You have to hand it to the Department of Justice. Amid a confirmation fight in the Senate over the president’s nominee to replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, the DOJ sure knows how to grease the wheels of government.
On Friday, Rep. Try Gowdy (R-SC), chairman of the Benghazi select committee, issued a subpoena requiring that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a variety of her aides (and, possibly, “aides to aides”) provide congressional investigators with access to her emails.
“We sent a subpoena to the State Department for emails from a number of individuals within the State Department, other than Secretary Clinton,” Gowdy told Reuters reporters.
Gowdy’s committee is not the only organization seeking access to Clinton’s emails. Larry Klayman, founder of the government watchdog organization Freedom Watch, recently filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking access to Clinton’s electronic communications.
On Friday, the DOJ issued a statement in response to this request that accused the conservative organization of engaging in baseless speculation.
Plaintiff provides no basis, beyond sheer speculation, to believe that former Secretary Clinton withheld any work-related emails from those provided to the Department of State,” the agency says.
The filing, first reported by Politico, is the first time that the Justice Department has addressed the government’s role in accounting for Clinton’s private emails.
The agency says that the Freedom of Information Act “creates no obligation for an agency to search for and produce records that it does not possess and control.”
Justice also criticized Klayman’s motion to hold Clinton and her former State Department aide Cheryl Mills in contempt.
The Justice Department made no inaccurate statements in its response, but they don’t do much for Clinton’s case either.
Yes, conservative investigators are merely speculating when they contend that Clinton might have withheld emails related to her role as America’s chief diplomat when she surrendered 55,000 physical pages of printed out emails to the State Department. What else do they have to go on but speculation? Freedom Watch’s skepticism is not based in paranoia but in a logical mistrust of Clinton’s extraordinary and unprecedented efforts to preserve her own “convenience” by refusing to use an achievable email system.
The DOJ is also right when they contend that the FOIA does not compel an agency to provide records outside of their control. This is precisely why it is required for federal employees at an agency like the State Department to use a government email system; so those communications records can be archived and provided to institutions that request them insofar as they do not compromise classified information.
The DOJ has essentially made Freedom Watch’s case, and exposed the department as something less than a neutral party in this situation. It’s unclear that whoever drafted and approved this statement knew they were undercutting Clinton in the process of defending her.