MARCH 26, 2015
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch accused the Obama administration of stalling and withholding information from a federal court in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:14-cv-01242)), seeking former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and top aide’s emails. Last week, Judicial Watch attorneys sought a status conference over the issue of the Hillary Clinton’s and other secret email accounts in order to “avoid further undue delays, prejudice and potential spoliation.” In response, the Justice Department, on behalf of the State Department, told the federal court handling the matter (U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth) that there was no need for a hearing until at least late April and that, contrary to statements by Mrs. Clinton and various administration spokesmen, it was not aware of the secret email issue until recently. In its response (Reply in Support of a Motion for a Status Conference), Judicial Watch cited Mrs. Clinton’s press statement:
Secretary Clinton was the head of the agency and the State Department cannot claim it was unaware of the State Department’s failure to records-manage agency emails from the Office of the Secretary. In fact, the “Statement from the Office of Former Secretary Clinton” states that “[h]er usage [of non-“state.gov” email for State Department business] was widely known to the over 100 Department and U.S. government colleagues she emailed.”
Judicial Watch also accused the Obama administration of continuing to thwart the FOIA:
The State Department has yet to demonstrate how it is satisfying its obligations under FOIA in light of recent revelations that Secretary Clinton’s emails were not being properly managed, retained and produced. This also applies to emails received or sent by other officials or employees within the Secretary’s office to conduct government business who used non-“state.gov” email addresses. To determine the adequacy of the State Department’s search, both Judicial Watch and the Court should be informed by the Department directly of the details surrounding the retention of agency emails within the Office of the Secretary and the extent of the Department’s ability to search, request and retrieve those records …
Had Judicial Watch not challenged the State Department’s search, this case would most likely have been dismissed before any public revelations were made about the unlawful arrangement relating to the State Department’s handling of agency emails during Secretary Clinton’s tenure at the State Department …
[T]he State Department has still not responded to Judicial Watch’s request to confirm whether its supplemental search includes all non-“state.gov” email addresses used by other officials or employees within the Secretary’s office for government business …
To the extent that Secretary Clinton used her non-“state.gov” email address to communicate with State Department employees outside her office who used “state.gov” email addresses, the State Department would also have to conduct agency wide searches to respond properly to Judicial Watch’s FOIA request.
Judicial Watch also is concerned that documents might be lost because of the State Department’s misconduct:
Time is of the essence in this case. The statement by former Secretary Clinton during a press conference that she did not preserve approximately 30,000 emails she sent or received through her non-“state.gov” email address she used exclusively to conduct government business is a matter of public record – not [as the State Department alleged] “conjecture.” Only last week, the State Department publically disclosed that it was unable to automatically archive the emails of most of its senior officials until last month. This is also a matter of public record – not conjecture. The State Department has still not informed the Court or Judicial Watch whether it has undertaken any efforts to retrieve agency emails from non-“state.gov” email addresses used by other officials or employees within the Office of the Secretary during the relevant time period or from other employees within the agency. The State Department needs to request these agency records immediately in light of the Department’s history of poor records-management and preservation of agency records.
Judicial Watch also shoots down the contention that Hillary Clinton’s alleged removal of the records would prevent them from being subject to FOIA. There is no precedent for the head of an agency “purposefully rout[ing] a document out of agency possession in order to circumvent a FOIA request.” In fact, there is precedent for a court allowing discovery into the circumventing of FOIA, as happened in Judicial Watch’s historic FOIA lawsuit against the Clinton Commerce Department. In that case, Judge Lamberth “already found that discovery was appropriate where it was ‘designed to explore the extent to which [the Department of Commerce (“DOC”)]…illegally destroyed and discarded responsive information, and possible methods for recovering whatever responsive information still exists outside of the DOC’s possession.’”
“The Obama administration’s fraud, misconduct and misrepresentation on the Hillary Clinton email scandal continues in federal court,” stated Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton. “Our independent litigation exposed the email scandal and just forced, for the first time, the Obama administration to admit accountability for at least some of the records Hillary Clinton concealed from the American people.”