Feds Ordered to Confer on Clinton’s Emails

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The State Department and FBI must “open a dialogue” about documents related to private email account Hillary Clinton maintained as secretary, a federal judge ruled from the bench Thursday.
     U.S. District Judge Emmett Sullivan said he was surprised the State Department hadn’t already done so in an effort to satisfy a Freedom of Information Act request from Judicial Watch.
     The open-government watchdog had submitted its original FOIA request in 2013, seeking information related to employment agreements between the State Department and Huma Abedin, a former Clinton aid.
     Judicial Watch’s ensuing lawsuit over the State Department’s handling of that request has compounded controversy surrounding Clinton’s use of a private email account while serving as secretary.
     Noting that the State Department already scoured the 55,000 emails Clinton has turned over to it, attorney Peter Wechsler told the court during the 90-minute status hearing Thursday that the agency had met its FOIL obligation.
     Any further search, especially of Clinton’s private email server directly, which the State Department is not in possession of, would be “extraordinary,” Wechsler said in court.
     Judge Sullivan was unsuccessful in the opening exchange of the hearing at trying to learn if the FBI has Clinton’s private email server.
     Wechsler was noncommittal, saying only that, “as far as [the State Department] knows,” the FBI has the server.
     Later in the hearing, the lawyer agreed that the State Department should start a conversation with the FBI about the documents it has in its possession, saying the agency is “in the best position to answer any questions.”
     Judicial Watch attorney Michael Bekesha meanwhile sought leave to question the private IT firm that maintained Clinton’s email server, and obtain emails above and beyond what the former secretary of State delivered to her old department.
     “We continue learning new information from the media because the state department refuses to give us that information,” Bekesha told the court.
     Anticipating Judicial Watch’s request to open discovery in the trial, Judge Sullivan urged Bekesha to hold off on filing any such motion until the State Department had a chance to talk with the FBI about any documents the agency might have responsive to Judicial Watch’s FOIA request.
     Judicial Watch also suggested the FBI should become a party in the case, but Judge Sullivan decided to wait until the State Department had a chance to talk with the agency before determining if that would be necessary.
     Judge Sullivan agreed to give the State Department 30 days to report back on its conversation with the FBI, but suggested more actions might be necessary if such action doesn’t satisfy Judicial Watch’s request.
     “We wouldn’t be here today if the employee had followed government policy,” Judge Sullivan said during the hearing.

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