Clin­ton email in­quiries march on af­ter elec­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

They won’t now com­pli­cate a Hil­lary Clin­ton pres­i­dency, but the emails from her time in the State De­part­ment will still trickle out over the next months as the ad­min­is­tra­tion tries to clean up the mess Mrs. Clin­ton left.

Though Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump has sig­naled that he would halt any of­fi­cial fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Mrs. Clin­ton’s ac­tiv­i­ties as sec­re­tary of state, groups that have driven the is­sue say they will con­tinue to press the le­gal cases that have forced the re­lease of tens of thou­sands of her emails and could still pry loose thou­sands more.

“Noth­ing has been set­tled,” said Tom Fit­ton, pres­i­dent of Ju­di­cial Watch, one of the groups that has pressed for more trans­parency from the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. He said the is­sues go much deeper than Mrs. Clin­ton alone.

The fight for trans­parency in Mrs. Clin­ton’s emails has bro­ken ma­jor ground in open-records laws, with sev­eral rounds of le­gal bat­tles to come.

Both sides will be in U.S. Dis­trict Court for the Dis­trict of Columbia last week to ar­gue over some emails that the State De­part­ment with­held. Ju­di­cial Watch says the emails show ev­i­dence of mis­con­duct at the de­part­ment.

On tap for later are ar­gu­ments over whether the gov­ern­ment must re­lease the mes­sages Mrs. Clin­ton ex­changed with Pres­i­dent Obama from her se­cret ac­count and fights over the tens of thou­sands of mes­sages the FBI re­cov­ered dur­ing its crim­i­nal probe into the emails.

Congress also is likely to do some more in­ves­ti­gat­ing, though how much time it spends re­mains to be seen.

Rep. Ja­son Chaf­fetz, Utah Repub­li­can and chair­man of the House Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee, said af­ter the elec­tions that his in­ves­ti­ga­tion will pro­ceed be­cause the public still de­serves to see the whole pic­ture of wrong­do­ing.

“It was never about the po­lit­i­cal tar­get­ing of Hil­lary Clin­ton. But she did cre­ate one the big­gest se­cu­rity breaches in the his­tory of the State De­part­ment,” he said on Fox News.

Dur­ing his cam­paign against Mrs. Clin­ton, Mr. Trump said he would put her be­hind bars, and crowds at his ral­lies chanted, “Lock her up.” Now, the pres­i­dent-elect says he has lost in­ter­est.

“I don’t want to hurt the Clin­tons, I re­ally don’t,” Mr. Trump told The New York Times. “She went through a lot and suf­fered greatly in many dif­fer­ent ways, and I am not look­ing to hurt them at all. The cam­paign was vi­cious.”

Mr. Fit­ton said it was a mis­take for the FBI to clear Mrs. Clin­ton and that the in­ves­ti­ga­tions are not about po­lit­i­cal ret­ri­bu­tion but rather about hold­ing of­fi­cials ac­count­able.

“She was the head of an agency, and she had the help of agency of­fi­cials in avoid­ing the rule of law here,” he said. “There was a mas­sive fraud com­mit­ted on the Amer­i­can peo­ple by fed­eral of­fi­cials, some of whom are go­ing to still be there in a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. Who in the State De­part­ment is re­spon­si­ble for this cover-up? Who in the Jus­tice De­part­ment is re­spon­si­ble for this?”

Ju­di­cial Watch is try­ing to force John Ben­tel, the man who was in charge of pre­serv­ing records for Mrs. Clin­ton in the State De­part­ment, to an­swer ques­tions. Mr. Ben­tel cited his Fifth Amend­ment right against self-in­crim­i­na­tion and re­fused to talk, but Ju­di­cial Watch says he can’t face le­gal jeop­ardy and should be forced to tes­tify be­cause there is no ac­tive crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“Mr. Ben­tel can­not demon­strate any­thing but a ‘ fan­ci­ful’ or ‘ spec­u­la­tive’ fear of pros­e­cu­tion,” Ju­di­cial Watch lawyer Michael Beke­sha said.

Mr. Fit­ton’s or­ga­ni­za­tion is also try­ing to make Mrs. Clin­ton ex­pand on writ­ten tes­ti­mony that she filed in one of the cases.

Un­der ques­tion­ing ear­lier this year, the for­mer sec­re­tary ad­mit­ted that no­body gave her per­mis­sion to use a se­cret server — con­tra­dict­ing her public as­ser­tions.

But Mrs. Clin­ton re­fused to an­swer sev­eral ques­tions about whether she had been aware of se­cu­rity warn­ings dis­cour­ag­ing the use of pri­vate email ac­counts, nor would she an­swer how she came to tes­tify to Congress that up to 95 per­cent of her mes­sages were al­ready stored in other State De­part­ment ac­counts. She cited at­tor­ney-client priv­i­lege in re­fus­ing to an­swer that lat­ter ques­tion.

In a fil­ing last week, Mrs. Clin­ton’s at­tor­neys said ques­tions about whether Mrs. Clin­ton knew of the dan­gers of us­ing her own Black­Berry de­vice were ir­rel­e­vant to the open-records law­suit Ju­di­cial Watch filed.

The at­tor­neys also in­di­cated that they were the ones who in­formed Mrs. Clin­ton of the 95 per­cent num­ber — a fig­ure they tal­lied by look­ing at the re­cip­i­ents of her mes­sages.

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