Government lawyers asked a federal court judge Tuesday night to approve a new plan that will allow the State Department to start releasing the next batch of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's emails at the end of June.
The proposal was made in court papers in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit VICE News filed against the State Department last January for the former Secretary of State's emails and other documents.
The State Department's proposal calls for posting an undisclosed number of Clinton emails every 60 days, beginning June 30, on the State Department's website. Ryan James, an attorney representing VICE News in the Clinton FOIA case, said the 60-day production schedule is not frequent enough. He intends to seek rolling productions every two weeks.
"I applaud State's proposal to begin releasing Clinton's emails… but I do not believe that additional rolling productions every 60 days is sufficiently frequent to enable the public to engage in fully informed discussion about Secretary Clinton's leadership style and decisions while at the helm of the State Department," James said. "With the Court's leave, I intend to file a response… seeking rolling productions every 2 weeks beginning June 30, 2015 and ending no later than January 31, 2016 to ensure as much information as possible is accessible to the public as quickly as possible, and before caucusing begins February 1, 2016."
Last week, the State Department told US District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras that it expected to release all 55,000 pages of Clinton's emails on January 15, 2016, two weeks before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries.
But Contreras rejected the proposal and ordered the government to come up with a new schedule for releasing the electronic communications on a rolling basis. He also ordered the government to set a date for the release of emails related to the attacks on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya that were previously turned over to congressional Republicans investigating the incident. The State Department posted all 296 of those emails to its website last Friday.
The State Department's FOIA chief, John Hackett, revealed in a declaration last week new details about the review process. He said Clinton turned over the emails to the State Department last December in "paper form in 12 bankers' boxes." (Clinton and her staffers chose which emails to turn over to State and deleted tens of thousands of others she deemed "personal.")
Twelve State Department employees have been assigned to the Clinton email project. They "devote the entirety of their time at the State Department to this effort," Hackett said.
In Tuesday night's court filing, the government said it would continue to "explore ways to devote more resources to this effort, consistent with its other obligations, to complete the review" of the emails before the January 15, 2016 deadline.
Clinton's use of personal email to conduct official business during her four years as secretary of state was first revealed by the New York Times last March. Media reports have widely suggested that Clinton's decision to use private email was an attempt to thwart FOIA requests. Under federal law, Clinton's work-related emails should be considered government records and preserved on the State Department's servers in accordance with the Federal Records Act so that journalists, historians, and the public can access them.