and flash drives used to store her emails. He was surprised the State Department hadn’t even made that request and gave them 30 days to figure out whether emails can be recovered.
The Washington Times Reports:
A federal judge said Thursday that former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s unique email arrangement broke “government policy” and prodded the department to talk to the FBI to see what documents can be recovered from the computer server and flash drives used to store her emails.
Judge Emmet G. Sullivan was surprised the State Department hadn’t even made that request, and poked at the administration’s claim that the FBI needed to be left alone to conduct its investigation. He gave them 30 days to figure out whether emails can be recovered.
“We wouldn’t be here today had this employee followed government policy,” the judge said, casting doubt on the claim by Mrs. Clinton that she did nothing wrong when she set up her own email server at her home in New York and used it for all of her government business, and only belatedly returned 30,000 emails to the department.
The administration agreed to have the State Department and FBI work together to see what documents could be recovered — suggesting that the government will have to try to reconstitute the emails Mrs. Clinton’s lawyer has asserted were expunged from the server.
But Peter D. Wechsler, the Justice Department lawyer handling the case for the State Department, balked at requests from the plaintiffs suing to get records, who asked that the government go back and look for backup tapes or try to find Mrs. Clinton’s old computer or BlackBerry.
Mr. Wechsler even refused to say whether the FBI did have possession of the server and flash drives, saying that the State Department, his specific client in the case, didn’t have direct knowledge of that. He said they are going off of what Mrs. Clinton’s lawyer, David E. Kendall, had said.
“I cannot definitively state what the current status is,” he said.
“The court needs to get an answer,” Judge Sullivan replied, saying that Mr. Wechsler works for the Justice Department, the FBI is part of the department, and the government should be able to say where the server is and what kinds of records can be recovered from it.
In the end, Mr. Wechsler agreed to start a “dialogue” with the FBI.
The back-and-forth highlighted the difficult position Mrs. Clinton has put President Obama in, as he tries to balance loyalty to his former top diplomat with his obligations under open-records laws.
Judicial Watch is seeking records concerning the special work arrangement of Huma Abedin, a top Clinton personal aide who also worked for her in the State Department even as she collected pay from a private sector employer.
It’s unclear whether Mrs. Clinton’s emails will contain any records about the arrangement, but Judicial Watch argues that the government cannot know that unless it actually knows the extent of Mrs. Clinton’s emails — something it has only her assurances for right now.
Mrs. Clinton has said she didn’t break the law in using email on her own server, rather than using an account at State.gov. And she says she has now returned printed copies of about 30,500 messages that are government business, thus fulfilling her obligations.
She is not a party in the case, which Judicial Watch brought under the Freedom of Information Act.
In court filings Wednesday, the State Department said it didn’t ever issue Mrs. Clinton a computer or other devices such as a BlackBerry. That raises still more questions about the security of the BlackBerry she was using — presumably one she bought for herself off-the-shelf.