Trump urges faster Clin­ton email re­lease

Ad­min­is­tra­tion ar­gues oth­er­wise

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

The White House has been pri­vately urg­ing the State Depart­ment to speed up its pro­tracted process for re­leas­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton’s still-undis­closed emails.

A per­son close to the dis­cus­sions said State may shift gears and speed up its re­sponses to Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act law­suits.

The pres­sure from the White House may be work­ing. On Thurs­day, the State Depart­ment re­leased a batch of Clin­ton-re­lated emails that show how she hon­ored re­quests from Clin­ton Foun­da­tion and cam­paign donors to pull some strings. The depart­ment turned over to Ju­di­cial Watch, a gov­ern­ment watch­dog group, 1,617 pages of doc­u­ments, in­clud­ing 97 email ex­changes not pre­vi­ously dis­closed.

Both can­di­date and Pres­i­dent Trump made a big is­sue of Mrs. Clin­ton’s mis­han­dling of clas­si­fied data in emails stored on her at-home un­se­cured server and her de­ci­sion to have 30,000 of those emails erased. She claimed all of the de­stroyed emails dealt with per­sonal mat­ters, but the FBI was able to re­trieve more than 2,000 and said a por­tion con­tained clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion.

The irony is, Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion at­tor­neys have been in court de­fend­ing the State Depart­ment’s de­sire for a slow se­cu­rity review process be­fore re­lease, which a district court judge ap­proved.

As re­cently as June, Mr. Trump tweeted, “Crooked H de­stroyed phones w/ham­mer, ‘bleached’ emails, & had hus­band meet w/AG days be­fore she was cleared.”

Tom Fit­ton, who di­rects Ju­di­cial Watch, a con­ser­va­tive non­profit, es­ti­mates it will take un­til 2020 for all doc­u­ments to be re­leased at the cur­rent pace.

“The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is go­ing out of its way, the agen­cies Jus­tice Depart­ment, FBI, DNI and State, to pro­tect Mrs. Clin­ton,” said Mr. Fit­ton, who sued the State Depart­ment un­der FOIA. “The State Depart­ment is telling us they want to take as long as 2020 to give us the in­for­ma­tion.”

He wants State to pro­vide two col­lec­tions: The thou­sands of un­re­leased emails the FBI pro­vided to State that were re­trieved from Mrs. Clin­ton’s con­tacts and were among the 30,000 orig­i­nals erased by Mrs. Clin­ton’s le­gal team.

In ad­di­tion, the FBI ob­tained thou­sands of pages of emails from Clin­ton con­fi­dante Huma Abe­din. They were found on a lap­top owned by her hus­band, for­mer con­gress­man An­thony Weiner.

Mr. Fit­ton said the 2020 cal­cu­la­tion does not in­clude the stash from Ms. Abe­din via the Weiner lap­top.

The bureau in­ves­ti­gated Mrs. Clin­ton’s use of pri­vate servers to con­duct gov­ern­ment busi­ness. Then-FBI Di­rec­tor James B. Comey, dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign, said her ac­tions were “ex­tremely care­less” but did not vi­o­late fed­eral law on the han­dling of se­crets.

Mr. Fit­ton said Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion at­tor­neys have ar­gued in U.S. District Court that a di­min­ished pub­lic in­ter­est in Clin­ton emails jus­ti­fies a slow re­sponse. The State Depart­ment says it lacks the man­power for the te­dious mes­sage-by-mes­sage process of de­ter­min­ing whether any clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion ex­ists and should be with­held.

Mr. Fit­ton said State was able to work at a faster pace in 2015 and 2016.

“They choose what re­sources to ap­ply,” he said. The Obama State Depart­ment re­leased over 55,000 pages from 30,490 Clin­ton emails be­fore the Novem­ber elec­tion on or­ders from a fed­eral judge. About 2,000 emails were with­held be­cause they con­tained clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion.

But that was not the end of the story. The FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­cov­ered sev­eral thou­sand ad­di­tional emails not re­leased by State. Some were from the batch of erased emails.

The bureau found 49,000 emails on Mr. Weiner’s lap­top “which were po­ten­tially rel­e­vant to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” said an FBI let­ter sent to the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee in May. Two emails for­warded to Mr. Weiner con­tained clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion. An­other 10 in­cluded clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion and had been placed there as back­ups. All 12 had pre­vi­ously been viewed by the FBI from other de­vices.

Mr. Fit­ton said he is sur­prised that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is in a court brawl with Ju­di­cial Watch.

“They are also fight­ing us on so­lic­it­ing the Jus­tice Depart­ment to go out and find any ad­di­tional Clin­ton emails,” Mr. Fit­ton said. “The Fed­eral Records Act re­quires the State Depart­ment to seek ac­tion from the Jus­tice Depart­ment when records like this go miss­ing.”

He said the State Depart­ment and the Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence are also op­pos­ing Ju­di­cial Watch’s de­mand that they per­form a dam­age as­sess­ment to de­ter­mine whether any se­crets fell into the wrong hands.

“They say it wasn’t se­ri­ous enough to war­rant a dam­age as­sess­ment,” he said. “That’s what this ad­min­is­tra­tion is telling us. They are de­fend­ing here. It is un­be­liev­able. Re­ally un­be­liev­able. … They’ve ac­tu­ally slowed things down dur­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

Mr. Fit­ton said other of­fi­cials could be im­pli­cated in send­ing se­crets on un­se­cured sys­tems.

“In­sti­tu­tions want to pro­tect them­selves from scan­dal,” he said.

The Wash­ing­ton Times asked the State Depart­ment if it will speed up the FOIA screen­ing.

A depart­ment of­fi­cial said, “The depart­ment takes its records man­age­ment re­spon­si­bil­i­ties se­ri­ously and is work­ing dili­gently to process FOIA re­quests and to bal­ance the de­mands of the many re­quests we have re­ceived. The depart­ment con­tin­ues to process the Hil­lary Clin­ton-re­lated emails that are the sub­ject of FOIA lit­i­ga­tion and has com­plied with its cour­tordered pro­cess­ing re­quire­ments. We can­not com­ment fur­ther as this mat­ter is in on­go­ing lit­i­ga­tion.”

The Times also asked an ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial about White House ef­forts to have Sec­re­tary of State Rex W. Tiller­son ac­cel­er­ate re­lease.

“I’ve heard that too. Dis­plea­sure at the process was ex­pressed,” the of­fi­cial said. “I don’t know if that is go­ing to do any­thing. Oth­ers have told me there’s just no way to speed it up.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

For­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton had 30,000 emails erased, but gov­ern­ment watch­dog Ju­di­cial Watch was able to re­ceive 1,617 pages of doc­u­ments, in­clud­ing 97 ex­changes not pre­vi­ously dis­closed.

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