The president of a government transparency group lashed out at the U.S. State Department on Friday after a federal judge ruled that a trove of Hillary Clinton’s emails can be released to the public after Election Day.That means the majority of messages recovered during an FBI investigation into Clinton’s classified email scandal won’t see the light of day until well after Americans pick a new president, raising the possibility that an ‘October surprise’ might pop up in December or January.
‘This is an absolutely corrupt process the State Department has come up with,’ Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton told The Wall Street Journal on Friday, blaming the Obama administration for slow-walking the release.
‘The American people could be deprived of this information at this essential time.’
Judge James Boasberg set a new timetable for the release of roughly 15,000 emails to or from Clinton that State identified outside the cache she turned over nearly two years ago – long after she ended her term as America’s top diplomat.
It has been determined that about 5,600 of those messages are work-related, casting doubt on Clinton’s many claims that her disclosures in 2014 included all emails connected with her job.
The State Department warned this week that about half of those may be duplicates of messages already published online as a result of successful Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits.
But the specter of 2,800 new emails, which the State Department has had in its possession for at least two months, would start a new media feeding frenzy if the documents were released before voters go to the polls.
The other 9,400 emails are personal in nature and won’t be released.
Boasberg ordered the State Department to finish processing about 1,050 pages of material, likely compring fewer than 600 emails, by November 4. But it’s up to the government agency which emails will be at the top of the stack.
Processing each message involves a consultation with more than a half-dozen intelligence agencies to determine if they contain classified information or should be redacted for other reasons.
The federal FOIA law includes exemptions that shield from public view anything involving national security, trade secrets, government personnel matters, personal and medical files, inter-agency communications and four other categories.
Boasberg’s decision to delay the releases, he said Friday, was the product of the State Department’s claim that it was over-burdened by dozens of lawsuits and thousands of FOIA requests related to the four years Clinton was secretary of state.
State will release batches of emails on October 7, October 21 and November 4, and then process just 500 pages each month.
It was Judicial Watch’s lawsuit that drove Boasberg’s ruling.
Clinton acknowledged last year that she ordered the deletion of more than 33,000 pages of her emails, saying they were all personal communications.
The FBI, however, recovered thousands of messages from a homebrew server that she used exclusively while serving in the Obama administration.
An FBI investigation into whether she mishandled classified information by running all her official electronic correspondence through an unsecure system was closed without a recommendation of any criminal charges.
The roughly 15,000 emails were discovered as part of the FBI investigation into whether Mrs. Clinton or her aides mishandled classified information while serving in government. The FBI closed that investigation without recommending any charges.
Mrs. Clinton’s attorneys turned over roughly 30,000 emails to the State Department in 2014 making up roughly 55,000 pages. Her attorneys deleted another 30,000 that they deemed purely personal—some of which were recovered by the Bureau as part of its investigation.
The State Department is involved in dozens of lawsuits over Mrs. Clinton’s department records and is under court-imposed orders to produce documents in a number of those suits.
State Department spokesman John Kirby insisted to the Journal on Friday that many of the newly recovered email conversations consisted of message threads that originally included Clinton but later dropped her from discussion.
‘Secretary Clinton would not have been in a position to provide the department with these portions of the emails, as the new material would not have been in her possession,’ Kirby said.
Fitton had said on Thursday, before Boasberg ruled, that ‘[t]he Obama State Department has had these 14,900 emails that Hillary Clinton tried to delete since July but has only released three emails.’
‘Americans should expect this stonewalling to end and that all these emails to be released before the November election.’