Yes, Virginia, there actually is a corruption scandal in Hillary Clinton’s e-mail choices — or at least that’s what Judge Royce Lamberth thinks. In allowing a lawsuit by Judicial Watch to continue, Lamberth blasted Clinton, the State Department, and the Department of Justice for having “colluded” to stymie the Freedom of Information Act and oversight by Congress and the courts. By hiding her emails on a secret and private server and allowing State to slough off demands to see her communications, the group committed “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency.”
So much for the third presidential campaign, eh?
In a scathing opinion issued Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth said that despite FBI, inspector general and congressional investigations into Clinton’s use of a private account for all her email traffic during her four years as secretary of state, the conservative group Judicial Watch should be permitted to demand documents and additional testimony about the practice.
Lamberth, who has clashed with Clinton and her aides in cases dating back to her husband’s administration, was unsparing in his assessment of the former secretary’s actions. He blasted Clinton’s email practices as “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency.”
Lamberth also again expressed concerns that lawyers at the Justice Department and the State Department misled the court when they tried at the end of 2014 to wrap up Judicial Watch’s FOIA suit about Benghazi talking points even though some officials were aware months earlier that Clinton had tens of thousands of emails on a private system and had agreed to turn many of them over to State at its request.
“State played this card close to its chest,” the judge complained. “At best, State’s attempts to pass-off its deficient search as legally adequate during settlement negotiations was negligence born out of incompetence. At worst, career employees in the State and Justice Departments colluded to scuttle public scrutiny of Clinton, skirt FOIA and hoodwink this court.”
Politico’s description of Lamberth’s opinion is pretty spot-on. His anger is more broadly aimed at State and the DoJ than Hillary herself for misrepresenting and/or purposefully evading what took place during Hillary’s tenure at State. Lamberth notes that “department officials already knew Clinton’s emails were missing from its records,” and yet told Judicial Watch that they had “performed a legally adequate search” for those communications while knowing they had done no such thing. State then filed a statement with the court that “failed to acknowledge the unsearched emails” while suggesting a settlement of JW’s FOIA demand.
Lamberth writes that the responding “counsel’s responses strain credulity” still in attempting to shut down this lawsuit:
Lamberth is giving both sides ten days to come up with a plan for discovery to determine “whether Clinton used a private e-mail to stymie FOIA,” and whether State’s efforts to settle the lawsuit without an honest search amounted to “bad faith.” Lamberth also wants an accounting of State’s efforts to search the recovered Clinton emails to determine whether they have been “adequate” to meet FOIA requirements. That puts resolution of this lawsuit out for at least a few more weeks, depending on just how much more stalling State plans to do with JW’s FOIA demand.
Lamberth’s ruling makes it clear that this wasn’t just a case of a government official using a personal email account occasionally out of sloppiness or ignorance of the rules. Not only does it look very much like a corrupt attempt to evade oversight on an industrial level by Clinton, it also looks as though the bureaucracy was determined to help her succeed at it. This scandal is far from over.
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