A federal judge this week ordered the State Department to search government email accounts which belonged to Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills and Jake Sullivan, three of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s top aides while she held the post.
The order, handed down by Washington D.C. District Court Judge Amit Mehta, comes in response to a lawsuit filed by conservative watchdog Judicial Watch.
“Secretary Clinton used a private email server, located in her home, to transmit and receive work-related communications during her tenure as Secretary of State,” Mehta said.
[The State Department] has not, however, searched the one records system over which it has always had control and that is almost certain to contain some responsive records: the state.gov e-mail server. If Secretary Clinton sent an e-mail about Benghazi to Abedin, Mills, or Sullivan at his or her state.gov e-mail address, or if one of them sent an e-mail to Secretary Clinton using his or her state.gov account, then State’s server presumably would have captured and stored such an e-mail. Therefore, State has an obligation to search its own server for responsive records.
State has offered no assurance that the three record compilations it received [from Secretary Clinton and her aides], taken together, constitute the entirety of Secretary Clinton’s e-mails during the time period relevant to Plaintiff’s FOIA Request. Absent such assurance, the court is unconvinced “beyond material doubt” that a search of the state.gov accounts of Abedin, Mills and Sullivan is “unlikely to produce any marginal return.”
Accordingly, the court finds that State has not met its burden of establishing it performed an adequate search in response to Plaintiff’s FOIA Request and orders State to conduct a supplemental search of the state.gov e-mail accounts of Abedin, Mills, and Sullivan.
In a statement Thursday, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton applauded the court ruling as a step in the right direction to clear up unanswered questions about the 2012 Benghazi attacks.
“This major court ruling may finally result in more answers about the Benghazi scandal – and Hillary Clinton’s involvement in it – as we approach the attack’s fifth anniversary,” he said. “It is remarkable that we had to battle both the Obama and Trump administrations to break through the State Department’s Benghazi stonewall. Why are Secretary Tillerson and Attorney General Sessions wasting taxpayer dollars protecting Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration?”
The ruling comes after the organization repeatedly asked courts to compel the Trump administration to restart the government’s investigation into the Clinton emails.
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