U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth said Thursday that despite FBI, inspector general and congressional investigations into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private account for all her email traffic during her four years as secretary of state, Judicial Watch should be permitted to demand documents and additional testimony about the practice.
Lamberth, who has clashed with Hillary Clinton and her aides in cases dating back to Bill Clinton’s administration, did not hold back in his assessment of the former secretary’s actions. He blasted Hillary Clinton’s email practices as “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency.”
Politico reports: U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth also expressed concerns that lawyers at the Justice Department and the State Department misled the court when they tried at the end of 2014 to wrap up Judicial Watch’s FOIA suit about Benghazi talking points even though some officials were aware months earlier that Clinton had tens of thousands of emails on a private system and had agreed to turn many of them over to State at its request.
“State played this card close to its chest,” the judge complained. “At best, State’s attempts to pass-off its deficient search as legally adequate during settlement negotiations was negligence born out of incompetence. At worst, career employees in the State and Justice Departments colluded to scuttle public scrutiny of Clinton, skirt FOIA and hoodwink this court.”
In the 10-page opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth wrote that despite the government’s claimed presumption of transparency, “faced with one of the gravest modern offenses to government openness, [the Obama administration’s] State and Justice departments fell far short” of the law’s requirements in a lawsuit for documents.
Lamberth also said that despite President Donald Trump’s repeated attacks against Hillary Clinton for not making her emails public, “the current Justice Department made things worse” by taking the position that agencies are not obliged to search for records not in the government’s possession when
Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch filed
The suit came months before news broke in March 2015 that Hillary Clinton exclusively used a private email account as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.
Between July 2014 and March 2015, the State Department said in court filings that its document searches were adequate enough and did not mention about any unsearched records as it proposed to settle the case.
The agencies then later acknowledged that additional searches would be necessary, without disclosing that it had in-fact received 30,000 emails returned by Hillary Clinton.
Lamberth said at best the government’s actions reflect “negligence born of incompetence,” adding, “At worst, career employees in the State and Justice departments colluded to scuttle public scrutiny of Clinton, skirt FOIA, and hoodwink this court.”
Lamberth said he had delayed ruling on the order until a similar 2016 case before another federal judge in the District had wound down.
Lamberth has ordered the government’s attorneys to meet with Judicial Watch by Dec. 17 to answer additional questions into whether “Clinton used a private email to stymie FOIA, whether State’s attempts to settle the case in 2014 and 2015 amounted to bad faith, and whether State’s subsequent searches have been adequate.”
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