And these were on official State Department systems, too. Gawker has fought to gain access to longtime Hillary Clinton aide Philippe Reines’ e-mails for two years in order to see communications between the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and the news media. In 2013, the State Department told a court that it could find no records responsive to the FOIA demand. Last week, they suddenly discovered over 17,000 e-mails that are potentially responsive:

Earlier this year, Gawker Media sued the State Department over its response to a Freedom of Information Act request we filed in 2013, in which we sought emails exchanged between reporters at 33 news outlets and Philippe Reines, the former deputy assistant secretary of state and aggressive defender of Hillary Clinton. Over two years ago, the department claimed that “no records responsive to your request were located”—a baffling assertion, given Reines’ well-documented correspondence with journalists. Late last week, however, the State Department came up with a very different answer: It had located an estimated 17,000 emails responsive to Gawker’s request.

On August 13, lawyers for the U.S. Attorney General submitted a court-ordered status report to the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia in which it disclosed that State employees had somehow discovered “5.5 gigabytes of data containing 81,159 emails of varying length” that were sent or received by Reines during his government tenure. Of those emails, the attorneys added, “an estimated 17,855” were likely responsive to Gawker’s request[.]

Give it up for Gawker — again. They also managed to get their hands on Sidney Blumenthal’s e-mails to Hillary Clinton’s private server after hackers got access to them. That proves that the private e-mail system had been exposed to unauthorized people, which will come in handy in case prosecutors ever decide to make a case against Hillary and/or her team under 18 USC 793.

The most puzzling piece of this story is what changed at the State Department in the last two years. This tranche has nothing to do with the e-mails sent and received by Reines through the Clintonemail secret server; he turned over 20 boxes of printed material last week from that system. These are e-mails that have existed in State Department systems all along. In 2013, they couldn’t find any hint of Reines’ communications, but now with Hillary’s e-mail scandal dominating the headlines, suddenly they find over 81,000 of them, with nearly 20% of them “likely responsive” to the FOIA demand.

Gawker’s J. K. Trotter writes that this has to be either willful incompetence or a conscious effort to obstruct a court order. If they missed a few responsive e-mails, I’d chalk it up to incompetence; if they missed the most responsive e-mails in an avalanche of data, willful incompetence might still be a good explanation. This looks much more like obstruction of justice, and perhaps the judge in this case may be persuaded to haul State Department officials into court to testify under oath about it. The court can start with John Kerry and start working downward.