Judicial Watch: State Department Demands Hillary Clinton Aides Return All Copies of All Federal Records
AUGUST 06, 2015
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced that the State Department, as directed by a July 31 court order, today provided the letters it sent asking for government records in the possession of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her aides Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills. The Obama State Department also included the responses to the document requests from representatives for the three officials. The letters show that, on July 31, the State Department, for the first time, demanded that Mills and Abedin “return all copies of potential federal records in your possession.” The State Department did not provide correspondence demanding Mrs. Clinton return all copies of potential federal records. Despite the court’s July 31 order for immediate disclosure, the State Department and its Justice Department attorneys took six days to disclose the 13 letters, which total 19 pages.
The developments come in a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit that seeks records about the controversial employment status of Huma Abedin, the former Deputy Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:13-cv-01363)). The lawsuit was reopened last month because of revelations about Hillary Clinton’s email records.
The letters show that the State Department asked no questions of Clinton, Mills, and Abedin about Mrs. Clinton’s separate email system or classified material.
“The Obama State Department stonewalled a federal court order by waiting six days to produce these letters. One can see why the Obama administration would risk contempt of court. This new information shows that Hillary Clinton is getting special treatment from the State Department and that the agency took no action to find out details about Hillary Clinton’s notorious email system,” stated Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch president. “The Obama State Department is allowing Hillary Clinton and her aides to stall and play games with federal records in violation of law.”
Today’s court filing includes a March 24 letter in which Mills’ attorneys acknowledge: “We believe that Ms. Mills may have documents responsive to your letter, and will work with her to produce any such documents to you as soon as possible.” Three full months later, on June 25, Mills attorneys turn over some of the requested records but request more time to turn over other records.
On June 29, Huma Abedin’s attorneys try to explain to State the three-month delay in response to its March 11 request, saying that Abedin did not receive its request until May 19:
The Department’s initial correspondence sent by mail and dated March 11, 2015, was returned undelivered to the Department on April 17, 2015. Similarly, we understand that your office attempted to send an electronic mail copy of that letter to Ms. Abedin, but that email was sent to domains (@clinton.senate.gov and @hillaryclinton.com) that as of March 2015, had not been active for the past several years.
The letter goes on to reference another Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit:
We also understand that the Department is defending a lawsuit brought under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regarding a request for a) copies of any updates and/or talking points given to Ambassador Rice by the White House or any federal agency concerning, regarding or related to the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya; and b) any and all records or communications concerning, regarding or relating to talking pints or updates on the Benghazi attack given to Ambassador Rice by the White House or any federal agency. To date, in the course of our review, we have not identified documents responsive to this FOIA request.
Abedin’s attorneys send a July 9 letter stating: “Enclosed herewith are documents identified by Ms. Abedin as responsive or potentially responsive to the [Benghazi] Select Committee’s request and therefore also to your request.” The State Department had requested the record four months earlier, on March 11.
In July 31 letters to Abedin’s and Mills’ attorneys, Patrick F. Kennedy, Under Secretary for Management at State, asks “that you and your client now take steps to return all copies of potential federal records in your possession to the Department as soon as possible.” Rather than allowing Abedin and Mills to retain the records for further review, Kennedy gives instructions that State will maintain the documents and make them available to the attorneys and their clients “during regular working hours at the Department.” Adding a new level of scrutiny, State specifies:
To the extend documents are stored electronically, we ask that you please copy them onto a digital video disc or compact disc … The Department asks that the documents be provided in original/native electronic format with the associated metadata …
Judicial Watch also has active but unanswered FOIA requests to the State Department for certain emails to be produced in native format with associated metadata.
These two letters seem to have only been sent after the July 31 court hearing during which U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered that the correspondence about State Department efforts to retrieve records be disclosed “forthwith.”
On Friday, July 31, Judge Sullivan ordered the State Department to request Clinton and her aides, under penalty of perjury, that they have produced all government records in their possession, return any government records immediately, and describe their use of Hillary Clinton’s email server to conduct government business.
The text of Judge Sullivan’s minute order:
As agreed by the parties at the July 31, 2015 status hearing, the Government shall produce a copy of the letters sent by the State Department to Mrs. Hillary Clinton, Ms. Huma Abedin and Ms. Cheryl Mills regarding the collection of government records in their possession. These communications shall be posted on the docket forthwith. The Government has also agreed to share with Plaintiff’s counsel the responses sent by Mrs. Clinton, Ms. Abedin and Ms. Mills. These communications shall also be posted on the docket forthwith. In addition, as related to Judicial Watch’s FOIA requests in this case, the Government is HEREBY ORDERED to: (1) identify any and all servers, accounts, hard drives, or other devices currently in the possession or control of the State Department or otherwise that may contain responsive information; (2) request that the above named individuals confirm, under penalty of perjury, that they have produced all responsive information that was or is in their possession as a result of their employment at the State Department. If all such information has not yet been produced, the Government shall request the above named individuals produce the information forthwith; and (3) request that the above named individuals describe, under penalty of perjury, the extent to which Ms. Abedin and Ms. Mills used Mrs. Clinton’s email server to conduct official government business. The Government shall inform the Court of the status of its compliance with this Order no later than August 7, 2015, including any response received from Mrs. Clinton, Ms. Abedin and Ms. Mills. Signed by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on July 31, 2015.