Federal Judge Orders ‘Rolling’ Disclosure Of Hillary Clinton’s State Department Emails
Drip, Drip, Drip.
A Federal District court Judge has ordered the State Department to release the emails sent and received by Hillary Clinton while Secretary of State on a far quicker timetable than the department was suggesting:
A federal judge is ordering the State Department to release thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails from her private server on a “rolling” basis, rejecting State’s bid for a single large release in early 2016.
Judge Rudolph Contreras on Tuesday gave State until May 26 to craft a rolling schedule for release of emails from the 55,000 pages that Clinton turned over to State last year.tes from counsel every 60 days.”
The move comes a day after State proposed a plan that would not make the “releasable” portions of the messages available until January 16, 2016, owing to the detailed and labor-intensive review of the printed material.
If accepted, State’s proposal would have enabled a major release just ahead of nominating caucuses and primaries, which begin with the Iowa caucuses in early February and contests in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada later that month.
But the judge’s new order isn’t necessarily good news for Clinton, either. Although it remains unclear when State will begin releasing the documents, the rolling time line raises the prospect of a drip-drip-drip of emails that will repeatedly reintroduce a negative storyline as Clinton is campaigning.
Contreras is also requiring State to provide a separate proposed deadline for State to produce emails related specifically to the Benghazi attack.
State plans to release a much smaller set of 300 emails related to Libya and the 2012 Benghazi attacks soon, perhaps within days, according to several news reports. Those messages were already provided to the House panel that Republicans created to probe the Benghazi attack.
The State Department did not provide immediate comment Tuesday.
These proceedings, it’s important to note, are not directly related to the ongoing investigation by the House Select Committee charged with investigating the Benghazi attack. Instead, this is the result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Vice News and apparently joined by other news organizations to some degree or another. Like the committee before it, the Benghazi Committee already has access to the emails sent and received by Clinton regarding that matter during the time that she was Secretary of State, although there is now a dispute between Clinton and the Committee related to her use of a private email server during the time she was in office. Additionally, the FOIA request appears by all accounts to request emails far beyond those that are just relating to the Benghazi attack and its aftermath.
The State Department has contended that, because of the volume of the emails, which reportedly amount to some 55,000 pages. While the logistics are certainly a relevant factor for the judge to consider, it also shouldn’t be a controlling factor in determining the timetable for production. Obviously, the department’s review of these emails is an ongoing process and some portion of the whole will be available long before January 2016. Recognizing that fact, and taking into account the purpose of the Freedom of Information Act, it seems fairly obvious that Judge Contreras was correct here in ruling that production should occur on a rolling basis according to a schedule that takes into account both the ability of the department to process the email and the requirements of the FOIA law. Just as it would have been unreasonable for him to order that the State Department make all the email, plus a log of any correspondence being withheld under a claim of privilege or secrecy, available in one month, it would have been unreasonable for him to say that they could wait eight months, or more, before making an of the correspondence available.
As the article quoted above notes, though, this could potentially create a worst of all possible worlds situation for the Clinton campaign. Ideally, the best outcome for her would be for the emails to come out sooner rather than later. As I’ve noted before, all of these revelations coming out about email servers and the Clinton Foundation are coming out at a time when the largest segment of American voters aren’t really paying much attention to the 2016 election. By the time they do start paying attention, these revelations will be old news unless something new and more damaging comes out. The same would be true of the emails if they were released at this time. The State Department’s proposal, on the other hand, would have meant that everything would have been released just weeks before the start of the 2016 race, when a lot more people would be paying attention. Clinton won’t be dealing with either of those scenarios, though. Instead, she’ll be dealing with the “drip, drip, drip” of ongoing revelations over the next eight to ten months, if not longer. Inevitably, there’s bound to be something in pretty much every one of those email releases that will become a story on the campaign trail that will require her campaign to divert from its preferred messaging. That certainly isn’t likely to be a big deal in the race for the Democratic nomination, but it will divert the campaign from its plan to focus on the General Election.