What some in the media describe as “an obscure court filing” has exploded onto the national scene in the form of a growing scandal over Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account to conduct government business.
Revelations that then-Secretary of State Clinton conducted all of her official business on a personal email account have dominated national headlines recently, and Judicial Watch is once again in the center of the storm. I have no doubt that it was Judicial Watch’s focused Freedom of Information lawsuits, the disclosures from which led to the creation of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which led to the uncovering of a scandal that could have criminal ramifications for Mrs. Clinton.
We knew something was up. And we had gotten hints in our blockbuster litigation that uncovered the smoking-gun documents showing Hillary’s top aides at State knew that the Benghazi terrorist attack had nothing to do with “demonstrations” or Internet videos. As Politico noted recently, there is no doubt JW’s litigation was front and center as the seven-year cover-up of Hillary’s secret emails was unraveling:
The first public sign of the email imbroglio now enveloping former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may have come more than a month ago in an obscure court filing in a lawsuit demanding details of Clinton’s response to the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
Last year, government lawyers handling the case brought by the conservative group Judicial Watch told a federal judge that the agency had searched its files and had no more records to produce.
They changed their tune on February 2.
“In the course of preparing additional information to provide to Plaintiff for purposes of settlement discussions, Defendant has discovered that additional searches for documents potentially responsive to the FOIA must be conducted,” the attorneys wrote.
The scandal may impact at least 10 Freedom of Information Act lawsuits now active in federal courts as well as about 160 Freedom of Information requests we’ve filed with the Obama State Department.
As with what happened when Judicial Watch forced the disclosure of the “missing” IRS emails, and as Politico seems to acknowledge, these emails would never have been disclosed but for our FOIA lawsuits that broke open the Benghazi scandal and first exposed the scandal of her and Bill Clinton raising money illicitly while she was Secretary of State. JW also has good reason to suspect that the Obama administration withheld material information while purposefully misleading us, as well as at least one federal court about these emails. In fact, we are reviewing at least 10 FOIA lawsuits that have been dismissed to see if this scandal might warrant their reopening in federal court.
The State Department’s early response to the scandal has not been encouraging. While new records will be searched in response to future FOIA requests, there are no plans to go back and review the accuracy of what has already been produced in response to FOIA, Mari Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, has said. That’s a problem.
Clinton apologists from within and outside of the State Department have made the point that by turning over 55,000 pages of emails to department officials, critics should be placated. So then in order to diffuse the controversy, why doesn’t Clinton simply release the records she already turned over? To do so “would highlight the fact that Clinton’s own aides and lawyers determined which records were work-related,” Politico surmises. That is putting it charitably.
There seems to be an assumption that the account(s) at issue are her “personal” accounts. On the contrary, these accounts, which were set up by the Secretary of State to conduct government business, are alias government accounts and should be treated as such. No third party reviews, as some are suggesting, are necessary if State follows the law and treats the account(s) as it would any other State.gov account. The State Department is obligated to secure the accounts as soon as possible to protect classified materials, retrieve any lost data, protect other federal records, and search records as required by court orders in our various FOIA lawsuits, and in response to congressional subpoenas, etc.
Rather than her private lawyers/campaign advisers reviewing the accounts and releasing material to the government, the agency should assert its ownership, secure the material, and prohibit private parties from illicitly reviewing potentially classified and other sensitive material.
There’s also the question of national security. During a State Department briefing, Harf put off questions from the press asking if the account Clinton used had any kind of encryption as a safeguard against hackers. Moreover, based upon available information there’s no way for us to know if Clinton discussed classified material in her private account.
To be clear, there is potential criminal liability for Mrs. Clinton and others for concealing these government records, stealing these government records, and mishandling any classified information. To start, you can read this (this title says it all), “Did Hillary Commit a Felony?”
Even the Obama White House has tried to avoid accountability by trying to pretend that, ultimately, it was Hillary Clinton’s responsibility to ensure she followed the law. This is absurd on its face, and the defense is falling apart even as I am writing.
Reports confirm that the White House supposedly knew in August of last year about these secret accounts but covered it up. You can see why this scandal is not about Hillary Clinton only, it is about her boss Barack Obama and any other top administration officials who knew or should have known that Clinton was breaking the law from the day she became Secretary of State.
We are on the case. Our lawyers placed the Department of Justice and the State Department on notice that we expect all secret State Department email accounts, including those of Hillary Clinton, to be secured and searched as the law requires. We are prepared to seek court action as the next step. In addition, we filed a new lawsuit that demands Hillary Clinton’s emails on a key foreign policy issue (see below).
And we sent out Wednesday three new Freedom of Information requests that show that we are dead serious on getting access to all this material. We demanded:
- The 55,000 pages of emails received by the Department of State from former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton: from October 1, 2014, to present.
- Any and all emails sent or received by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in her official capacity as Secretary of State during her tenure: from February 2, 2009, to January 31, 2013.
- Any and all emails of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton concerning, regarding or relating to the September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya: from September 11, 2012, to January 31, 2013
The State Department lawfully must provide these documents, or a justification for withholding them, to Judicial Watch within 20 working days, or be subject to federal lawsuits under FOIA. Four more requests for information just went out.
We are tired of the Obama/Clinton shell games and will sue as soon as the law allows if this administration continues to unlawfully withhold this material from the American people.
Meanwhile, the House Select Committee on Benghazi, chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), issued subpoenas for “all communications” from Clinton “related to Libya” and to the State Department “for other individuals who have information pertinent to the investigation,” according to a statement from the committee’s communications director.
There are 18 lawsuits, ten of which are active in federal court, as well as about 160 Judicial Watch FOIA requests that could be affected by Mrs. Clinton and her staff’s use of secret email accounts to conduct official government business. In Judicial Watch’s various FOIA lawsuits, lawyers for Judicial Watch have informed attorneys for the Obama administration that Hillary Clinton’s and any other secret accounts used by State employees should be secured, recovered, and searched.