Will Hillary Clinton’s reportedly deleted e-mails ever see the light of day? A federal court advanced the possibility last Friday, restoring a lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch that had originally dismissed on the basis that the e-mails no longer existed. Judge Reggie Walton reinstated the 2012 lawsuit after the State Department joined in the request, citing the revelation that Hillary used a private server meant that the State Department could not have been fully responsive at the time:
A federal judge has reopened an open-records case trying to pry loose some of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s emails, marking the first time a court has taken action on the email scandal.
Judge Reggie B. Walton agreed Friday to a joint request by the State Department and Judicial Watch, which sued in 2012 to get a look at some of Mrs. Clinton’s documents concerning a public relations push.
Both sides agreed that the revelation that Mrs. Clinton had kept her own email server separate from the government, and exclusively used her own email account created on that server, meant that she had shielded her messages from valid open-records requests.
Now that she has belatedly turned some emails over, the government offered — and Judge Walton confirmed in his ruling — that the agency should search them all to see whether any should have been released to Judicial Watch.
The problem here, of course, is that Hillary Clinton claimed to destroy the records. She still has the server, which the House Select Committee on Benghazi also wants in the hands of a third party for potential data recovery, most likely the State Department IG. If the Clintons are not forthcoming with the material, Walton could order the server seized.
That’s an important distinction. It’s clear that Walton isn’t only concerned with the e-mails handed over to State, or he would just have directed State to fulfill JW’s demand. If the Clintons claim again that the data no longer exists, Walton has the option of subpoenaing the physical server and taking it into his custody, a power that the Benghazi committee lacks.
Fox News’ legal analyst Andrew Napolitano also points out that lack of authority for demanding the production of physical equipment, but notes that the Clintons aren’t a party to the case — and that may be a big problem for them:
The entry of the State Department into the case makes this very complicated for that reason. At the moment, there is no one opposing the eventual production of the computer server, and it’s unlikely that the State Department will put a lot of effort into protecting it. If Judicial Watch asks for it, Walton would probably act sooner rather than later on that request, especially given the chances that tampering could occur — in fact, it’s already occurred, with the big deletion party conducted by Hillary and her lawyers and staff.