Hillary Clinton’s damn emails will continue to be a campaign issue leading right up into the presidential election.
Late Wednesday, the State Department agreed to post to its website by November 3 as many as 1,850 pages of emails that Clinton failed to turn over originally. The FBI recovered the emails during the bureau’s investigation into Clinton’s email practices.
The deal was hammered out between VICE News and the State and Justice departments in response to our ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits against the agencies. We sued State in January 2015 for all of Clinton’s emails, two months before it was publicly known she exclusively used private email to conduct official business as Secretary of State. Our FOIA case was the catalyst behind the yearlong release of 30,000 of Clinton’s emails.
We later filed a FOIA lawsuit against the FBI for everything the bureau recovered from Clinton’s private email server, including the emails the FBI found that she didn’t turn over to State.
The State Department said that of the nearly 15,000 additional emails the FBI found, about 5,600 were determined to be “work-related” correspondence and were not personal communications between Clinton and other people. That’s the reason Clinton gave when she was asked why as many as 30,000 of her emails were deleted before her lawyers turned over the rest to State.
During a court hearing Monday in US District Court in Washington, DC, Justice Department attorney Jennie Kneedler said the 5,600 emails were retrieved from “multiple sources” by the FBI “including Mrs. Clinton.” Kneedler told the judge presiding over our case that she didn’t know if the emails came from other people in Clinton’s camp, were found on other private servers in use in Clinton’s home, or if the emails were initially deleted and restored.
It’s possible some of the 5,600 emails may end up being duplicates of emails the State Department has already released. It’s also likely many will be heavily redacted.
VICE News argued that it was a matter of public interest for the government to release all of the emails the FBI found before Election Day. In a separate FOIA lawsuit for Clinton’s emails filed against State by conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, government lawyers told a federal court judge it didn’t have any available resources to process and review all 5,600 emails before the election.
Last week, the judge in that case ordered State to release up to 1,050 pages of emails in three installments of 350 between October and the election. So that means up to 2,900 pages of additional Clinton emails will be released when combined with the disclosures that will be made in VICE News’ FOIA lawsuit.
State Department officials said that other FOIA lawsuits, including a separate one filed by VICE News last year that involves the records of Clinton’s top aides, were straining State’s resources, so they couldn’t dedicate staff to review all 5,600 emails. Ryan James, VICE News’ attorney working on the case, came up with a compromise: redirect staff to work on reviewing and releasing Clinton’s emails and hold off on working on VICE News’ other FOIA lawsuit until the Clinton review is done.
The State Department agreed.
The content of the undisclosed Clinton emails is unknown, but it’s unlikely any of the messages will contain a smoking gun. Even so, it’s not the content that’s at issue. It’s the fact that Clinton deleted emails she said were personal but turned out to be work-related. For some voters it calls into question Clinton’s trustworthiness and honesty. The fact that some portion will be released just before Election Day could be damaging to Clinton’s campaign if it ends up becoming a major talking point and she’s forced to mount a defense about why the communications were never turned over to the State Department in the first place.
In the first presidential debate on Monday, Republican challenger Donald Trump hammered Clinton over the email scandal.
In her most contrite statement about the issue to date, Clinton said, “You know, I made a mistake using a private e- mail… and if I had to do it over again, I would, obviously, do it differently. But I’m not going to make any excuses. It was a mistake, and I take responsibility for that.”