Tom Fitton: A Cat and Mouse Game with State over Clinton-Deleted Emails

Chuck Burton/AP
Washington, DC

This week, the State Department released documents containing several emails that were deleted from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email system and recovered by the FBI. They were dated October 2012, near the end of her tenure, and contain praise for her testimony regarding Benghazi.

It is hardly praiseworthy, however, that these emails prove that Hillary or her lawyers deleted material that is responsive to federal court orders and congressional subpoenas. Clinton’s obstruction of justice is as plain as day.

The documents were released hours before the State Department’s midnight court filing deadline. The Department had represented that it anticipated being able to produce these documents by September 8, 2016. At the same time, for the first time, the Department explained that the other emails it considers “duplicate,” and that it is not producing, contain metadata that was not previously produced.

We objected to the withholding of these records, as they contain new information not previously produced, and are responsive to our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Following our stated objection, the State Department changed its position and produced the records.

JW attorneys asked the court to have “State produce all remaining responsive records with the included metadata within one week – by Tuesday, September 13, 2016.” However, U.S. District Court Judge Amit P. Mehta decided that the issue will be best briefed a bit down the road.

The newly released documents were obtained through a Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit seeking former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s communications about the attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, during which U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith were killed. A second terrorist assault targeted a nearby compound, killing two government contractors, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:15-cv-00692)).

After admitting in an August 23 court filing that it found documents that “satisfied the [Benghazi-related] search terms” of the new Clinton emails, the State Department proposed a rolling production schedule, “under which State would make its first production of any non-exempt responsive records subject to FOIA on September 30, 2016, and complete production no later than October 31, 2016.” Judicial Watch then asked the court that State make known the volume of documents remaining to be reviewed before it accepts whether the production schedule is reasonable.

This is only the beginning, as the Obama administration is due in court on September 23 to explain when it will produce the rest of Hillary Clinton’s undeleted 14,900 emails.