An angry federal judge put the Hillary Clinton email scandal into harsh terms, grilling the State Department on a pattern of delayed document releases that has turned a possible bureaucratic logjam into a major problem for the leading Democratic presidential contender.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon, known for his blunt manner, said on Thursday that he simply did not understand why the State Department has dragged its feet on responses for emails in requests to the Freedom of Information Act.
“Now, any person should be able to review that in one day — one day,” the judge said, examining a request for just over 60 emails. “Even the least ambitious bureaucrat could do this.”
Leon articulated what has been a major concern of State Department critics who contend that the agency is dragging out responses to FOIA requests to protect Clinton, who served as secretary of state during Obama’s first term. The judge’s complaints echoed those of Hill Republicans, who have accused the agency of slow-walking document requests in its Benghazi investigation to protect Clinton.
More Clinton emails are expected to be released Friday under a court-ordered process that has underscored Leon’s unhappiness.
And in a twist, State also revealed holes in its own federal record as officials said they were still awaiting some work-related emails from Clinton’s top department brass, including Huma Abedin, Jake Sullivan and Cheryl Mills.
One of them, Clinton’s former spokesman, Philippe Reines, for example, on Tuesday turned over 20 boxes of work-related emails taken in part from a personal email account, calling into question the extent to which top aides to the former secretary of state also engaged in controversial email practices.
“I can’t say that I — State Department doesn’t have a master record-keeping system,” answered State Department top document official John Hackett, who heads FOIA requests for the agency, when asked whether he believed State’s record-keeping procedures captured needed government documents. “I can’t say that.”
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