State Department officials don’t believe they should be expected to search Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server for federal records, the Justice Department told a federal judge in a court filing today.
The filing came in response to U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan’s order that Foggy Bottom update his court on its progress in complying with two Freedom of Information Act requests pertaining to Clinton’s e-mails. Sullivan issued his order after reopening two FOIA lawsuits against the State Department in light of revelations that Clinton had conducted her government business exclusively on a private e-mail account hosted on a server in her home.
“The Department does not believe that a reasonable search for records responsive to plaintiff’s FOIA request requires a search of former Secretary Clinton’s server,” the status report says.
The report goes on to argue that the State Department has complied with the law requiring a “reasonably” thorough search for records by searching the batches of e-mails that Clinton and her aides provided to department officials.
“Former Secretary Clinton has declared under penalty of perjury that these materials constitute all of her e-mails on clintonemail.com that were or potentially were federal records,” the report says. “Accordingly, the department reasonably believes that further searches of the original repository of these materials [Clinton’s server] will not result in additional responsive materials.”
That argument is “woefully deficient, misleading, and contemptuous of the court’s orders,” according to Judicial Watch, the conservative nonprofit group that filed the FOIA lawsuits.
“Now we know that the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton have joined hands in this e-mail scandal,” Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said Friday afternoon in a statement. “The State Department relies on the half-baked, vague declaration by Hillary Clinton and a misleading letter by her lawyer to try to avoid its obligations to produce records under the Freedom of Information Act.”
— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review.